Argonauts' sale to Bell, Tanenbaum, BMO Field move to be announced - report

55 Yard Line
BMO Field to host Gold Cup doubleheader
BMO Field to host Gold Cup doubleheader

The long-running sagas of the Toronto Argonauts' ownership and stadium situations both appear close to resolution. TSN's Dave Naylor reported Tuesday afternoon that the previously-rumoured deal between Bell and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment chairman Larry Tanenbaum to buy the team from David Braley and move them to BMO Field in time for the 2016 season is expected to be announced as soon as Wednesday. Of course, we've seen reports on both the ownership and the stadium fronts that didn't come to pass, so it should be made clear that nothing is final until it's officially announced, especially with this team and its incredibly complicated situation. Still, Naylor has been doing good work on this story, and his report here seems to fit logically with what we know about this potential deal and the need to get it done quickly.

Providing this report does come to pass, it looks like the Argos' ownership and stadium situation should both be stabilized. There are still plenty of questions left about just how things will work under Bell/Tanenbaum's ownership and how the team will do at BMO Field, but this deal means two of the CFL's most pressing issues may have been at least somewhat resolved. If it plays out the way Naylor has reported, the Argonauts are no longer a team facing ownership and stadium crises; they're a team with several remaining questions, but also a potentially-bright future.

A key question will be just how Bell and Tanenbaum run the team. Braley did some great things for the team, including buying and running them when no one else seemed interested at all, but over the last few years in particular, reports of his penny-pinching ways and the team's lack of investment in marketing suggested his approach was part of their attendance woes. Bell and Tanenbaum certainly have the money to do things differently and run a first-class organization, but will they? Keep in mind that these are two of the three partners in MLSE (third partner Rogers wanted no part of this deal), and that they have a lot of other bigger, more prominent teams to focus on. Now, it would make sense for Bell at least to invest in making the Argonauts successful, given their ties to the CFL through TSN and its long-term broadcasting contract, but the degree to which they'll put money into the team isn't certain. (They will be reaping the benefits, though; Naylor's report mentions that part of the deal will let Toronto host two Grey Cups, including the 2016 one, so there will be lots of money coming into the coffers from those.)

It's also going to be interesting to see how the Argos are prioritized at BMO Field once they move there, presumably in 2016. One of the big issues with their previous home at the Rogers Centre was how low of a priority they were compared to the Blue Jays and other events, which led to them having regular scheduling issues and being forced to play games on odd weekday nights. Now, BMO Field should be a bit better, as primary tenant Toronto FC plays substantially less games than a baseball team, but there will be conversions needed to turn the stadium from soccer to football and back again, and it's been made clear that TFC will still be the focus. That could be fine as long as the Argonauts still get decent dates and acceptable levels of support, and if they receive more priority than other non-TFC events, but if they're relegated to whenever they can be squeezed in, this may not be that much better. 

Still, if this comes to pass, it's unquestionably better than the Argos' current situation of a penny-pinching owner who wants out and a stadium they're being evicted from by the end of 2017. The Bell-Tanenbaum ownership group has the potential to be very good, if it prioritizes the team appropriately and gives them the resources they need to succeed, and playing at BMO Field could also be a great opportunity for the team, giving them a much more attractive venue and one that's a better fit for them (in terms of size, game experience and more). We'll see how this plays out, but for now, this sounds like great news for the Argonauts and the CFL. We'll find out down the road just how great it actually is.

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