Cohon Talks Maritime Expansion

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The fact Scotiabank Touchdown Atlantic II wasn't a sellout may not necessarily be reason to sound the alarm bells. But it is a topic worthy of discussion.

Moncton has often been mentioned as a potential market for a franchise in the Canadian Football League. Some are convinced that a team would work here because of the city's geographic location and ability to draw fans from across the Maritimes. There are also naysayers.

A crowd of 20,153 watched the Hamilton Tiger-Cats defeat the Calgary Stampeders 55-36 yesterday afternoon at the Stade Moncton 2010 Stadium. The facility has a capacity of 20,973 so it was 820 fans short of a sellout.

A capacity crowd of 20,725 watched the Edmonton Eskimos down the Toronto Argonauts 24-6 last year in Moncton, the CFL's first ever regular season game in Atlantic Canada. The stadium's capacity was bigger for this year's game because of the addition of suites.

What can be read into the fact yesterday's game didn't attract another sellout? Is it reason for concern for CFL commissioner Mark Cohon?

"I think it's been a great audience," he said. "It's 96-97 per cent sold out. I think the fans have been behind it. Part of this is a test and I think this is one of the reasons why we keep on coming back with more games to see the viability of a potential franchise here. So far, I think the atmosphere has been great."

But is it a little disappointing that the CFL's second regular season game ever in Atlantic Canada didn't draw a sellout?

"I think there's really two things," said Cohon. "No. 1, the first day tickets went on sale our system crashed. I walked around town and people thought the game was already sold out.

"I think the second thing is if you look at this stadium a lot of the seats were in the endzone and I don't think people want to sit in the endzone. I think that was one of the issues and we'll be considering that in the future.

"I think those seats are very tight. One of the things we would consider in the future is maybe not having as many people sitting in the endzones.

"Rather than 21,000, maybe we make it 20,000 seats. We have to look at the business model to see if that would work."

The Stade Moncton 2010 Stadium has the potential to be expanded to approximately 28,000, A 25,000 attendance average allows for a CFL franchise to operate viably.

Cohon points out that he doesn't have a timetable for the possible birth of a Maritime franchise. It's a year by year review of Moncton, the only place in the Maritimes that has a stadium that could be upgraded to meet the standards needed for a CFL team.

"If you look at my term as commissioner, we've been very methodical and measured but we've been having a lot of success in a number of areas,'' he said. ``We're getting back into the nation's capital in 2014 (with an expansion franchise in Ottawa).

"This has been a great event (in Moncton). We're going to sit down with the mayor. We're going to sit down with the corporate leaders. I'm creating a commissioner's council of business leaders in the Maritimes to help me think about what we can do for the future."

[b]Cohon discussed what he hopes to accomplish with the commissioner's council.

"Really what I've learned here is that it's all about building relationships," he said. "There are some great businesses here (in the Maritimes). There are some great families.

Talking to guys like Scott McCain and Andrew Oland, some of these people who are business leaders, I said if we're going to do business here we need advisors to help us think about the future here.

"These guys both said 'Yeah, we want to help you.' There's no commitment on their part. It's really just sitting down and getting the best brains around the table to help us."

Cohon hasn't yet asked anyone from the Irving family to be part of the commissioner's council. Does he plan to ask them?

"I'll probably sit down and talk to Robert Irving about it," he said. "Robert and I have a good relationship. One of the things we want to do is make sure we're talking to everyone - the Irvings, Sobeys, McCains and everyone.[/b]
"Actually, (former New Brunswick premier) Frank McKenna asked me to go speak at Fox Harb'r (Golf Club) this year. I was able to speak to many of the business leaders in the Maritimes about the opportunity here."

It hasn't been confirmed whether there will be a CFL regular season game in Moncton next year.

"I think there's only one challenge (when it comes to having a game in Moncton next season)," said Cohon. "2012 is a really busy year for the league because of the 100th Grey Cup. We're going to be doing things across the country (to celebrate the 100th Grey Cup). We might do some other things in Moncton and we're going to consider a game here."

Hamilton will need to find places to play its home games for the entire 2013 season. Ivor Wynne Stadium, the club's home, will get torn down with a new facility built on the same site.

"We have to consider what to do (for their home games) in 2013," said Cohon. "Maybe we can do a few games in Moncton."

