SBD/January 29, 2014/Franchises

MLSE Reportedly Eyes Purchase Of CFL Argonauts; Leiweke Dropping Hints?

An Argonauts sale would likely make the team a second tenant at BMO Field
The CFL Toronto Argonauts “could be sold within a matter of weeks," either to MLSE or company Chair Larry Tanenbaum, according to sources cited by David Naylor of TSN.ca. Talks between Argonauts and B.C. Lions Owner David Braley and MLSE have “heated up in recent months to the point that the MLSE board, which includes Tanenbaum as well as representatives from Bell and Rogers, was asked to vote during December on acquiring the CFL team.” While the board “could not agree on the matter, there remains the possibility that MLSE could revisit buying the team or that Tanenbaum himself may purchase it.” Being sold to Tanenbaum or MLSE would “make the Argos part of the plan for a redesigned BMO Field, thus solving their need to build a new home from scratch” when they vacate Rogers Centre after the ‘17 season. Having the Argos as a second tenant at BMO Field could “help MLSE's drive to secure investment from government to redevelop the stadium, which is a publicly-owned facility operated by MLSE exclusively for soccer at this time.” This is not the first time MLSE has “looked at a potential Argo purchase.” The Argos had been “offered up to MLSE when the team was owned by David Cynamon and Howard Sololowski,” who sold to Braley in February '10 (TSN.ca, 1/28). In Toronto, Kurtis Larson noted BMO's field dimensions would “need to be expanded to accommodate a much larger CFL grid, potentially pushing" MLS Toronto FC fans "further away from the field” (TORONTO SUN, 1/29).

TIM TALKS: In Toronto, Zoe McKnight noted MLSE President & CEO Tim Leiweke last night "may have hinted at a future deal" between MLSE and the Argos during a “candid speech.” Leiweke has previously said that MLSE is “interested in paying for an expansion of city-owned BMO Field, and soon, to include a partial roof and more seats.” He said last night that he would be “willing to share the refurbished field with a CFL team.” Leiweke: “We’re going to spend $120 million to build an English Premier (League)-style stadium, with a roof that covers the seats. ... Yeah, there are rumours there may be a CFL solution, but we’ll do it in a way you’ll never know there’s a CFL team when you’re there for a soccer game, and you’ll never know there’s a soccer team when you’re there for a CFL game. It’s engineering and we can fix that.” He added, “I think giving fans an opportunity to go see an Argos game outdoors in a stadium with a roof that covers the seat, in a 30,000-seat environment, with real grass, is awesome, and it will help turn that franchise around. So we’re going to start with that. There’s no way the NFL comes here without the CFL being unbelievably successful first.” McKnight noted MLSE and the CFL declined to comment further. Argos Chair & CEO Chris Rudge said that while he “couldn’t comment on any deal between the team’s owner and MLSE, he’d be happy to play at BMO Field” (THESTAR.com, 1/28). 
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