So the age old question decided to make a comeback this week. Can the Toronto Argonauts survive in Toronto? It was a story written by Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun with a very realistic representation of the Argonauts place in the Toronto sporting landscape with insightful quotes from previous owners of the Double Blue. As Mr. Simmons has written and stated publicly on many occasions he is a fan of the team, a season seat holder who would want nothing more than to see the team thrive. We have that in common.
I’m 43 years old and in my circle of friends you can count on 1 finger the number of people who follow the CFL. Thats troubling. Most are Buffalo Bills fans. Others like myself are fans of the Dallas Cowboys. So why am I able to like both? Maybe my perspective is different. As someone who has worked in the entertainment industry, limitedly I confess, I appreciate and cheer any Canadian who can make a living doing what they love in Canada. And for that reason every Canadian Student Athlete who lands on a CFL team should be applauded. I wouldn’t blame them if they pursued greener pastures south of the border but having the option or opportunity to stay in Canada is important for not only the individual but for our Country if we think a healthy sporting landscape and culture is important. It is.
In the 2016 CFL Draft Toronto drafted DJ Sackey and Jamal Campbell in the 2nd and 3rd rounds respectively. These are 2 Toronto born athletes, Sackey a graduate from the University of Toronto and Campbell from York University. Their talent level will and should dictate their professional success but 2 local kids playing their hometown team should be celebrated and frankly marketed. Can you imagine if they played hockey and were drafted by the Leafs?
But in regards to the Argonauts yes this year wasn’t the year many thought it would be. People didn’t flock to BMO Field like many hoped. Of course their 5 and 13 record hardly helped. It should be noted that most times when a franchise moves into a new facility attendance is boosted by a few thousand non-sport fans that are there simply to see the new stadium. That didn’t happen for the Argos given that BMO Field was already the home of TFC.
If you were at the home opener against Hamilton you saw what can be. The score sucked but the atmosphere was fantastic. Being there with my 10 year old son was awesome. And yeah maybe it didn’t last throughout the year. But peoples curiosities were peaked. The Argos need to find how to get those people back again for a couple more games.
I’ve written all season about the improved game day experience and even though it didn’t attract as many fans as we hoped it shouldn’t go without acknowledgement. This was year 1 of a 5 year plan. If the team had said that stabilizing the football operations and organization as a whole was the primary goal of 2016 how would that have come across? Would more fans rush out to buy season seats on that premise?
We can look across the entire North American landscape and see struggling markets and not so great attendance numbers. Haven’t we all heard the term false-hockey market enough times? How many of those teams moved or folded? More importantly how many are still being sold for record dollars to another owner committed to make it work? Closer to home how often were the Blue Jays and their attendance numbers a topic of conversation. A big home opener crowd followed by 35,000 empty seats the next night was a common trait for a very long time. But to the organizations credit they had a stick-toitiveness at a time when many were predicting their demise.
And that’s why the Argos are going to not only survive but earn a foothold back in Toronto’s sporting landscape. The ownership group of Bell and Mr. Tannenbaum are not only committed but have in place the foundations needed to succeed. They co-own the stadium; there is a strong television contract. It’s been said over and over again that the Argonauts draw well on television and frankly the struggle to get people out of their basements and into a stadium is universal across many sport s leagues. But in this crazy world where everyone likes to be seen and have their picture taken find 5 to 10 thousand more people in a population of 4 million doesn’t seem impossible from an organization with an ownership group as dedicated and committed as this one.
Frankly the fact that Hamilton and Ottawa have strong attendance numbers should be considered a good thing for the Double Blue. There is a passion for CFL Football in southern Ontario. Now Toronto’s entertainment dollar may be more stretched out than those 2 other cities but success breeds success. The blueprint is there, now it’s time to apply it in Toronto.
I’m not here to provide my 5, 10 or 20 point plan as to how to do that. Frankly my ideas would be pedestrian. Whether it’s cheaper tickets or more game day promotions I’m sure those and many more things are being considered. Although I do feel strongly that the name Toronto needs to put much more on the forefront of their marketing campaign. But that’s not what matters here. What does is that nobody is throwing in the towel. Nobody is leaving the keys on the counter. 2016 marked the rebirth of the Toronto Argonauts. Their slow yet inevitable climb up the mountain. Their life continues. Their end not even a consideration.
By: Anthony Ciardulli @comicanthony