Cheering for a new stadium

Coverage was wall to wall in Toronto. Before and after the owners of the Toronto Argonauts announced Oct. 18 that York was their site of choice for a new stadium, practically every radio and television newscast and most major newspapers in Toronto anticipated, then reported, the news. On radio and TV alone, the stadium was mentioned more than 120 times in two days. Newspapers examined the prospective stadium from several angles. Here are samples of the coverage after the announcement Oct. 18:

  • Student body behind stadium, trumpeted The Toronto Sun. “The average student reaction is that it will be great. Everyone is ecstatic,” said Paul Cooper, president of the York Federation of Students. “We have the least athletic space of any university and we’re one of the largest.” Cooper said during his four years of study at York, the school has spent $500 million on new academic buildings. “We’re continuing to provide for academics and desperately lacking for providing for athletes,” he said. “Up until now, there’s been nothing. Athletes have been abandoned.” York President and Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden said the stadium will not cost the students anything. “This will not take a penny out of the academic budget,” she told The Sun. “When the subway comes, we’re going to have our stadium. That was the master plan for the campus.”
  • The Grey Cup will be here before the end of the decade,” Canadian Football League commissioner Tom Wright told The Toronto Sun. “I can’t say when, but it will come back here and it deserves to.” Wright made his prediction based on the commitment of first-year Argos owners David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski. Toronto hasn’t been host city of the title game since 1992. “If I was a betting man I’d say they might have it (at the new stadium) to showcase their facility. This is their home.” The earliest the Grey Cup could be played in Toronto would be 2007.
  • What’s wrong with driving to games? asked Toronto Sun reporter Steve Simmons. On any given Sunday, thousands of football fans in western New York travel to the middle of nowhere or Orchard Park – whichever comes first – just to watch a game. To watch football in New York, either the Giants or the Jets, you have to travel to New Jersey. To watch the Super Bowl champions in Boston, you have to fight highway traffic for more than an hour, take the one road into Foxboro and eventually take the one road out. This is part of the culture of football. So, why should Toronto think it’s any different? Why should there be so much noise about a stadium being built on the campus of York University, about how off-centre all of this seems when it really isn’t so off-centre at all? York University is not in the sticks anymore. If you want to be accurate, it’s probably closer and more accessible to the centre of the Greater Toronto Area than it has ever been before. “I think it’s very hard for those of us who live south of the 401 to understand this,” said Ken Dryden, now a member of Parliament, once so involved in the design of the Air Canada Centre. “But in terms of Toronto, this is pretty close to the centre and it will only get closer to the centre as years pass on.”
  • The future of Argos games won’t be anything like the present, predicted The Toronto Sun. If anything, it will be somewhat like the past. When the Argos move into their new digs at York University in 2006 or 2007, owners David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski will be pushing for home games to be played on Saturdays and Sundays, which used to be the norm back in the old days of Exhibition Stadium. It has been a hodge-podge at the SkyDome in recent years because the Argos had no control of their dates. “For the first time in history, the Argos finally can control our own destiny and schedule,” Sokolowski said. “The place to be on Saturdays and Sundays in the summer and fall will surely be at this new stadium.” It will be set up to include fan-friendly experiences. “We can assure all Argo fans that this stadium will be a sophisticated yet intimate, compact, player-friendly stadium,” Sokolowski said. “I think SkyDome is a good place to watch a football game; this will be a great place to watch a football game.”
  • Argos would have no excuses at York University, argued Globe and Mail sports columnist Stephen Brunt. With the announcement that their new home will be built on the campus of York University, the Argos have the chance to build whatever they want. The new park will have just enough seating capacity, won’t be encumbered by a running track and will have acres of parking space. There’s no excuse, now, for not getting it right. And that the Argos will have to do, down to the tiniest detail, or find themselves dead in the water. If this isn’t a CFL Camden Yards, if the opening-night reviews are tepid, if the esthetics are disappointing, if the sight lines are flawed and if the lineups at the bathrooms are too long, they won’t be given the benefit of the doubt.
  • Argo owners believe York is ‘ultimate site’, reported the Toronto Star. With York now the site, part of Toronto’s sporting scene shifts to the 905 region. “We understand this area,” said Argonauts co-owner David Cynamon, who played football for York.. “We understand the demographics, we understand the growth. This is the fastest-growing area in Canada. We’re looking at it from a business perspective, also. This is the future. And when we finally get a subway here, this will be the absolute, ultimate site.” Cynamon said some people see being at York as something of a stigma compared to fashionable Bloor St. W. downtown. “We’re only three minutes north of the 401,” he said. “I think it’s an education that will be marketed by us. This isn’t way up in the sticks anymore. York University is central, and the easy highway access here is going to make this very viable. Even at venues that have different kinds of public transportation, the majority of fans still drive, including (to) the Air Canada Centre. Sixty-five per cent of our current fan base is still north of the 401,” he added.
  • Soccer ‘theatre of dreams’ is how the Canadian Soccer Association might see the York football stadium, suggested the Toronto Star. The Argos are getting most of the ink, but soccer teams will likely be the prime users of the new stadium at York University. The stadium has long been the centrepiece of the Canadian Soccer Association’s plans to host the 2007 FIFA world youth championships. But CSA chief Kevan Pipe outlined an ambitious initiative to bid on the 2010 Women’s World Cup and the 2008 Olympic qualifying tournaments, and to stage a Gold Cup, the CONCACAF region championship. The 25,000-seat stadium also will be home to the Toronto Lynx of soccer’s A-League. But that’s not all. Pipe said Argonaut co-owners Howard Sokolowski and David Cynamon are leading a group that hopes to land a Major League Soccer expansion franchise, an idea endorsed by MLS commissioner Don Garber.
  • “The York site may work. It may be a disaster,” wrote the Toronto Star’s pessimistic Dave Perkins. “We’ll see. The lean here is toward the latter. Those who feel duped into buying season tickets by the promise of a downtown stadium will act accordingly. Those who look at the distance to York and relative lack of easy public transit will stay away, too. Lack of attractive hospitable surroundings – unless you’re buying a mattress – also will enter into the discussion. On the other hand, the driving crowd will enjoy easier parking than at Varsity Stadium.”

