Argos fans optimistic about team’s sale to MLSE

High off their team’s Grey Cup win, many Toronto Argonauts fans are feeling hopeful about the CFL team’s sale to Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which was announced Wednesday.

“I am optimistic (that) there will be several positive changes,” said Lori Bursey, president of the Friends of the Argonauts fan club.

“This sale will allow the team to leverage MLSE’s media, sponsorship and community connections,” Bursey said. “With more (positive) media coverage and sponsorship, I believe it will be hard to ignore the Argos.”

Argos fan Bayardo Canizalez thinks the move will help to “legitimize the Argos as a professional franchise,” since they will join the Maple Leafs, Marlies, Raptors and Toronto FC under the MLSE umbrella.

“By legitimize, I mean to the average Torontonian who probably didn’t know we had a football team,” he said, referencing the pattern of low attendance at Argos games.

Kim Huffman called the sale the “best early Christmas present ever.”

Huffman, a Waterford resident, said the “stability that this deal provides for the Argos is really immeasurable.

“It’s like we finally got asked to sit at the adults’ table.”

Brendan Panikkar, another fan, was also excited about the move. He called it “one of the best days for the Argos” since the team was sold to a group led by NHL star Wayne Gretzky and comedian John Candy in 1991.

“And on the heels of a Grey Cup victory? This will definitely mark the start of the Argos’ path to relevance!” he said.

Some fans were less enthused about the deal, including Callum Elder, who said he’s supported the team since he was 10 years old.

“I was pretty disheartened about the news as I hate MLSE, but was not surprised,” he said. “(Former Argos owners) Bell and Kilmer were soulless corporate entities and so is MLSE, so I don’t think much will change,” he said.

Elder did find one silver lining: “(It) hopefully keeps them in Toronto for the long term, which is a good thing,” he said.

Bursey, the fan club president, thinks more highly of the Argos’ former owners, Bell Canada and the Kilmer Group.

“(They) were tremendous owners who provided the Argos with the ownership support that was desperately needed at the time they took over and I appreciate all they did for the team.”

The deal will see Rogers Communications join its two MLSE partners, Bell Canada and the Kilmer Group, as part of the CFL team’s ownership.

Bell and Rogers each own a 37.5-per cent stake in MLSE, with the Kilmer Group, owned by MLSE chairperson Larry Tanenbaum, holding the remaining 25 per cent.

The Argos already play at MLSE-operated BMO Field, a home they share with recent MLS champions Toronto FC.

Founded in 1873, the Toronto Argonauts are North America’s oldest continuously operated professional football club.

The sale is expected to close in January 2018, according to MLSE.