Hamilton was the home team for Scotiabank Touchdown Atlantic II.

"It's been great," said Tiger-Cats president Scott Mitchell. "It's lived up to expectations and probably exceeded expectations. The hospitality has been great. Moncton is a pretty city and they did a great job of building a downtown area (for community events around the game).

"The stadium was virtually full. The only seats available were in the corners of the endzone. I think it was a great fan turnout and a great day."

Mitchell commented on Moncton being in the mix to host some Hamilton games when the club is homeless in 2013.

"Our focus is on having as many of our home games as possible close to home," he said. "I think really that's going to be up to the league, the province and the city to figure out if they want to do more Scotiabank Touchdown Atlantic games. If that's something the league wants to do, obviously we would be a prime candidate in 2013."

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One thing became apparently clear from the second edition of Touchdown Atlantic, and it won’t make Maritime fans happy.

If Moncton does become the 10th CFL franchise (after No. 9 starts up in Ottawa, as early as 2014, according to league commissioner Mark Cohon), there will be plenty of work to do before it happens.

The lack of a sellout for Sunday’s 55-36 Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ victory over the Calgary Stampeders certainly raised alarm bells.

There were 820 empty seats at Moncton Stadium, but the first Touchdown Atlantic between the Edmonton Eskimos and the Toronto Argonauts sold out in 32 hours.

“If you look around, the empty seats were in the endzone, and not a lot of people want to sit in the endzones,? Cohon said. “Those seats are pretty tight. One of the things we would consider in the future is not having as many people sitting in those endzones.?

Cohon said it’s unlikely there will be a game in Moncton next season, as the 100th anniversary of the Grey Cup will take the league’s priorities in terms of events.

There is still the possibility that in 2013 the Tiger-Cats could play games in Moncton as Ivor Wynne Stadium undergoes a renovation.

Moncton Stadium isn’t ready to host a team full-time. Seating is just one issue. Because it was designed for track and field, the endzones are artificial turf, while there are 112 yards or so of natural grass.

To host the CFL on a regular basis, the facility would need an upgrade of permanent seating, and they would need a capacity of 25,000 to be viable. Tack on a new field, and the cost increases.

Of course, an owner with deep pockets needs to show up willing to inject cash into the league.

Support from the business community would be paramount, which is why Cohon is setting up a council of local leaders to advise him on which direction to go.

The logistics of putting an outpost in Atlantic Canada will also make the other teams suffer, especially the West markets. The Stampeders, who had home games scheduled before and after this trip, took a hit to their routine going out to New Brunswick.

With a three-hour time difference, they were forced to adjust their body clocks to the change, and when they returned, they needed an extra day of rest to recover. Although they play Saturday, the Stamps won’t practice until Wednesday.

If there was a team there permanently, West clubs would need to make two-game road swings to play in Moncton, which would cause a scheduling nightmare.

Plus fans in the Maritimes would have trouble following their team when it headed West. For instance, when the Atlantic team played in Vancouver, night-time kickoffs could be 11:30 p.m. back home.

It would take years for a passionate fan base to be built, and the city would depend on people living within a three-hour radius to get on board.

Maybe these are good first steps, but it will be a long time before a CFL team resides in the Maritimes full-time.

Excellent feedback though the timezone argument is not only laughable but just does not wash as we have the same recurring issue in most sports journalism down here:

The logistics of putting an outpost in Atlantic Canada will also make the other teams suffer, especially the West markets. The Stampeders, who had home games scheduled before and after this trip, took a hit to their routine going out to New Brunswick.

With a three-hour time difference, they were forced to adjust their body clocks to the change, and when they returned, they needed an extra day of rest to recover. Although they play Saturday, the Stamps won’t practice until Wednesday.

If there was a team there permanently, West clubs would need to make two-game road swings to play in Moncton, which would cause a scheduling nightmare.

Plus fans in the Maritimes would have trouble following their team when it headed West. For instance, when the Atlantic team played in Vancouver, night-time kickoffs could be 11:30 p.m. back home.


The writer Ian Busby out of Calgary is so lame he wants to bring the time-zone argument into the discussion? Big deal if with a team in Moncton it's also three hours for Edmonton and Calgary, as they would each adjust for at least one game there per season.