China: The awakening colossus

In a series on China, the National Post printed opposing opinions about whether China’s booming export economy poses a threat to Canadian workers. James M. Klotz, an international business lawyer and adjunct professor of international law at Osgoode Hall Law School, argued that “throughout its entire history, with the exception of a recent two-century hiatus, China has been the centre of its world and the pre-eminent power in it. Within the next 20 years, if not 10, China will regain that status. This development could have a profoundly negative effect on our standard of living. China’s population of 1.3 billion people is larger than that of North America and Europe combined. The Chinese people have a strong work ethic and a hunger for material prosperity. For 40 years, these qualities were kept in check by rigid Communist rule. But China has now morphed into a ‘socialist market economy.’ Its rigid political structure allows the nation to single-mindedly direct the expansion of its liberalized economy in a way few other countries could manage. Thanks to wages that are an order of magnitude lower than those in the West and a well-educated urban population, the nation’s manufacturing growth in the last decade has been explosive, and there is no reason to believe the trend will abate any time soon.”

Celine sings praises of new Air Canada

Pop diva Celine Dion is the new face of Air Canada, reported the National Post Oct. 20. The airline, which emerged from creditor protection last month, hopes the Canadian singer’s global fame will boost its brand both internationally and at home. Alan Middleton, a marketing professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business, called the campaign “an execution in search of an idea. When you don’t have an idea or any service to talk about you go and get a star. Which of course is why it didn’t work for Chrysler,” said Middleton. Air Canada would have been better served to focus its advertising on improved customer service instead.

No exams, no grades in a perfect university

“By the time that the starry eyed dreamers in the first-year evolution class I am a teaching assistant for have reached their third or fourth year, a noticeable change is likely to have taken place,” wrote York master’s student Jeff Rezansoff in a commentary in Alberta’s St. Albert Gazette. “That is, the eager, enthusiastic students who once enjoyed sharing ideas with and helping out their peers will be transformed into guarded, twitchy, complainers who would likely sacrifice their first-born for a higher grade. However, it’s not fair to chastise the student when the cultural environment is to blame. Here is an alternative: no exams and no grades. I am in the second year of the Master of Environmental Studies Program at York in which there are no grades and no exams: students complete the program when they have fulfilled various learning objectives that they have set out in a written plan of study. Unfortunately, this hasn’t eliminated the fear factor. However, it has helped create an atmosphere in which opinions, ideas and time are shared more openly amongst peers and faculty.”

Enterprising universities teach entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurs no longer want to rely on the school of hard knocks to make their businesses succeed. Universities and colleges are listening, reported The Globe and Mail Oct. 20. York University’s Schulich School of Business, which has long offered an entrepreneurship concentration in its MBA and undergraduate business program, has been tweaking its course offerings to reflect a growing understanding of the phenomenon.