BMO Field - Toronto Argonauts
Photos by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14
BMO Field 170 Princes' Blvd Toronto, ON M6K 3C3 Canada
Toronto Argonauts website BMO Field website
Year Opened: 2007 Capacity: 26,456
In 1873, the Toronto Argonaut Rowing Club organized a football team. Ever since that first year, the Toronto Argonauts have played professional, gridiron football, longer than any other team in the world. Over time, the Argonauts became members of the Canadian Football League and took home the prestigious Grey Cup on seventeen different occasions. Playing in a variety of locations over the years, including Varsity Stadium, Exhibition Stadium, and SkyDome/Rogers Centre, the Argonauts have returned to Toronto’s Exhibition Place to BMO Field.
The Argonauts have been surrounded with uncertainty over the years as attendance has fallen and different ownership groups have come and gone. Famous names have worn the Double Blue over the years, including Joe Theismann, Doug Flutie, Damon Allen, Raghib Ismail, Rickey Williams, and the most beloved Argonaut ever, current General Manager, Michael “Pinball” Clemons. The Argonauts are enjoying their most stable ownership situation in decades as part of the massive Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. A trip to BMO Field to see the Toronto Argonauts is an excellent way to enjoy some top-notch football and leave fans with the incurable urge to yell out “ARRRGOOOOS!”
Food & Beverage 5
The concession scene at BMO Field for an Argonauts game is pretty solid. The gates open for the Shipyard area past the north end zone a half hour earlier than the rest of the gates. In the Shipyard, fans can enjoy some RealSports BBQ and Mill Street beverages. Throughout the rest of the stadium, concession stands provide a mix of unique items and old favourites. Gourmet hot dogs and sausage are found in the mobile carts and Pizza Pizza slices can be found at numerous stands.
Burgers, fries, and popcorn are readily available. A whole host of unique items including braised beef grilled cheese, porchetta sandwiches, muffuletta sandwiches, and Buffalo chicken fingers will tempt fans and force them to make tough decisions. The beer scene is also strong at BMO with most stands dedicated to local Mill Street products or Stella Artois and Goose Island. Coolers and another alternative, canned, alcoholic beverages are also available. Coca-Cola products are the soft drink of choice and on those cold evenings coffee, hot chocolate, and other warm beverages can take a stab at warming up patrons.
BMO Field was originally built in 2007 as the home of the National Soccer program and Toronto FC. During those days, the Argonauts were sharing Rogers Centre with the Toronto Blue Jays. In 2015 the Argos were told they would no longer be able to play in Rogers Centre and a move west to BMO Field seemed to be the answer to all Argo fans’ woes. Since opening, BMO Field has been renovated a few times with upper decks and coverings over the grandstands being added.
The capacity for Argonauts games rested at just over 27,000. The basic structure of the stadium is two large east and west grandstands, each with two decks, the Shipyard area in the north, and an attempted supporters’ section in the south. The videoboard towers above the Shipyard and the banners for the Argonauts’ seventeen Grey Cup Championships blow constantly behind the south end zone.
The banner honouring All-Time Argos (Joe Krol, Bill Symons, Jim Corrigal, Condredge Holloway, Paul Masotti, Jim Rountree, Dan Ferrone, Rodney Harding, Dick Shatto, Terry Greer, Ted Morris, Don Moen, Michael Clemons, Dave Mann, Jim Stillwagon, Mike O’Shea, Danny Nykoluk, Royal Copeland, Marv Luster, Bill Zock, Les Ascott, Ulysses Curtis, Ed Harrington, Doug Flutie) splits the Grey Cup banners.
The gameday atmosphere is solid. The video presentations for the player entrances are excellent. The players enter from the northeast corner through an inflatable contraption and are lined by flags, smoke, and pyro. The mascot, Jason, stands at the touchdown cannon in the northeast end, which is something the fans should be ready for, or else. The Argos dance team, The A-Team, which is co-ed, performs during some breaks in the action and on the sidelines. Overall a pretty solid atmosphere for a football game.
The best spot to get some pre and post-game food and drink by foot is to head north of the Exhibition, under the Gardiner Expressway and Go Train, and head to the Liberty Village neighbourhood of Toronto. There, fans will find several options – these would include Williams Landing, The Craft Brasserie & Grill, Magic Oven, and Brazen Head Irish Pub. Of course, if fans head east towards downtown, they will find a whole host of other options near the Rogers Centre and Scotiabank Arena, but those will probably require a vehicle of sorts to get there.
