The Toronto Blue Jays begin their first MLB postseason since 1993 Thursday, which has created plenty of excitement throughout Toronto and Canada, but there's at least one group in the city that's been negatively affected by their return to the playoffs; the Toronto Argonauts, their co-tenants at the Rogers Centre. The Argonauts already had to move this past Tuesday's "home" game to Ottawa based on the chance that the Jays would have to play a wild-card game (they didn't), and now they've fulfilled the long-held speculation that they'd have to move other games thanks to potential Jays' playoff dates. As the Jays were taking batting practice Thursday ahead of their 3:30 p.m. Eastern start against the Rangers, the Argos announced on their website that they'll likely have to move their Oct. 17 and Oct. 23 games to Hamilton:
“It appears we will be unable to play our October 17 home game at Rogers Centre due to an expected scheduling conflict with the 2015 Major League Baseball post-season,” said Argonauts Executive Chairman & CEO, Chris Rudge. “We have been meeting for some time with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats organization and have decided that the best course for our team and our fans is to prepare to play the game at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton. However, as the MLB playoffs unfold, we will assess the viability of moving the game back to Rogers Centre should timing, conversion and logistics permit. Tim Hortons Field offers our team a neutral-site location that is also broadcast-ready when we host the Calgary Stampeders. I would like to thank the Tiger-Cats organization for accommodating our move and assisting us with this challenge.”
Rudge continued, “We would also like fans to know that we have already begun working on contingency plans for our October 23 home game against the Montreal Alouettes should there be another similar conflict. Those plans are not yet final but will most likely also result in our team playing at Tim Hortons Field. We will communicate the appropriate details as early as possible once a decision is made. Again, we thank everyone for their continued support and patience during this unusual time and we wish the Blue Jays well on their playoff journey.”
Fans that have purchased tickets to the October 17 game will be contacted by a Toronto Argonauts ticket representative in the near future. Fans that have purchased tickets to any 2015 Toronto Argonauts home game that has been, or will be, displaced by the 2015 MLB post-schedule will be fully reimbursed once all disruptions are known.
In some respects, this is the best possible option for the Argonauts. They explored other venues, including university stadiums, but Tim Hortons Field has the advantage of being reasonably close (a 56-minute drive from the Rogers Centre, according to Yahoo Maps) and ready to host a CFL game from both a fan and broadcast standpoint. Moreover, because neither game is against the Tiger-Cats, the Argonauts should have at worst a neutral crowd (well, unless Ticats' fans turn out in droves to boo them), and it's possible they could have a favourable crowd if enough of their fans make the trip.
That's much better from an on-field standpoint than if the Argos had played these games in Calgary or Montreal, and it raises big questions about why they didn't make this call for this past Tuesday's game. Some have speculated that was lame-duck owner David Braley trying to make a few bucks from Ottawa fans instead of giving his team the best possible chance to win; that may be the case, or it may be that they couldn't work out a deal with Tim Hortons Field for that one. Regardless, they've picked Hamilton this time around, and that looks like the best possible option left. It's far from ideal, though, especially considering that the Argos are in a tough playoff race with Ottawa and Hamilton. Home games down the stretch should have been a huge advantage for Toronto both on and off the field. Thanks to the Blue Jays, and to the Rogers Centre, those games are now an issue for the Argos in both respects.
Of course, this isn't finalized yet, and much depends on how the Jays do in the playoffs. If they exit quickly, the Rogers Centre may not be needed around the 17th or 23rd, and these games could potentially return there. If they make the World Series, the Argos' home games on October 30th and November 6 could be threatened as well. We'll see how it goes, but for now at least, it looks highly probable that the Argos will lose at least those home dates on the 17th and 23rd. The Jays' playoff run may be great for many in Toronto and around the country, but it's certainly not helping the football team.