Abandoning Ship? What is Happening to the Good Ship Argonauts?
The Toronto Argonauts started the 2012 CFL Off-Season with a bang. They acquired all-star quarterback Ricky Ray in a trade (which I already ranted about in a previous article) and hired Scott Milanovich as their head coach, leaving Jim Barker to focus on general managing duties.
However, weeks later it seems like the oars are falling off the boat in Argo-Land. Jonathan Himebauch, Milanovich’s offensive coordinator choice, vacated the job six weeks after accepting it for a coaching position with Wake Forest University.
The team’s training facility was destroyed by a fire in December. Team President Bob Nicholson resigned in late January to persue other interests and to top it all off, they may be punted (pun intended) out of their home as Major League Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays, explore the possibility of installing natural turf in SkyDome, the stadium both teams call home.
I can see why Himebauch left for the NCAA coaching job. Opportunities like that do not come around everyday, so he can not be faulted for jumping at the chance. Himebauch can earn more money, coach in his native United States and be in a brighter spotlight by coaching US college football.
Nicholson leaving his post caught me off-guard. Toronto is hosting the 2012 Grey Cup. I would think he would want to be a part of that. His departure concerns me, and leads me to believe all is not well with the boatmen and there off-field struggles continue. Grey Cup Chairman, Chris Rudge, has assumed both roles.
As a Ticat fan, you would think I would relish seeing the Argos in turmoil, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Actually, this concerns me because both teams need one another to survive long-term.
I don’t think grass can be grown indoors at SkyDome, but perhaps there is some form of advanced sod-growing technology that I don’t know about. According to reports, the first and third baseline seats will permanently have to be secured to prevent damage to the grass. As a result of this, the stadium would no longer be able to be converted to football, and the Argos would be homeless.
Many have suggested the Argos should examine playing at BMO Field. We all know the story how the team turned down this opportunity before the stadium was built, leading to soccer-only dimensions being put in place, which are too small for Canadian football.
But I think the Argos have to think out of the box and try something new. Back in 2001, then team owner Sherwood Schwartz, examined moving home games to Toronto’s Lamport Stadium. The idea was rejected mainly because it only seats 15,000, lacks parking, concessions and many other modern amenities their current home offers. At the time, I believed the idea was ridiculous, too.
However I have since had an about-face. Even if they try it for one game, it won’t hurt. The Argos average attendance the last ten years has been at, or below, 20,000. A sea of blue empty seats sadly is visible at their home games, which leaves a minor league public perception. I’m sure a few thousand extra seats can be added to Lamport Stadium, boosting its capacity to what the Argos average each game. The fans will be sitting closer together in an outdoor stadium, that although smaller, is more full and will provide a more intimate and fun atmosphere for a football game. In addition, as the stadium’s only and primary tennant, the Argos would be able to call the shots, have priority to stadium availability and be able to pick dates they want to play football on, instead of working around the Blue Jays and whatever else Rogers schedules in their current home. Finally the stadium is still located relatively close to downtown Toronto and is easily accessible by public transit. All of these opportunities will lead to the team having a stronger public perception in the Toronto area.
Don’t believe me? Just ask the Montreal Alouettes. During their first two seasons back in Montreal after a ten year absence, they averaged under 8,000 fans per game playing at 60,000 seat Olympic Stadium, which is not located downtown. But a U2 concert at the Big “O” forced the Alouettes to play a 1997 home playoff date at decaying Perceival Molson Stadium on McGill University Campus. What initially seemed as an embarrassing situation for the team, turned out the be a blessing. Montreal fans loved watching football outside, in an intimate atmosphere located downtown. The change was very well received, resulting in it becoming a permanent solution the following season, except for the odd playoff and regular season game.
Unfortunately, the Argos once again face a difficult crossroads and may be forced to make decisions that ultimately may affect the team’s future. I’m not saying Lamport Stadium will be the answer. I don’t know if it is still feasible. I believe the Argos have to try this experiment, however, even for only one game. Playing at SkyDome isn’t working and has not done so for quite some time. So it’s time to go back to the drawing board and consider changes that will help this team make money instead of continually lose it. I want to continue having the opportunity to yell “ARGOS SUCK” when they play my Hamilton Tiger Cats. For that reason, I don’t want to see everybody jump off the ship.
What do you think?
…and that is the last word.