One wears double blue and the other wears blue and white, but they are both searching for a new home in the west end of Toronto.
The Canadian Football League's Toronto Argonauts and the University of Toronto submitted a joint proposal to the City of Toronto Parks and Recreation Department yesterday that calls for major renovations to Lamport Stadium.
The Argos, who are looking forward to the expiration of their lease at SkyDome after incurring what team owner Sherwood Schwarz estimates could be $3-million in losses this season, see the renovation and expansion of Lamport Stadium as their best option.
The Argos are averaging only about 18,000 fans a game, far from the 50,000 Schwarz had envisioned when he bought the team in October of 1999.
The University of Toronto's varsity sports teams are looking for a new home in advance of the planned demolition of Varsity Stadium, an on-campus, 22,000-seat facility.
"The proposal is very appealing to us," Toronto Argonauts CEO Jeff Giles said. "We need to look at alternatives to SkyDome and at this stage there are no alternatives. The University of Toronto also needs to find alternatives. Together we both need to take a look at Lamport Stadium in the short and long term and see if it could serve both of our needs."
Lamport Stadium, with its weathered Astroturf playing surface and steel bleachers seats only 9,500. Located at King Street, just east of Dufferin Avenue, and owned by the City of Toronto, it is used for high school sports and the occasional practice by a visiting CFL team.
However, the plan drawn by the Argonauts and the University of Toronto, which first took shape three weeks ago, would see seating increased to 19,000 and a proposed move-in date of 2003.
Giles said the box-office success of the Montreal Alouettes since they moved from cavernous Olympic Stadium to the cozy confines of Molson Stadium on the campus of McGill University two seasons ago was reason enough to consider a similar move in Toronto. The Argos have one more year left on their lease at the SkyDome -- a five year deal that was originally signed by former owner Interbrew.
"I don't think it's so much the cost at SkyDome as it is overcoming the challenge of people's resistance to SkyDome," Giles said. "What we have heard from the fans is that [the SkyDome]is too big, people are too far from the field, there is no intimacy and it is too far to get to. If people can imagine trying to duplicate what has been going on at Molson Stadium and the environment there, I think they could become pretty excited."
The University of Toronto will need a new home for its teams after the demolition of Varsity Stadium sometime in the new year. Once home to several Grey Cup games and countless international soccer contests, Varsity Stadium once seated just under 22,000, but years of neglect are showing.
The deterioration of bleachers and the concrete that supports the stadium have led to the closing of the east-end grandstand and the reduction of available seats to just under 10,000. The University has plans to replace the stadium with student housing and a more compact athletic facility.
Liz Hoffman, the university's director of athletics, said until the new stadium is completed the varsity and intramural teams will be without a place to play.
"This partnership will provide us with a home away from home during the period when our new stadium is under construction," Hoffman said. "The partnership with the Argonauts is also a great opportunity for us during this period, but we will also be using the facility for many other activities besides football."
Hoffman expects a response from Toronto within the next few weeks.