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The End of a CFL Era in Toronto

by Randy Snow

Original to www.theworldoffootball.com, Sunday, November 8, 2015

Friday night, November 6, 2015 marked the end of an era in the history of the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League. That was the night that the Argos played their final game ever at the Rogers Center, the teamís home since 1989. 

Originally known as the SkyDome when it opened in 1989, it is the worldís first domed stadium with a retractable roof. The Argosí played their first regular season game there on July 12, 1989 against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Hamilton won the game 24-15. The stadium was renamed the Rogers Centre in 2005.

Over the course of the past 26 seasons playing at the Skydome/Rogers Centre, the Argos won five Grey Cups. Wide receiver/kick returner Rocket Ismail led the team to a title as a rookie in 1991 and quarterback Doug Flutie led the team to back-to-back CFL championships in 1996 and 1997.

The Argos have shared the stadium with the MLB Toronto Blue Jays for as long as they have played there. Two sections of stands actually rotated from behind home plate for baseball games to the sidelines of the stadium for football games. The stadium used two different artificial playing surfaces for baseball and football. The football turf was a little longer to simulate real grass.

The Blue Jays have always been the prime tenant at the stadium over the years and a few years ago it was decided that they wanted to install a natural grass field. Having a football team play there would severely damage a grass, so the Argos were told that they would need to find a new home.  

The Argos are the oldest football team in North America, with their roots dating back to 1873, and were recently purchased by a new ownership group that includes Larry Tanenbaum, who also owns Toronto FC of Major League Soccer, the NBA Toronto Raptors and the NHL Toronto Maple Leafs.

After the sale of the team, it was announced that the Argos will play their home games at BMO Field, an outdoor soccer stadium, beginning next year. They will share BMO Field with the Toronto FC soccer team. A $120 million expansion to BMO is currently underway to make the stadium suitable to host CFL games.    

Over the years I have attended several games at the Skydome/Rogers Centre. I first went to a game there in 1994. I even stayed in the hotel that is built into the stadium and my room overlooked the field. What a great experience that was!

The Rogers Centre had the honor of also hosting the 100th CFL Grey Cup championship game in 2012. Fittingly, Toronto won the title that year in their home stadium with a 35-22 win over the Calgary Stampeders.

The stadium has also played host to the Vanier Cup, which is the championship game of college football in Canada.

In recent years, the NFL Buffalo Bills played a number of regular season and pre-season games at the Rogers Center. It was also the home of the International Bowl from 2007-2010 featuring American college football teams from the Big East Conference and the Mid-American Conference.

This past season, the Argos were forced to move a couple of their home games to other locations due to conflicts with the Blue Jaysí playoff baseball schedule.

I really wanted to be there for the final Argos game at the Rogers Centre, but it just did not work out. Instead, I had to settle for watching the game on ESPN3 on the Internet.  

With the 21-11 win Friday night over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Toronto finishes the CFL regular season with a record of 10-8. They now advance to the playoffs and will make the short trip to Hamilton for the Eastern Conference Semi-Final game on November 15. This yearís Grey Cup game will be played on Sunday, November 29 in Winnipeg.

The Argonauts and the Skydome/Rogers Centre were synonymous with CFL football. It is sad to think that the team will no longer be playing there. As a fan, I felt that it was a great place to see a CFL game. I have been there for games when the roof was open and when the roof was closed. Each was a great experience and Iím glad that all three of my boys were able to experience CFL games there with me over the years.

Just like in Hamilton, which tore down historic Ivor Wynne Stadium and replaced it with Tim Hortonís Field a few years ago, BMO Field will be a new and improved venue for the Argos, but for me, it just wonít be the same.

Two and a Half Years in Two and a Half Minutes - Video on YouTube.

Here is a link to a YouTube, time-lapse video on the construction of the Skydome.



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