I was excited when the Argonauts announced their plans to move into a new facility on the grounds of the former University of Toronto Varsity Stadium at St. George subway station (if I were a TV reporter, I would have to say something about the "infamous 1950 'mud bowl'", but as I am not a TV reporter, I do not have to stoop to that level...). Although I, like much of the GTA, initially admired the SkyDome upon its 1989 opening (compared to the ad-hoc Exhibition Stadium), the lustre soon wore off as I saw the stadium for the antiseptic cavern that it is. I was interested by the prospects of the Argos enjoying a Montreal Alouettes-style renaissance after moving from a lifeless domed stadium into a more intimate facility, and I was heartened to see that it was to be a downtown site clearly oriented to subway access. (Although I've unfortunately never seen them in person, my favourite ballparks have been the older, quirkier and more intimate downtown ballparks, like Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, or Ebbets Field.)
I was thus equally disappointed to hear that, apparently due to U of T politics, the rebirth of Varsity Stadium is to be no more. Other "plan B" sites now being considered include:
- Exhibition Place ("Mistake By The Lake Part II", but still well served by GO and the new Harbourfront streetcar line)
- York University (further out from downtown, but as Andrew Spicer notes, at least it's to be served by the new York University busway, and eventually an extension of the Spadina subway)
- Downsview Park (similar location but likely in a more suburban format — at least York is making efforts to urbanize their campus and put more emphasis on transit as they struggle to cope with automobile demand)
- Woodbine Race Track (still further out from downtown, and likely served by a giant mother of a parking lot)
Part of me says it should at least stay downtown and use the Exhibition Place grounds, while another part says it should go to York, with the ability to partner with the university athletics department and the access from the new busway to Downsview (and GO's proposed trans-GTA busway). But my heart isn't in either of them. Varsity had the subway access and urban, downtown environment, but more than that, it had tradition. I believe tradition and legend count for a lot in sports — witness the Bill Barilko legend, or the Curse of the Bambino, or the Maple Leafs trotting out their nostalgia jerseys come playoff time (I still say they should wear those things all the time). The new Varsity site was more than just a stadium: it was a rebirth. The symbolism could not be clearer. With Varsity off the table, any other site has instantly become just a stadium.