Expanding into the states…

Jan 11, 2024
Written by: Marvin Baker

There have been some new developments regarding Canadian Football League expansion, developments that could spawn teams in North Dakota and South Dakota.


I’ve written about this topic in the past, but this time there seems to be a bit more urgency.
For the past seven years, the CFL has been looking to expand to Halifax, Nova Scotia. However, shortly after the season ended in late November, the deal fell through and Atlantic Canada won’t be getting a professional football team.
That said, the CFL is looking at expanding to other venues, with the first three in Canada; Quebec City, Moncton, New Brunswick and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.


Beyond that is where I took note. Syracuse and Rochester, N.Y., Erie, Pa, Fargo and/or Bismarck, N.D., Rapid City and/or Sioux Falls, S.D., Missoula, Mont., Spokane, Wash., and Seattle were all named as possible locations for expansion.
In 1993, the league expanded into the United States with the Sacramento Gold Miners. The following year, there was an entire American Division with San Antonio, Shreveport, Memphis, Las Vegas, Baltimore and Birmingham.
The mistake the league made then was to put teams far away from the border. This time, the plan calls for teams that are close to the border, which theoretically would have more of an impact on the entire league.


There are some pros and cons with locating a CFL team in Fargo. The first thing is NDSU is quite popular in the Red River Valley and it would take some savvy marketing to get a team off the ground.


The good thing about Fargo is it’s reasonably close to Winnipeg and would make a great rivalry with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The other plus is, despite NDSU’s popularity, there are numerous CFL fans who live in and around Fargo, which is a start.


Bismarck would make a good rivalry with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. The down side with Bismarck is there isn’t a venue that could hold a CFL game so one would have to be built.


Missoula would be a great r

ivalry with the Calgary Stampeders, but just like Fargo, there is a college team in Missoula that’s quite popular.
When you get to Rapid City and Sioux Falls, it’s a stretch. Like Bismarck, Rapid City doesn’t have a location to house a CFL franchise, and unlike Fargo, most people don’t know about the Canadian Football League. It’s the same in Sioux Falls. The only difference there is a greater population.


Another thing that the CFL has going for it is numerous college players in North Dakota have landed in the CFL which has brought some notoriety to Fargo, Grand Forks and Bismarck.


Weston Dressler, who is from Bismarck, played in the CFL for 11 years, winning a championship Grey Cup. Brady Olivera, who is currently on the Winnipeg Blue Bomber roster, played at UND. Donovan Alexander who played for the Edmonton Eskimos, also played his college football at UND. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Chris Walby who played several years in Winnipeg. He played his college football at Dickinson State. Mike Trevathan played for the B.C. Lions. He played his college football at Montana State.


There are numerous others I could look up, but those are the names that roll off the top of my head.
In this latest expansion exploration announcement, it was also noted that the CFL could quite possibly play some of its pre-season games in the venues listed above and if it works out, the league would pursue playing at least one regular season game south of the border before actually expanding.


That kind of stuff doesn’t happen overnight, as we now know with the possibility of a team in Halifax falling apart after seven years.


But who knows, at least Fargo and Bismarck are being considered.

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