The grass is always greener

A landmark of Toronto and home to two of the city’s most beloved sports teams, the Rogers Centre has become a tourist attraction and a favourite venue for sports games at reasonable prices.

As the Argonauts enter the new year rejuvenated from their victorious season in 2012 and the Blue Jays get their many off-season acquisitions settled in, 2013 looks like it will usher in a new era for the Toronto sports world.

The Jays are preparing to take to the diamond in April against the Cleveland Indians, and the team’s management is concerned with exactly what type of field the boys will be stepping onto. Paul Beeston, the president of the Jays, has expressed an interest in laying real grass in the Rogers Centre instead of sticking with AstroTurf. The decision may seem insignificant, but it creates some major logistical issues regarding the Blue Jays sharing the stadium with the Argonauts.

This obstacle has opened the possibility of the Argonauts relocating to a new stadium as early as this summer. BMO Field and U of T’s Varsity Stadium have been identified as potential new homes for the football team, but BMO Field was recently ruled out due to an official report from 2009 that found the field unsuitable for football.

The main reason why the Argonauts want to move is issues of audience size and revenue stream at games. As the MLB flexes its superiority over the CFL in the hierarchy of leagues, it has become clear that the Blue Jays are much more likely to fill the Rogers Centre’s 50,000 seats than the Argonauts, whose crowds usually range from 20,000 to 28,000. Retrofitting Varsity Stadium is a possibility for the CFL, considering the Montreal Alouettes have found a home at McGill’s Percival Molson Memorial Stadium, sharing a field with the McGill Redmen.

As the Jays are one of only two teams in the MLB that still play on AstroTurf (the other being the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field), it is clear that optimal playing conditions are a necessity for a team poised to become a World Series contender.

“The Blue Jays deserve to have the Rogers Centre due to the revenue stream they will be able to rake in,” says Christopher Autuchiewicz, a second-year political science major. “It seems unfair that a team which has over $150 million [in] payroll would have to fight for something like this. And improvements made to Varsity Stadium would benefit more than just the teams involved in this debacle. It would improve the sports program at U of T by [giving] access to a world-class stadium.”

The switch to real grass at the Rogers Centre would prevent the Argonauts from hosting the annual CFL Labour Day Classic at the stadium this September. Instead, they would have to play in Hamilton against the Tiger Cats, who are currently awaiting the opening of their brand-new Ivor Wynne Stadium in June 2014, with an estimated construction cost of $102 million.

Since Toronto does not have the real estate to provide the Argonauts with a new stadium in a prime location to match that of the Rogers Centre, retrofitting an existing stadium seems like the best possible solution.

“I think it’s good for both teams,” says second-year English major Antonio Fernando. “The Blue Jays will be able to play in the Rogers Centre, a stadium that the Argonauts will not be able to fill, and the Argos can play in a stadium with an appropriate capacity for a CFL football team.”

Both teams are bound for success this year as two of the most thriving sports teams in Toronto. Though it is unfortunate that factors like revenue, crowd size, and status have made the negotiation process a competition in itself, it’s certain that these teams will have the support of Toronto fans wherever they end up.

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