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July 2, 2018

Hogan: Argos have finally found a home

A morning at BMO Field in Toronto, ON on Friday June 10, 2016. (Photo: Johany Jutras / Toronto Argonauts)

Over the last few years it would be easy to call the Toronto Argonauts couch crashers.

After moving from the Erindale campus of the University of Toronto a handful of years ago, the Argos have been looking for a place to permanently hang their helmets.

The facility at Downsview never really felt like home. The building was small, the meeting rooms uncomfortable and to be kind, a little cramped. When you looked at it from the outside it screamed the word ‘temporary’.

The move last season to Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School was an interesting experiment. The cons outweighed the pros by a considerable margin. It was in all likelihood the only time in football history where the day before the game walkthroughs were held on a battered tennis court because the adjacent football field was not suitable.

Never mind the half hour per day wasted bussing everyone to and from the Downsview field for practice.

It appears the nomadic existence the organization has experienced over the last few years has mercifully come to an end. This year’s training camp was held at York University, but after the final practice was held at the home of the Lions, the Argos eschewed the opportunity to return to the Don Bosco tennis facility.

Instead their new home is, well, home. The Argos permanent locker rooms are the same ones at BMO Field they’ve used only on game days for the past two seasons. The coaches, trainers and equipment staff have their offices in the same facility they use on game days.

A quick walk across BMO Field’s parking lot two sits Ricoh Coliseum. It’s a short par-4 to the east of the stadium and is home to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. Like their soccer and football neighbours, the hockey club can call itself the defending league champion.

On the second floor of the venerable CNE building the Argos now have plenty of office space for Jim Popp and his scouting staff, with enough room left over for the team’s communications crew.

The neighbourhood has been painted Double Blue, much to the delight of Argos head coach Marc Trestman.

“Everybody’s closer together,” the coach told Argonauts.ca. “Our (the coaches) offices are right next to the locker room, our locker room and offices are next to the weight room, our meeting rooms are easily accessible. We’ve got a pristine environment to work out of.”

The practice facility is also nearby. The Argos will now hold their practices at Lamport Stadium, nestled in trendy Liberty Village. The playing surface is much softer, and people passing by on either King St. West or Liberty St. may stop to watch the action for a while.

Finally, the Argos are part of the neighbourhood in which they play.

The team will still use busses to get to and from the field, it will just be a much shorter commute. That’s also good news for the coach, who only has the players for four-and-a-half hours a day under the terms of league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.

“It won’t add time to our practices because that length will never change,” explained Trestman, “But it will add time for meeting time which we didn’t have prior to this.”

When a professional sports team changes ownership some of the changes are easily identifiable, while others fly under the radar. Aside from the obvious change in venue for practices, this move is one that may be unappreciated by fans.

That’s certainly not the case for the people involved.