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Mississauga mayoral candidate wants to build a stadium for the Argonauts: could that work?

September 23, 2014

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.Mississauga mayoral candidate Dil Muhammad wants to attract the Toronto Argonauts. (Rob Beintema/The Mississauga News.)

Mississauga mayoral candidate Dil Muhammad wants to attract the Toronto Argonauts. (Rob Beintema/The Mississauga …

The Toronto Argonauts’ numerous off-field issues appear to have attracted the attention of nearby politicians. Dil Muhammad, a candidate in the race to replace outgoing Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion, spoke out this week about his desire to build a new stadium in the nearby city and bring the Argonauts to town. Via Examiner.com’s Paul Fitzgerald, Muhammad sees attracting the Argonauts as a key part of his platform:

“It’s obvious Toronto has failed the team. After many years of trying to make it go, it’s time the Argos had a home that really wants it [sic], where it can flourish,” Muhammad says.

The Mississauga Argos will generate pride, identity, and help promote the city, according to Muhammad, a long-time resident and well-respected local business man in the healthcare field.

“Why not”? he says. “Look at all the Fortune 500 businesses already here to support a team. We have more people in our city than many CFL teams already, I will get it done.”

“As Mayor, I’ll immediately start clearing the path for pre-approval of a new 25,000 seat stadium,” he says.

Muhammad is keen on making Mississauga the world’s most healthy city and attracting a major sports franchise is part of his strategy.

“The Argo’s [sic] need a stadium that meets their needs and we need a venue to attract mega events. It will be a perfect partnership.”

There are some factors potentially in favour of this idea. For one, there’s next to no appetite in Toronto proper to build a new stadium if the Argonauts can’t get into BMO Field. That’s still a possibility, and it would likely be the Argos’ preferred solution instead of moving to Mississauga, but if it falls through, there doesn’t seem to be much else left as stadium prospects in the city. In Mississauga, land should be cheaper, public funding should be easier to come by, and the Argonauts would be the key tenant instead of an afterthought.

Yes, moving out of Toronto proper poses problems, but we’ve seen this plenty of times with NFL teams moving to nearby cities or suburbs that will give them more favourable stadium deals. For example, the San Francisco 49ers moved to Santa Clara this year, 39 miles away from their old stomping grounds at Candlestick Park. By contrast, it’s only 15.9 miles from the Rogers Centre to Mississauga. Of course, the NFL and its day-long tailgating culture may be easier to convince people to make a significant trip for than Argos’ games, but the distance involved here isn’t huge.

Moreover, even if some fans won’t make the commute from downtown, Mississauga itself has over 700,000 people. That’s smaller than most CFL cities, but it’s larger than the populations of Regina (193,100), Hamilton (519,949), Vancouver proper (603,502) and Winnipeg (663,617), and it’s possible that substantial numbers of new fans could be found from amongst that group. One potential sticking point would be the team name, but Muhammad told The Toronto Sun that he wouldn’t insist on changing it:

If the Double Blue were to head west, Muhammad said the team could still be called the Toronto Argonauts. “I would prefer Mississauga branding, but it’s not necessary. The Dallas Cowboys, for example, are in Irvine,” he said.

It’s also interesting that Muhammad’s plan isn’t for only a stadium, but rather a much larger commercial development. That’s been a key factor in getting many stadiums done recently. Here’s what he plans:

In addition to a 25,000-seat stadium, the 75-year-old businessman envisions a “destination facility” with 200 retail stores, an arcade and a gaming zone.

“The stadium will be a great resource to attract international soccer, rugby and cricket competitions as well as track-and-field events, the Metro Bowl football championship, music concerts and festivals and religious events,” Muhammad said.

He said he would ensure the city waives development fees in order to attract foreign investment to build the complex — named the “Hazel Pavilion,” in honour of outgoing Mayor Hazel McCallion.

“She has done a fantastic job serving the city for 36 years. This would show her our respect,” he said.

There are plenty of potential flaws with this plan (for example, who knows if foreign investment can actually be found to build something so heavily hinged on a CFL stadium? Who knows if Muhammad even has a chance at being elected?), and the Argonauts would probably prefer to stay in Toronto rather than move out to Mississauga. However, having this idea discussed is likely good for the team. It shows at least someone’s interested in building them a stadium, and that could put pressure on Toronto to step up to the plate and find a way to get them into BMO Field (which is still very much a possibility) to avoid losing them.

Having options gives you leverage, and the more leverage the Argos have in these stadium discussions, the better for them. The idea of building a new stadium and moving the team to Mississauga is likely a long shot, but it’s not completely out of the question. At the very least, it demonstrates that there’s some interest in the Argonauts. We’ll see if anything comes from it.

Article source: http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/cfl-55-yard-line/mississauga-mayoral-candidate-wants-to-build-a-stadium-for-the-argonauts--could-that-work-175658011.html

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