It could take another 10 years but Adam Thompson firmly believes Toronto’s time for an NFL expansion franchise is coming.
Thompson is a handicapper/oddsmaker for Bookies.com, an American-based site that offers bettors a guide to legal sports-betting in Canada and the U.S. And on Wednesday, Thompson listed Toronto as a 5-1 fourth choice as the next city that will get an NFL expansion club in the coming years.
“Toronto is already a major league city,” Thompson said. “It has proven it can host a major American professional sport, which is one of many reasons why Toronto makes a lot of sense [for NFL].
“Everyone has talked it [NFL expansion] is going to happen but I’ve never seen any real numbers as to when. I’d bet within 10 years there’s at least 36 teams, if not more. I think Toronto will eventually get a team … I think Toronto’s time is coming.”
Thompson listed London as the favourite at just over 2-1 odds. Mexico (3.5-1) and St, Louis (4.5-1) were next, followed by Toronto. Rounding out the eight cities listed were San Antonio (8-1), San Diego and Salt Lake City (both 13-1) and Austin, Tex. (15-1).
Recently, Dallas mayor Eric Johnson said his city, which already has the Dallas Cowboys, was ready for an NFL expansion franchise.
The Rams left St. Louis after the ‘15 season and litigation is ongoing. But Thompson said the thought is a final agreement will include an expansion team.
“The NFL is at 32 teams and there’s a lot of talk that eventually, ultimately, it wants to get to 40 teams and the NFL has made it clear it wants to expand internationally,” Thompson said. “London is the sexy pick, Mexico City is just a huge mega market … but logistically it [Toronto] would be way easier than those other two.
“It’s the biggest market in the U.S. and Canada that doesn’t have a team right now and from that regard it would just be easier to just start in Toronto, which has hosted NFL games and probably has a thirst for the NFL built in already. I think it would be a very easy addition and makes a lot of sense in that regard.”
The odds were projected and didn’t reflect any that might be available at legal betting sites or apps.
Toronto has long been mentioned as a possible landing spot for an NFL expansion franchise. The city has hosted a number of league games at Rogers Centre and in 2014 a group that included Larry Tanenbaum, chairman of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and rocker Jon Bon Jovi put in an unsuccessful bid to own the Buffalo Bills.
Two major challenges for a group looking to bring the NFL to Toronto would be money and a stadium.
First of all, the projected cost of an NFL expansion franchise would exceed US$2-billion (over $2.6-billion in Canadian funds). Then there’d be the matter of building a compatible stadium as Rogers Centre can seat between 45,000 to 55,000 for football.
By comparison, NFL stadiums traditionally seat at least 60,000 fans. AT&T Stadium, the Cowboys’ home, has the highest capacity of any NFL stadium with a peak capacity exceeding 100,000 spectators.
Earlier this year, the Bills reached an agreement with New York State and Erie County to build a US$1.4-billion open-air stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y., that’s set to be completed in 2026.
“Rogers Centre is probably not going to be the long-term home of any NFL team,” Thompson said. “But I think it could be so long as there was the promise of a future stadium that’s going to start to get built once the ink gets dry.
“It [price of franchise] is a lot of money but when the Bills were for sale, Toronto found over $1-billion and that was a while ago to make it work. I think the money is there in the Toronto area to get a group together.”
But getting all three levels of government – federal, provincial and municipal – to help pay for a new NFL stadium in Toronto would be a very huge ask.
Another challenge would be the potential impact a Toronto NFL franchise would have on Buffalo. A portion of the Bills’ season-ticket base resides in southern Ontario and makes the trek to Orchard Park for home games.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is a native of Jamestown, N.Y., and has repeatedly stated he wants the Bills to be solid in Buffalo.
“I think that would be the one drawback, that Toronto is considered as kind of a Buffalo area, part of Buffalo’s market,” Thompson said. “But New York has two teams [Giants and Jets], Chicago is close to a couple of franchises and Florida has several so I think Toronto and Buffalo could co-exist.
“But that’s probably the one hurdle that the NFL needs convincing on when it comes to Toronto.”
There’d also be the matter of the NFL’s impact upon the CFL, which is headquartered in Toronto and has one of its franchises (Toronto Argonauts) in the city. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are also nearby.
Goodell has also been very public in the NFL’s support for the CFL.