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Lots to consider at Toronto FC ownership ponders significant stadium enhancements

Jan 30, 2014, 7:04 PM EDT


From its first day, BMO Field was always something of a paradox. On one hand, the place was alive with passion for Toronto FC, awash in red gear and love for the team that first drove home to MLS clubs the value of marketing to soccer fans rather than soccer families.

That made it a spectacular place, especially when splashed against the backdrop of downtown Toronto. But the facility itself was, well, fairly plain Jane. In all honesty, there are plenty of high school football stadiums in Texas nicer than BMO Field.

This piece in the Toronto Sun nails it: “You begin to scratch your head when considering the club’s two new $100-million men – Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley – are worth much more combined than the stadium they play in.”

As we consider if that about to change, we can also consider whether it’s a good thing?

After all, BMO Field serves its purpose just fine: people show up, buy a brew and watch soccer. It’s not complicated that way. So what if the place is not as swanky as Sporting Park or as large (capacity, that is) as some of the other MLS stadiums, Red Bull Arena or the StubHub Center to name a couple?

So there’s the debate: would a big expansion and improvement project be a gift from the heavens, or would it turn out to be a deal with the devi?

Tim Leiweke, CEO of MLSE, which owns and operates Toronto FC, just offered up some previously undisclosed details, is talking about a $120 million upgrade, which is a little bit more than a “sprucing up,” isn’t it? It would include a roof covering the stands – and who doesn’t love them some roof, all the better for holding in the noise, in addition to keeping out the nasty rain?

Leiweke says TFC and soccer will remain the top priority in the improved, expanded ground. And importantly, he says the club is 100 percent committed to natural grass; remember, this was a stadium initially burdened with artificial turf, something else that made it a soccer paradox right away.

He said the stadium would hold 30,000 for soccer and somewhere just north of 25,000 for the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts – and that’s where this thing gets concerning. Making room for the CFL field would conceivably push some of the seats further away from the soccer field.

  1. Vnice - Jan 30, 2014 at 9:18 PM

    Why has NO ONE talked about the gridiron lines that would be on the field, forcing their expensive new hires to play on what amounts to a high school football field???

  2. thewalkoffktxt - Jan 31, 2014 at 8:58 AM

    Seeing that high school football is vastly different (in terms of scope and relevance) in Canada than the U.S., I’m sure that reference is irrelevant.

    My only concern would be the groundskeeper’s ability to maintain a solid pitch with TFC sharing the grounds with Argos. However, there are a handful of rugby clubs overseas who share with soccer teams, so it’s not “unique” or “unfeasible”.

  3. dfstell - Jan 31, 2014 at 9:37 AM

    I think this is a little silly. I’m not sure how much “nice” really matters. I mean, I just came back from a visit to England and Old Trafford isn’t very “nice”. Sure, they have lovely amenities for people doing the “Tour + Meal + Ticket” packages and their gift shop is incredible, but most of the stadium is pretty plain…..and it doesn’t deter people from going.

    I also wonder if soccer is just different than football, baseball, basketball. I mean, you’re not even at the game for long enough to be running back and forth for concessions. There is just a short halftime and that’s it. You’re only in the stadium for ~2 hours. An NFL game can be a 3.5 hour epic saga with lots of time outs and quarter breaks to get more beer and hotdogs. Soccer is just go in, watch the game and leave.

  4. Vnice - Jan 31, 2014 at 1:55 PM

    Thewalkofftxt – gridiron lines just make the pitch look ridiculous.

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