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CFL: Options for Where to Take Touchdown Atlantic

Steve ThompsonAnalyst IIIJune 27, 2011

TORONTO - NOVEMBER 25:  Anthony Malbrough #3 of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers knocks away a pass in the endzone  from D.J. Flick #3 of the Saskatchewan Rough Riders during the third quarter in the 95th Grey Cup on November 25, 2007 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  The Rough Riders won 23-19.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

The CFL smartly decided to consolidate the gains they made in the Maritimes and scheduled another regular season game in Moncton to follow up their success from last year.

This season's Touchdown Atlantic 2 game will be held Sunday, September 25, between the Calgary Stampeders and the host team Hamilton Tiger Cats. Tickets for the game are already sold out, though some package deals still remain.

Last year, the CFL took a leap into the unknown and it proved to be successful. This year is like repeating a step to the next known ledge.

The question is whether this is the end of the line or will the league take another step into the unknown.

Before speculating on a path, let's review the two goals this is supposedly leading to: to have an expansion team in Moncton, and to expand the league elsewhere.

Goal 1:  Expand To Moncton

The two quick sellouts have to be encouraging for the CFL to try to establish a regular team in Moncton. The two main obstacles are the stadium size and the search for a competent owner.

Given that the league takes mostly baby steps, what in-between steps can the league take to its ultimate goal.

The current size of the stadium is between 20,000 and 21,000, and the league has stated that a CFL stadium should hold at least 25,000. 

There have been reports that the Moncton stadium could be expanded to between 30,000 to 35,000, putting it on the middle level along with the CFL venues in Winnipeg, Saskatchewan and Calgary. That would be enough to ensure a long-term survival.

So the solution would be to erect some temporary seating to see if the seats will sell. It doesn't have to be to the full maximum right away, but potential owners need to see progress to whet their appetite.

A larger sellout will be more of an incentive for both the league to actively seek an owner, and for any potential owner to step forward and show interest.

The other thing to do is for the CFL to demonstrate the viability of Moncton for potential owners.

One way of doing this would be to play more than one game there next year. An interesting, ambitious experiment might be to have each CFL team to play two games there during a season, giving Moncton an 8-game schedule.

If all eight games were a success, that would be even more tempting for a sports-minded owner to step forward.

It doesn't have to be someone from the local area, rather one who is interested in sports and can do a competent job running a team.

Are you taking notice, Balsillie, Thomson, Eatons, Westons, etc.?

Goal 2: Expand Elsewhere

The second goal should be to try the Moncton regular season concept elsewhere. The biggest problem is finding a venue of suitable size to try it.

Halifax is said to be considering building a stadium so that it could host the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup.

So far, that is the best and most permanent news on the expansion horizon for the CFL.

Besides Halifax, there are several other cities where a Moncton experiment could be tried.  These include hockey-mad Quebec pining for a returned Nordiques and willing to spend $400 million on a new arena, with great support for the Laval University football team, two other successful university football team cities, London and Kitchener, and two regional rivals for existing CFL teams, Saskatoon and Victoria.

The in-between step is to get the municipality to spend money on adding temporary seating to existing stadiums, so that an experiment could be tried. And if it was found that a football game brought in money to the region, further experiments could be tried.

But someone has to be unafraid to take that first step. Somebody must have a vision of what could be and believe in it so strongly that they are willing to make an investment.

2011 is a census year, which will reveal where new feasible markets may be. The CFL wants a permanent touchdown in Moncton and other parts of Canada.

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