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Should Toronto invest in expanding BMO Field?

Posted by Chris Bateman / March 12, 2014

BMO Field ExpansionBMO Field should be renovated and expanded to house the Toronto Argonauts, the owners of the CFL team say. Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the company that also owns the stadium's current tenants Toronto FC, is asking the City, Queen's Park, and Ottawa to chip in $10 million each for a new roof and up to 10,000 extra seats.

In a report to be considered by the City's executive committee next week, MLSE says it wants the stadium, which is owned by the City of Toronto, to seat 30,000 by 2016 - many of them in a new tier above the east stand - and have rain protection for almost all spectators. Right now, all seats at BMO Field are exposed to the elements.

The proposed roof, which is similar to those in European soccer stadiums, would not cover the field.

toronto bmo fieldDiagrams presented to the Exhibition Place Board of Governors show new retractable seats at the north and south end of the field to be used during Major League Soccer games and special events such as the MLS All Star Game and the NHL Winter Classic. MLSE is also promising two new high-resolution video screens, a sound system, and field lighting.

The Argos' current stadium agreement with the Rogers Centre expires in 2017. Moving to a new "appropriately sized" arena is vital to the long-term stability of the franchise, the team says.

All being well, initial construction is anticipated to start Sept. 1 and be in full swing by 2015, working around the soccer schedule. The roof is predicted to be complete by May 2016.

MLSE says it will cover the remaining $90 million of the predicted $120 million cost and tweak its revenue sharing agreement with the city in order to pay back the taxpayer investment.

What do you think of the plan? Will expanding BMO Field benefit Toronto FC and the Argos?

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Photo sandifjm in the blogTO Flickr pool



john / March 12, 2014 at 01:59 pm
MLSE is one of the most profitable companies out there...why would the city need to front any of it?

Brent / March 12, 2014 at 02:03 pm
A clarification, from looking through the MLSE presentation. The drawing shown (with the retractable seats) shows normal capacity of 30k. The retractable seats at either end would be closed up for CFL games that require a larger field, reducing capacity to 25k. There is a third scenario that involves additional temporary bleachers above the retractable end zone seats that would raise the special event capacity to 40k.
Cartier / March 12, 2014 at 02:08 pm
Jordan / March 12, 2014 at 02:20 pm
MLSE should just front the entire cost - unless the pubic is allowed to use the field in off hours.
Shumway / March 12, 2014 at 02:31 pm
I agree with Jordan, if there's field on the pubic, play ball!
Jess / March 12, 2014 at 02:33 pm
Just like Toronto helps fund PRIDE because of all of the dollars in brings to the city. The city should help fund this because sporting events, concerts, etc will bring $$$$ to the city.
John / March 12, 2014 at 02:37 pm
Big city. Bigger dreams
Alex / March 12, 2014 at 02:39 pm
If it's an investment and they pay us back with interest, then yes. If it's an interest free loan, then no. MLSE makes a ton of money, they don't need any from the city to make this renovation. Of all the stadiums to invest in why would Toronto invest in one in the middle of the Ex? There is no benefit to the city here. People coming from outside the city will drive here or take the GO train, buy from the stands inside the stadium owned by MLSE, and then go straight home after as there is nothing you can walk to around here. Visitors to this stadium bring nothing extra to the city.
TFC fan / March 12, 2014 at 02:40 pm
TFC fans are not driving this, nor is TFC. It's the Argos and their friends on council.

Actually, most TFC fans do not want this AT ALL. The stadium was built for soccer and putting the Argos in there potentially destroys the field for soccer.

I'm sorry, but no. 1000 times no.
Tuffyrocks / March 12, 2014 at 02:42 pm
The only thing BMO Field needs is a ROOF.
Bill replying to a comment from john / March 12, 2014 at 02:42 pm
Some pertinent facts:

1) The city owns BMO Field.
2) The city makes a sizable profit from BMO Field (I think $1-$2M per year), which would at least double with another team and more seats.

Simon / March 12, 2014 at 02:43 pm
I see nothing wrong with government giving out a LOAN to MLSE as they provide a lot of jobs to the city and a larger stadium will provide more jobs. If the money is available in the city's budget, go for it. The sooner the Argos get out of Rogers Centre, the better.
fred / March 12, 2014 at 02:49 pm
last time i checked Pride isnt owned by a vastly profitable mega corporation, so dont even start. And if we dont pay up? what, are the argos going to nova scotia? and am i dreaming, or is MLSE wanting to move them out of the stadium that the tax payers took a bath on, so that we can take a bath on this one also?
Horrible Idea! / March 12, 2014 at 02:55 pm
This is a Horrible idea!

Any soccer fan knows that brining in the Argos will ruin the pitch.

It is the exact reason why the Jays want them out of the Dome.... they don't want stupid throwball ruining their new grass.

If they switch to the proposed Hybrid turf system, all the world class players will leave, and those on MLS won't come.

Henry, Keane, Higuain all currently won't play in Seattle cause of Turf. Even Beckham didn't play in Toronto when we had a Turf field.

Bad news all around.
jen / March 12, 2014 at 03:10 pm
I don't get it, what's wrong with Skydome? Why can't the Argos keep on playing there?
Paul / March 12, 2014 at 03:12 pm
It makes sense to expand the stadium to house another team for financial reasons even though I'm sure I would prefer to watch the TFC in the stadium as currently built.

