NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday that he views Toronto as a great market, but that a suitable stadium will be needed for the league to seriously consider placing a team there.
There is no denying that Toronto is a strong market, one that is currently supporting franchises in MLB, MLS, Canadian Football League, and the NBA and NHL. Over the years, it has been on the NFL’s radar in various ways, including annual regular-season appearances by the Buffalo Bills from 2008-2013, but speculation about building a new stadium for a relocating or expansion franchise has led nowhere. Meanwhile, Rogers Centre–which hosted the Bills regular-season games, along with past NFL preseason games–is an aging facility that is not suitable for the NFL in its current state.
When asked about Toronto on Wednesday, Goodell acknowledged that he sees plenty of potential in the market. However, he also emphasized that a suitable stadium will be needed, and that that is not something Toronto currently offers. More from Postmedia NFL columnist John Kryk:
I asked Goodell at the end of the formal portion of his news conference why Toronto is off the NFL’s radar, at least publicly, whenever the subject of the league placing a franchise in a foreign market is ever raised.
“Well, it seems you already came to that conclusion when you said it’s off my radar, which couldn’t be further from the truth,” Goodell said. “I’m from Western New York. I spent a lot of time in Canada as a young kid, and I have nothing but admiration for Toronto. I think it’s a great city that continues to evolve, continues to grow. It certainly could be a great city for an NFL team.
“The one thing I’ve said openly over the years – you may not be aware of it – but a stadium that is up to NFL standards is going to be a certain requirement. That is going to be an important element that’s going to have to be focused on. It’s not enough to just have a great city, which you have. You have to have a facility also.”
Coming up with the billions of dollars needed to build a new stadium and land an NFL franchise can be a challenge in just about any market. At least one current Toronto team is dealing with an uncertain facilities situation right now, as Toronto Blue Jays ownership continues to mull the future of Rogers Centre. Any future renovations to Roger Centre would likely make it more conducive to baseball, as it has not hosted the CFL’s Argonauts since they moved into an expanded BMO Field in 2016. (It is worth noting, too, that the Bills have not played a game in Toronto in years and team ownership is currently evaluating stadium options in Buffalo.)
Perhaps at some point in time, Toronto is looked at as a viable destination for an NFL franchise. However, it will take a major effort to get there, one that will likely require an owner or ownership group willing to make a sizable investment in a brand-new stadium.
Image courtesy Rogers Centre.