Toronto remains a top-notch location for a vacation. The number of other entertainment attractions in Toronto may be too numerous to name. A highlight on the Exhibition grounds is the annual Canadian National Exhibition. The annual fair is how thousands of Canadians ring out the summer with the annual Labour Day weekend event. Mid-July brings the Honda Indy Toronto to the Exhibition and the street course runs through the Exhibition at breakneck speeds. The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair and Medieval Times also happen on the Exhibition Grounds.
There are a ton of other sporting options in Toronto and fans may have the opportunity to put together a doubleheader in the city. BMO Field is shared with Toronto FC of the MLS. Also at Exhibition Place is the Coca-Cola Coliseum, home of the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. East of Exhibition Place is Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays of MLB. Further east along the Lakeshore is Scotiabank Arena, home of the Toronto Maple Leafs of the NHL and Toronto Raptors of the NBA.
The University of Toronto fields a full complement of varsity teams including football at Varsity Stadium, hockey at Varsity Arena, and basketball at the Goldring Centre. A true gem in Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University) hockey and basketball, both of whom play in the renovated former Maple Leaf Gardens.
Most of the major hotels are found closer to downtown proper however, the Gladstone Hotel and the Drake Hotel are both close by but very luxurious and pricey. A new hotel on the Exhibition grounds, Hotel X Toronto, is also among the luxurious hotels in the city.
The fan score continues to be the Achilles heel for the Argos. The move from Rogers Centre to BMO Field was supposed to solve the attendance issues, but there have been fewer fans showing up. The MLSE ownership has avoided padding the attendance with a ton of free tickets and although the attendance figures are more accurate, the empty seats are blinding. In 2021, the average attendance for Argos games was 8,600, last in the CFL. The fans that are in the stands are pretty hardcore and the noise level can get much louder than expected. However, at the end of the day, the Argos simply need more butts in seats.
BMO Field is located on the grounds of Exhibition Place. Getting to Exhibition Place can be a challenge, as anything in Toronto can be. The Ex is immediately south of the Gardiner Expressway. Although fans may think this is the quickest way to drive to the Ex, often a longer route on Lakeshore Blvd is the way to go, especially for those coming from the west.
There are several parking spots available for fans at Exhibition Place. Fans need to do some research before heading out to see the Argos. At times there are other events taking place at the Ex and parking is a real challenge. Even at the best of times, parking is not cheap and other options may be the best plan. For fans who prefer the public transit route, Exhibition Place has some decent public transit options.
There is a Go Transit station right by the Ex and this is probably the easiest form of public transit. A walk north of the Ex will bring fans through Liberty Village and eventually to some TTC options. Check out the Go Transit and TTC websites for fares, maps, and schedules. The ticketing window is at gate 1, at the north end of BMO Field. Lineups are not usually an issue. Security is what you would expect in this day and age of sports security, including walk-through metal detectors. Before heading out, fans are encouraged to consult the Argos and BMO Field websites for up-to-date security bulletins and prohibited items.
Getting around BMO Field is not too difficult and the concourses are fairly spacious. Washroom facilities are also adequate for this venue.
Return on Investment 4
Tickets for the Toronto Argonauts are very reasonably priced. Fans can find tickets for Toronto Argonauts games for as little as $22.50 in the fan zone in the south. Lower deck tickets can also be found in the corners of the east and west grandstands for only $28.50. Tickets go up to $150 for 55-yard line seats. Concession prices are about what one would expect for a professional sporting event in Toronto. Parking is on the expensive side at $30. Several ticket packages are available for fans as well. The product on the field is solid, with the perfect balance of in-game production with the game being allowed to tell its own story. Overall, a terrific return on investment occurs at Toronto Argonauts games that not enough fans are taking advantage of.
An extra mark for the longevity of the Argonauts as the oldest professional football team in the world. An extra mark for the Argonauts’ top fan, former owner, and movie legend, John Candy. Candy’s tenure as owner of the Argos with Wayne Gretzky and Bruce McNall was a highlight of the team’s duration including the signing of Rocket Ismail, the toast of the town, and a Grey Cup victory.
An extra mark for the huge rivalry with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, which culminates in the Labour Day Classic, the biggest date on the CFL calendar. An extra mark for the return of the beloved football/ship logo, which was a mainstay in the 80s.
The oldest gridiron football team in North America is found in Toronto. The unfortunate part of this is that there are not enough people who are taking advantage of Argonaut football. A trip to see the Argonauts will surprise fans, and hopefully, bring more fans out in the future.
Follow all of Dave’s sporting adventures on Twitter @profan9 and Instagram.