There’s been a prevailing feeling for years in the Big Smoke when it comes to three-down football. The Toronto Argonauts just have to get out of the lifeless dome and into a cozy home where a party atmosphere can take hold, making it the place to be on game nights.
From there, the CFL and the Argos will catch fire and become one of the hottest tickets in town.
It’s definitely a dream for the new owners, and the diehards as well likely.
Part of CFL lore is how the Montreal Alouettes were forced out of their creaky indoor stadium and into the quaint old park at McGill University. We have U2 to thank for that, as the rock band’s scheduled concert made the Alouettes look for an alternative to Olympic Stadium for a playoff game in 1997. Fans suddenly loved the confines, and the team decided to move to McGill full-time, sparking a run of sold-out games (albeit with only 20,202 seats available) that saved CFL in Montreal.
The Argos, getting run out of Rogers Centre after years sharing it with the Toronto Blue Jays, move to BMO Field for the 2016 season, and they are hoping history repeats itself. When that stadium opened for MLS soccer in 2007, Toronto FC games became a happening place for several years. The Argos were green with envy, as even a Grey Cup win at Rogers Centre in 2012 failed to give the franchise a rejuvenated fan experience.
On Monday, the Argos released their season-ticket pricing structures, and there are some interesting things as part of the packages. Claiming they are listening to fans who want to attend games in large groups, the Argos have unveiled some of the most competitive prices in the league.
Actually, the Argos are offering the cheapest adult ticket in the CFL, and although the upper-deck end-zone seats are not ideal, getting into the building for a little over $18, including playoffs, is a pretty decent deal.
To get the lively atmosphere they desire, the Argos are using a trick employed by several CFL teams in the past with a party zone on the field level just off the endzone. Entry to this area is $299 for the 11 games, including playoffs and is “home to the most passionate Argos fans” where they are expected to “influence the atmosphere at BMO Field,” according to the notice sent out to supporters on Monday.
There are several other teams offering a ‘party zone’ around the endzones at field level, and the Argos have competitive pricing in comparison. Even if you aren’t in the festive spirit and just want to witness the game from ‘good seats,’ the midfield section at BMO is reasonably priced when compared around the league.
Tickets on the 55-yard line in Toronto are the cheapest in the East Division and only Edmonton, Calgary, B.C. and Saskatchewan charge less for the midfield spots — all but Saskatchewan in a much bigger building.
Lower level corner spots at BMO will be the cheapest in the East Division, so the Argos are really making a push to provide affordable tickets as they make this crucial transition.
Of course, it’s important to have a Gucci Row in Toronto, and the Argos are offering field-level premium seating — one of only a handful of teams with something like this — and it will be a real risk if those seats are left empty. Those sideline spots don’t come cheap, with the midfield ones coming in at more than $180 a game, but if you want to be seen at the scene, how can you put a price on it?
Certainly those premium prices don’t compare with the Blue Jays, Maple Leafs or Raptors, but the Argos have a long way to go before they are in headlining the sports conversations in Canada’s largest city. If anything, they are providing a cheaper alternative to those sporting options, which is what they should be doing and the benefit of going to a small, more intimate venue.
The CFL needs the Argos to improve their attendance numbers, and this is a decent first step. In a smaller stadium, there will be fewer tickets to sell, and if the Argos can create a buzz around their games, getting into BMO will be tougher than walking up to a Rogers Centre game and finding a premium ticket for sale.
The Boatmen have set sail in new waters. It will be up to the sports fans in Toronto to get on board.
Here is a comparison of season-ticket packages around the CFL:
Top premium seats (field level): $1,999 or $1,799
Club seats: $1,199
Midfield seats: $899
Lower level corners: $399
Cheapest seat: $199
Unique ticket: $299 fan zone, on field in end zone
Club seats: $1,683 or $1,619
Midfield seats: $1,099
Lower level corners: $483
Cheapest seat: $223 (endzone on the field)
Notable: The Alouettes offer five-month payment plans
Top premium seats (field level): $1,090
Midfield seats: $1,130
Lower level corners: $465
Cheapest seat: $285
Top premium seats (field level): $1,969
Club seats: $2,090
Midfield seats: $951.50
Lower level corners: $517
Cheapest seat: $280.50
Unique ticket: $566.50 or $286 (endzone patios)
Notable: With a new stadium, the Ticats offer tons of premium seating options, ranging from $973.50 to $2,090
Centre field seats: $1,092
Lower level corners: $613
Cheapest seat: $254.50
Unique ticket: $388.50 fanatic fan zone
Notable: The Bombers offer a payment plan before the season starts
Club seats: $2,204.80
Midfield seats: $813
Lower level corners: $607.30
Cheapest seat: $326.80
Notable: The Riders offer youth (up to 18) and senior/student pricing at a sizeable discount
Centre field seats: $857
Lower level corners: $291
Cheapest seat: $242 family fun zone
Notable: There is a party zone in the endzone but season tickets aren’t offered
Centre field seats: $630
Lower level corners: $366
Cheapest seat: $220
Unique ticket: $60 (youth ticket in the Knothole family section, for kids 12 & under)
Notable: With a vast upper deck, the Eskimos offer the majority of those seats at $252, or $25.20 per game for 10 outings
Top premium seats: $1,250
Club seats: $1,100
Centre field seats: $720
Lower level corners: $400
Cheapest seat: $250
Unique ticket: $400 Club Orange
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