Someone should remind that knucklehead writer in Calgary that it's a four-hour time difference from Moncton to BC for that matter, and this is a national sports league anyway just as is the case with other sports right? Hmmmm? You going to start making excuses for the Flames, Oilers, and Canucks on the road out East in North America whilst at it bud?

And, uh, oh by the way, errrr, BC in the CFL on the road has a three-hour time difference for at least three games per season so quit your whining because your Stamps lost with your implication that the time zone has something to do with your high crap performance. Is this writer originally from the East Coast and not used to West Coast time zones perhaps hmmmmmmmm?

Bringing the time zone argument into the discussion is high folly amidst the other challenges all the same to fielding a team in Moncton as anyone with sense would applaud if it can be made in financial terms to happen. :slight_smile:

With writing skills like that, someone in Calgary please take that guy's job after that oversight borne of extreme idiocy in the best case. If it is any given number of guys (or one of the gals) on here who show far more sense, I'm all for it too. :thup:

The argurment is, how do you build a fan base if your team plays at 3:30 local time on a weekday in B.C. is perfectly vaild. Same goes for starting at 11:30 pm if your in Moncton or on the East Coast.

The great thing about this league is that every game is available on TV. I can attend one game, goto the bar and watch another. Not missing any action. Can the CFL keep it up with a 10th team? Would standardizing games on Friday's, Saturdays and Sundays work for the league? Should time changes?

Does say a Moncton team travelling to Edmonton or Calgary warrent a 6:30 PM start time at the latest? That's 10:30 East coast time. That would and could work.

What about Friday night games starting at say, 8 oclock on the east coat? It's still 4:00 in B.C.
I also have a feeling that with that 10th team we could see a CFL day in Canada. 4 games, 1:00 4:00 7:00 and 10:00 start times (EST) OR What if, the CFL went to this type of schedule, playing 1 or 2 games friday night and 3 or 4 Saturday. Play-offs and Grey Cup still on Sunday?

Good points. The timezones in regards to TV coverage would turn into a real problem unless you had the Moncton team essentially playing as an EST team (which would mean some late evenings in Moncton for a Friday Night game). You'd also have to try and avoid scheduling a late night game in BC because nobody would be awake for it, so they'd need to play those Saturday afternoon or something whenever possible.

Maybe teams could take the Neutrino Express to cut down on travel times :slight_smile:

It is not a problem. When a Western team comes to Moncton, you make sure it is an afternoon game and when your get an Ontario or Montreal team visiting you use your evening dates if you so choose.

When Atlantic team plays out in BC or Alberta you do the same, you play those dates as weekend afternoon games.

Out of all the topics he could have picked, he chose to write about "martians" :lol:

It's no different when BC comes east or vice versa.
Bottom line and even though Moncton has a definite advantage, they need a rich owner and a properly renovated stadium of about 25,000-30,000.

Have the team play weekend games. That way it's a matinee out west, early afternoon on the east coast. No big deal.
Another issue though is travel, getting to Halifax is a lot easier than to get to Moncton. Halifax is a hub so teams can fly directly to Halifax and play another team while east for western teams so they can at least ajust to the time change and get a couple games in.

Another thing I was thinking about was imagine hosting a Grey Cup in Moncton. I know this is highly hypothetical because I doubt you could even seat 40 000 at that stadium (20000-30000 temporary seats) but does Moncton even have the facilities to host a Grey Cup? Honestly how many rooms are in Moncton? Unless a market has the ability to host the Grey Cup, I doubt there will be many investors lining up.

If the league created a schedule that had teams playing against teams in their division more often than teams in the other division, it would probably mean west division teams would only play in the maritimes once every two seasons. It is hardly a big deal.

I doubt they'd go with an unbalanced schedule, with teams playing some other teams in their division 3 or 4 times a season. People complain about that now, so I doubt that the league would make it worse.
Having a 10 team league would mean you could have a perfectly balanced schedule, each team playing the other teams in the league twice (so one home game and one away game), so that would most likely be adopted.
What you're talking about is basically a partially interlocking schedule like they had back in the late '70s and early '80s, when we had Western and Eastern Conferences. I seriously doubt they'd go back to that. If we were talking about a 14-16 team league, that might be the way to go, but we all know that 10-12 teams (more likely only 10) is the potential maximum for a long time to come.

