CFL to stage Toronto-Saskatchewan regular-season contest in Halifax

The CFL is returning to Halifax.

A CFL source says the league will announce Thursday it will stage a regular-season game between the Toronto Argonauts and Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Nova Scotia capital.

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The contest, with the Argos as the home team, will be played July 25 at Huskies Stadium at Saint Mary's University.

The source was granted anonymity because the league has not publicly announced the site of the game.

It will be the first regular-season game played at Saint Mary's. The CFL held an exhibition contest there in 2005.

The previous four Touchdown Atlantic games were held in Moncton, N.B. Last year, the Montreal Alouettes defeated Toronto 28-22 before 10,126 spectators at Croix-Bleue Medavie Stadium.

That stadium's seating capacity can be expanded to 20,725, but there was no expansion for last year's contest.

Schooners Sports and Entertainment (SSE), a group trying to secure a CFL expansion franchise for Halifax, will again sponsor the game. It did so last year as well.

Last month, Halifax Regional Municipality voted in favour of providing a one-time $20-million contribution to a proposed CFL-friendly stadium so long as it was located at a site other than Shannon Park. SSE had settled on a six- to eight-hectare site at Shannon Park, a surplus military site in north-end Dartmouth, for $110-million stadium.

But a report suggested Shannon Park lacks transportation options to get spectators to and from the venue and the site would need millions of dollars in infrastructure investment.

CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie has remained bullish on Halifax becoming the league's 10th franchise, but has stated repeatedly it's contingent on a suitable stadium being built in the largest city in Atlantic Canada.

This year's Touchdown Atlantic will feature two teams which finished at opposite ends of the spectrum last season.

Saskatchewan, under first-year head coach Craig Dickenson, finished atop the West Division with a 13-5 record. Quarterback Cody Fajardo was a finalist for the CFL's outstanding player award after finishing as the league's passing leader (4,302 yards).

Saskatchewan's season, though, ended with a 20-13 home loss to the eventual Grey Cup-champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the conference final.

Toronto, meanwhile, missed the CFL playoffs for a second straight year. The Argos finished third in the East Division standings with a 4-14 record, with three of those wins coming against the league-worst Ottawa Redblacks.

Toronto has a new head coach in Ryan Dinwiddie, a former quarterbacks coach with the Calgary Stampeders. Toronto fired previous head coach Corey Chamblin after just one season in the job.

Toronto will give up a home game at BMO Field this season to participate in this contest. This will be the fourth Touchdown Atlantic appearance for the Argos, who played in the inaugural contest — a 16-16 exhibition tie with Hamilton in 2005.

Toronto had the CFL's worst attendance last year, averaging 10,652 spectators in six home games — another home game was the Touchdown Atlantic game in Moncton while the club didn't provide attendance figures for two others dates at BMO Field.

Saskatchewan was one of the CFL's top draws. The Riders averaged more than 30,000 spectators at Mosaic Stadium and twice attracted more than 33,000 fans to their games.

Saskatchewan also drew 33,300 for the West Division final, which Winnipeg won 20-13.

Ticket prices were an issue for last year's Touchdown Atlantic contest in Moncton. When the game was confirmed in March, tickets started at $65 but were later reduced to as low as $29.

The $29 tickets were in a general-admission area in one of the end zones at Croix-Bleue Medavie Stadium. Tickets in the other end zone, also general admission, were $45 while the cheapest grandstand ticket was $65.

The original ticket prices for the game were significantly higher than what both Toronto ($21) and Montreal ($26) had as their cheapest seats last year

Fans who purchased tickets at higher prices were offered credit towards additional tickets, credit for season tickets for the Atlantic Schooners’ proposed first season in the CFL or a refund for the difference between the price points.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2020.

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