Argos aren’t getting Hamilton’s Grey Cup (they already had it)

David Braley, right, owner of the Toronto Argonauts, speaks as Larry Tanenbaum, left, MLSE chairman, and George Cope, CEO of Bell Canada, listen during a press conference at BMO Field in Toronto on Wednesday, May 20, 2015. Bell and MLSE announced a partnership to purchase the Toronto Argonauts and plans to relocate the team to BMO Field. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese
David Braley, right, owner of the Toronto Argonauts, speaks as Larry Tanenbaum, left, MLSE chairman, and George Cope, CEO of Bell Canada, listen during a press conference at BMO Field in Toronto on Wednesday, May 20, 2015. Bell and MLSE announced a partnership to purchase the Toronto Argonauts and plans to relocate the team to BMO Field. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

The new owners of the Toronto Argonauts are not stealing Hamilton’s Grey Cup: it’s already been claimed by the old one.

The Argos held a splashy press conference on Wednesday, making the purchase of the team by the powerhouse duo of Bell and MLSE chairman Larry Tanenbaum official while also establishing BMO Field as their new home as of the 2016 season.

The deal also reportedly includes hosting rights for 2016 Grey Cup, which many Ticat fans had hoped might land in Hamilton – something which hasn’t happened since 1996. The city has a fancy new stadium, the recently-completed Tim Hortons Field, and many saw it as a chance to partially repay owner Bob Young for his years of investment in the money-losing Ticats.

But while CFL commissioner Jeffery Orridge dodged the question on Wednesday, Toronto will host the Grey Cup in 2016 – something that was fait accompli even before the sale to Tanenbaum et al: sources say David Braley has already procured it as part of his initial Argo ownership deal.

Braley took control of the Argos in 2010 from Toronto businessmen David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski as the franchise floundered, assuming ownership of a second CFL franchise (he also owns the B.C. Lions.) As part of that deal, the league reportedly gave Braley the option to host several Grey Cup, including the 2016 edition.

So while the Argonaut’s bottom line has been hit hard by poor attendance, Braley has also hosted three of the last four Grey Cups in either Toronto or Vancouver.

While financial details for those events have not been disclosed – both the Argos and the Lions are a privately held businesses – the Saskatchewan Roughriders declared a $9.3 million profit when they held the game in Regina in 2013.

And it’s not just the team that benefits: Tourism Vancouver reported that the 2011 Grey Cup game resulted in an economic impact in excess of $118 million for the province of British Columbia.

But the city of Hamilton and the Ticats will have to wait a little longer for their chance to host the championship game – and the economic-generating hoopla that surrounds it. The City of Ottawa is reportedly making a push to host the 2017 game to coincide with sesquicentennial celebrations in the nation’s capital. That means 2018, at the earliest.

It’s unlikely, however, that the game will be simply anointed to Hamilton as some kind of reward for building a new stadium: a Grey Cup requires organization and commitment from business and community leaders, the team and the municipality. There would also be a moderate investment required for temporary seating to expand the stadium’s seating capacity to approximately 45,000.

In other words, if Hamilton wants to host a Grey Cup any time soon, the city will have to get its collective act together to make it happen.

And wait a little longer for their turn.

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