Maybe these are good first steps, but it will be a long time before a CFL team resides in the Maritimes full-time.

Sounds like this Canoe writer is fearful, for whatever odd reason, almost that expansion of the CFL out east actually might happen. :wink:

The NHL is or seems happy enough to have some markets in the US play to about 1/2 capacity for many, most games. Hmmm, maybe there is more to pro sports than just bums in the seats? And Jacksonville in the NFL has to tarp some upper sections off because they can't sell out but the NFL was ok putting a team in that city. :?

Baseball? Well with so many games it's very, very rare to see any stadium sold-out for a game, at least the many during the mid-week and most markets all of the time.

Oh, and how many freebie tickets have Rogers given out to their employees and friends the last few years to make the RC look filled for the "Bills experiment in Toronto" thingy? :wink:

All of those leagues you mentioned play host to many games, while this was just a one-off. Also, those other leagues get revenues from things other than TV that dwarfs anything found in the CFL so “putting bums in seats” is essential for success. Jacksonville’s stadium holds 75,000 + so not being able to sell-out a one-off event at 21,000 when you would need to draw at least 25,000 just to come close to break-even for multiple games is comparing apples to oranges. The Eskimos don’t sellout every home game but they sure as heck draw well over 21,000 for every regular season game.

If Cohon can get some big money in this next TV deal, which he should, this league won't have to rely on butts in the seats as much.
Then you will see people with money and cities more interested in obtaining a franchise.
I'm hoping this league can at least double its TV money to 30 mil a year.
If NHL gets 200 mil from tSN and CBC, 30 mil from one or both ain't a stretch.

but $30 mill is not anywhere near enough to stop worrying about fannies in seats. Heck even in the NHL, their TV deal (including their deal with NBC for an additional $200 million for a total of aprox. $400 million) still relies on ticket sales. Only the NFL, or to a lesser degree NBA & MLB do not need ticket sales to survive. Also, even with new TV money, the CFL's salary cap would also go up which would leave things in roughly the same position. Teams can only improve things in their own local markets, and ticket sales go a long way towards helping/hurting those efforts

Agree EastVM. Certainly true enough the CFL relies on bums in the seats far, far more than the NFL and maybe other leagues because the TV money isn't and will never be there at a really high level because you don't have American advertisers paying for TV slots. But is that a bad thing? I don't think so. It really encourages people in local communities where CFL teams play to support their team if they want a team or else no team, it makes the team be neccessary to be glued more with the community perhaps than if the attitude is more along the lines of who cares how many people go to games since the team can survive anyways because of a large TV contract.

I guess I'm saying in one way I really like the fact that people attending the games REALLY does matter. If people don't go then it's apparent the community isn't that interested in the team and/or league and well no big deal, not much lost. I'm not sure I like that a team couldn't be in some trouble if few people attend the games. I don't want a league like that, at least I don't think so although the future of all pro sports leagues might be the internet and broadcasting, I'm not sure. That's a different type of model.

Multiple NHL teams are in serious financial trouble due to that. Ever heard of the Phoenix Coyoties, or the team now known as the Winnipeg Jets? There's other teams for sale that aren't being sold very easily. The league is not happy about it but can't do anything at this point.

The NFL makes billions on TV revenue. Not selling out a 70,000+ stadium isn't a big deal in that case.

Bums in seats is essential for any CFL team to make money.

Look at the UFC they just struck a deal 90 million a year for 7 years with Fox, get this for four events of 2 hours a piece a year and a reality show to air on their sister network FX. 90 million for 22 hours of programming !

in the latest CBA, the salary cap is no longer tied to league revenues. they agreed to keep the cap where it has been regardless of league revenues.

i forget which owner or team president said it, but apparently a team needs to make $10M a season to break even.
if the next TV contract was $30M/season, then based on a 9-team league, each team would receive over $3M/season, leaving a team to generate $7M on it's own to break even. I think if this were the case, most teams would profit a couple million every season.

I recall that as well. I thought it was the als owner. He one of the more transparents owners, and has been very good at sharing info with the public. IIRC The owners of the stamps have 24,000 fans/game as the break even point at the Calgary stadium. I believe the stamps also get a great portion of the consessions. So going off that one model, with the current CBA, It may not be as difficult to turn a profit in the east as people think. The Calgary stadium is owned by the univeristy.