Argonauts’ facility fire: short-term blow, long-term benefit?

The fire that gutted the Toronto Argonauts' practice facility on the morning of Christmas Eve could well have significant implications for the team in both the short and the long term. According to the National Post's Matthew Scianitti, fire crews were called to the facility (on the University of Toronto's Mississauga campus) at 1:33 a.m. Saturday and wound up staying there dealing with debris throughout the morning; at least eight separate portables were involved, so this likely won't be easy to fix (the Toronto Star is saying the fire "destroyed" the facility). That could lead to some major short-term issues for the Argonauts, potentially forcing them to change their entire practice setup in 2012. However, in the long term, this may provide extra impetus to push for a new comprehensive stadium with its own practice facility.

In the short term, the Argonauts aren't saying much about how this fire (the results are seen above) will affect them. Here's the statement they put up on the team's website:

MISSISSAUGA — Early this morning, a fire broke out in the coaches building of the Toronto Argonauts practice facility at University of Toronto, Mississauga campus. Fortunately, no one was injured as a result of the fire. We would like to thank Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services for containing the fire. A fire investigation is currently underway to determine the cause of the fire and we are working to help assess property damage resulting from the fire.

At this time, we have not yet determined future plans for the Argonauts practice facility. While the fire department investigates the situation, we will have no further comment on the matter. We are thankful for our many blessings and wish everyone the best for the holiday season.

It's certainly positive that no one was hurt in the fire, but there undoubtedly will be some substantial losses for the Argonauts. The coaches' section of that facility undoubtedly had plenty of technology, as well as perhaps team documents on game-planning, draft preparation and free-agent scouting reports. Insurance will help with the former, but the latter can't easily be replaced; as mentioned previously, the CFL offseason often can be a time crunch, and this may reduce some of the advantage the Argonauts had from locking up their coaching staff early. The team also will have to devote substantial time and resources to finding an acceptable practice location for the upcoming season, and that may not be easy either. Fortunately, at least the players' workout facilities are in a different location, so those still in town won't have to find a new place to train yet.

In the long term, though, there may be potential for something good to come of this. The Argonauts' current situation (practices in Mississauga, games at the Rogers Centre, where they're very much a second-class tenant behind the Blue Jays) is far from ideal, and there have been some discussions about building them a new home. Those discussions haven't gone very far to date (and they may never with the budget-slashing Fords in City Hall), but there is sometimes more motivation to push when there isn't an easy status quo to fall back upon. A small stadium downtown with a built-in indoor practice facility (like the one at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium) would be perfect for Toronto, and if there's ever a time to make the case for it, it's now. If that happens, maybe this fire won't be such a bad thing.

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