York withdraws from stadium project: ‘The clock ran out on us’

York released the following statement yesterday on the status of plans for a new stadium, originally made together with principals of the Toronto Argonauts football team and the federal and provincial governments and designed to be ready for soccer’s FIFA World Youth Championship in 2007:

York University regrets to announce that the recent withdrawal from the stadium project by the Argos has made it impossible for us to proceed with the construction of a stadium that would be suitable for both the York community and for the FIFA soccer tournament in time for 2007. The timeline established in October 2004, for a project involving York University, the Argos and the Canadian Soccer Association, was a feasible proposition. Until three weeks ago, we were proceeding on time and on budget, despite very tight timelines.

keele campus aerial view

Right: Aerial view of the northwest quadrant of Keele campus, site of the proposed stadium

The University was very committed to this project and was working hard to bring it to reality. However, the circumstances around the original decision have changed. The stadium was approved on the basis of an arrangement which included important financial contributions and guarantees. The unexpected decision by the Argos so close to the construction deadline effectively set the project back six months and has made it impossible for us to proceed in the given time frame.

As an autonomous, not-for profit university, our first responsibility has to be to the interests of the York University community.

In order to meet the FIFA tournament deadline in 2007, an initial commitment of $5 million for major site preparations would have been necessary immediately. The University would have been required to make this significant expenditure without the assurance of a financially viable project, without a working stadium design and without detailed cost projections.

Going forward, the University would have been required to assume all of the risks and operating costs for a 20,000-seat stadium, with significantly reduced usage by outside parties.

“We have been working intensively to make this project happen, but, frankly, we are out of time. Our priority must always be the best interests of the York University community,” said Gary Brewer, vice-president finance & administration. “We cannot, in good conscience, spend University money without knowing exact costs and funding arrangements for the project, and without the certainty that we will be able to meet the required timeline. The clock ran out on us.”

Brewer concluded by stating: “We are reassured that FIFA vice-president Jack Warner has assured the Canadian public that the FIFA championship will go ahead in Canada in 2007 with or without the stadium at York. We thank the Canadian Soccer Association for their efforts with us and for sharing the dream of building a world-class venue here at York. We wish them every success with their tournament and regret that, given the circumstances, we will not be able to make the stadium at York a reality.”