Randy Ambrosie: CFL will ‘bring a lot of energy’ to expansion following sale of Alouettes

Photo: David Mahussier/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

The CFL is coming off a week in which they sold the Montreal Alouettes to local billionaire Pierre Karl Péladeau and formally awarded the 2025 Grey Cup to Winnipeg. With those pressing items checked off his to-do list, it appears as though commissioner Randy Ambrosie is ready to turn his full attention to expansion.

“The last six weeks have been more or less consumed on one thing and that was the Montreal file. Making the announcement last Friday in Montreal that we have a new owner for the Alouettes and a local owner that’s committed to the long-term future of not just the Alouettes but of the CFL, that’s occupied about 107 percent of our time and energy,” Ambrosie told the media in Winnipeg.

“I said to my colleagues, I gave them a Saturday off. I told them to start thinking about business on Sunday and on Monday we started talking about the expansion file. We don’t have anything specific to share today but what I can tell you is we’re gonna bring a lot of energy to that file in the days to come.”

The CFL will hold another edition of Touchdown Atlantic this summer, staging it on the campus of Saint Mary’s University in Halifax. Last year’s event in Wolfville sold out in under an hour and generated more than $12.7 million in economic impact for the province of Nova Scotia according to a study conducted by Sports Tourism Canada.

Halifax mayor Mike Savage told 3DownNation last summer that there is no political appetite for a CFL-specific stadium to be built in the city. The CFL has since shifted its focus to upgrading an existing facility for what Ambrosie has dubbed a “temporary-permanent” solution, which could lead to a new stadium being constructed once an expansion team has proven its viability.

Huskies Stadium only seats 2,000 but has been expanded to 11,000 for sporting events in the past, including the first edition of Touchdown Atlantic in 2005. Ambrosie has also previously suggested Medavie Blue Cross Stadium at the Université de Moncton, which has hosted three previous Touchdown Atlantic games, as a possible home for an expansion team.

Expansion has been a hot-button topic in the CFL for decades. Ottawa saw two franchises fold over a 10-year span, drawing speculation that the city would never again support a CFL team. The Redblacks have since proven those critics wrong as they’ve been one of the league’s most stable privately-owned teams since they joined the league in 2014.

The league is hoping that a similar storyline plays out again with its tenth team, which would likely be based in the Maritimes. Ambrosie has previously floated the possibility of expanding to Quebec City, though it remains unclear how feasible that would be.

Adding a tenth team would provide a boost to the CFL in several ways. It would allow the league to play five games per week, which would presumably increase the value of their broadcasting rights. It would also allow the league to condense its schedule to 19 weeks, eliminating awkward byes and raise attendance with fewer cold late-season games.

Any commissioner worth their salt completes at least one major project that serves as a legacy once their tenure atop the league comes to an end. Mark Cohon’s legacy is the success of the Ottawa Redblacks. Jeffrey Orridge oversaw the creation of CFL Week, a popular off-season fan event that raised the profile of the CFL Combine.

Ambrosie has yet to complete a major project in almost six years as the league’s commissioner. He admitted his half-baked CFL 2.0 initiative hasn’t generated substantial revenue and he has yet to secure a major U.S. television deal, though an improved deal will reportedly be announced before the season gets underway.

Successful expansion to the Maritimes would not only be a breakthrough for the league but for Ambrosie’s tenure as commissioner. With the sale of the Alouettes complete, it’s time to go full steam ahead in adding a tenth team to the CFL.

John Hodge is a CFL insider and draft analyst who has been covering the league since 2014.