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Toronto Argonauts, MLSE reach deal on practice fields

Toronto Argonauts quarterback Ricky Ray looks on during team practice ahead of the 100th Grey Cup championship CFL game in Toronto, November 22, 2012.


The issues of ownership and playing at BMO Field remain unresolved but the Toronto Argonauts and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment are at least business associates.

The two organizations are partnering on a new practice facility for the CFL team at Toronto's Downsview Park, next to the training ground for Major League Soccer's Toronto FC, which is owned by MLSE. The new venue is expected to be ready sometime next month.

The timing couldn't be better for the Argos. They've been at York University since the start of training camp in June but the school's football team will need its field in August, when it begins its preparations for the 2014 season.

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The Argos will remain at York until the new venue is complete. They'd practised at the University of Toronto's Mississauga campus for 18 years before moving to York.

Argos president Chris Rudge was relieved the practice facility issue had finally been resolved.

"We've been in very humble facilities for close to 15 years," Rudge said via telephone from Italy, where he is vacationing. "That's not to speak poorly of the people at the University of Toronto at Mississauga, but they had what they had and no investment was ever made by any of the Argos owners in that facility for that period of time.

"I know Jim [Argos GM Jim Barker] and the coaches have been frustrated, I feel for them. I can't say enough about how they've persevered through this transition and yet continue to be consummate professionals."

The Argos announced the partnership in a statement Thursday, which created the perception MLSE had taken a step closer to buying the money-losing CFL club and relocating it to a revamped BMO Field. But two sources told The Canadian Press that even with the agreement, neither scenario is closer to happening now.

"This is a business deal that stands on its own just as the current approach to whatever we might lease in BMO Field is something that would stand on its own," Rudge said. "But I don't think either of them preclude that other bigger deal being looked at at some point, but that's up to [Argos owner David Braley] and the proprietors of MLSE.

"I think that this will at least stop some of the speculation there isn't goodwill between the two organizations to try and do some things together that are mutually supportive. This is certainly, I think, an important step.

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