However, I think building a roof over the stands is a waste of money. We can brave the elements if the rest of the country does and it makes for a far better atmosphere.

Also, as mentioned above there should be concern for the quality of the field and and attracting athletes. This has the potential for an extremely costly mistake.
Cpt. Obvious / March 12, 2014 at 03:19 pm
ML$E wants a 30,000 - 40,000 seat outdoor venue so that it can cash in on two or three "heritage" NHL games a season. Probably see a couple of outdoor Marlies games too.

ML$E will buy the Argos if they have to, as part of doing business and acquiring an outdoor hockey stadium.

Anyone who thinks this stadium overall is for the benefit of TFC, Argos or Toronto City must be thinking of some other ML$E....
v79 / March 12, 2014 at 03:28 pm
As long as it's an actual loan that will get paid back, I don't see the harm in it, but there has to be a concrete guarantee from MLSE that we'll get repaid in full. As for the TFC whiners - suck it up. Your game is not important or profitable enough to complain, and Leiweke already said there are ways to ensure the field is capable of hosting both without affecting the quality of the grass pitch, proximity of the stands and the sight lines.
Jim Smith replying to a comment from Horrible Idea! / March 12, 2014 at 03:30 pm
While I don't want the Argo's in BMO, the hybrid system they are proposing will not scare players away. This is not turf, it's a natural grass mixed with artificial fibres, and is used all over Europe in top stadiums (Man Utd, Man City, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Ac Milan/Inter, ect) are all teams that have the same turf in their home stadiums
Jim Smith replying to a comment from jen / March 12, 2014 at 03:31 pm
@jen - the Argos can't stay in the Dome because the Jay are putting down real grass and the Argos will destroy it.

So the solution is to let them destroy TFC's grass in BMO.
Astin replying to a comment from jen / March 12, 2014 at 03:37 pm
It's too big for the Argos, who are lucky if they pull in 20k fans. So that's a lot of space they're paying for and not using, and leads to a very empty stadium.

More pressing is that Rogers is going to replace the turf with natural grass in 2018.
v79 replying to a comment from Astin / March 12, 2014 at 03:59 pm
Actually Astin, the Argos averaged 22k a game last year, which is 4,000 more than TFC. Playoff games got considerably more as well. Add to that the fact that people stay away from the games because of the cavernous SkyDome (I refuse to utter the new name),they're ripe for a boost in attendance at a more intimate venue, just like Montreal enjoyed when they moved from Olympic Stadium. Even with the expansion though, I don't think BMO is deserving of a Winter Classic. It's completely devoid of design,character or historic importance, which is the main appeal of the event - not just being outside.
jaaaaaaaaaaat / March 12, 2014 at 04:01 pm
profitable private interests do not need funding. ever. especially when they are sport teams. this is not "cultural spending."
TFC Fan / March 12, 2014 at 04:58 pm
To all the Argos fans I must ask what nobody is. Where is their money in this project? Sounds like MLSE is paying more than their share for TFC. I guess that's what the public money is. To pay for the team with no home.
Astin replying to a comment from v79 / March 12, 2014 at 05:09 pm
Yup, and 5 of 9 home games over with over 20k fans (one of those 20,064). So 45% of their games had
realityCheck / March 12, 2014 at 05:22 pm
The problem with BMO was that it was too bloody small from the start... as always, things tend to get done backasswards in toronto.
Steven / March 12, 2014 at 05:30 pm

Chrysler backed down when the majority of taxpayers said no.

Not our fault Maple Leaf Entertainment is cash poor. That's BAD MANAGEMENT on their part.
McRib / March 12, 2014 at 05:38 pm
The Argos, the red headed step child of Toronto sports. BMO field is the national soccer stadium, why we need to have these interlopers wedge themselves in is beyond me. If the Argos are such a hot commodity as their fans suggest, they should be able to get their own stadium built, which will surely be packed to the rafters game after game. Maybe out in Vaughan.

(yes i know they play Rugby there a couple of times a year)

(I still want a roof for BMO though)
Jimbrowski / March 12, 2014 at 05:48 pm
UMMM HELLO!!! MLSE is looking to BUY the ARGOS you dumb fucks. Is everyone in this city an idiot!?!?!?! THEN they will probably expand to a concert hall venue!

You've now been schooled!!
Junction Jim / March 12, 2014 at 05:50 pm
As Canada's National Soccer Field it should be used to host more National Team Games and the pitch should be kept pristine, not destroyed by the CFL.

If MLSE wants a roof "for the fans", then they should pay for it, if they need to expand seating leave the ends alone and expand the east side match the west.

Honestly, the Argos should either fold or move to the suburbs, and stop relying on someone else to build them a stadium, after 140 years you would think they would have sorted that out by now.

Bottom Line - BMO should remain a soccer only field.
Jimbrowski / March 12, 2014 at 06:03 pm
ALSO MLSE is looking to Bring House of Blues to Toronto. Right now at the Dome the Blue Jays schedule is top priority as that's who it was built for and it then defines the Argos schedule because there are limited days available.

The Jays and the dome are loosing the turf and putting in real grass in the next few years which makes it much harder to switch from a Baseball field to a football field.

In most of the god damn schools across Canada, soccer and football share the same god damn field !!!!!!!!!!!!! OPEN YOUR FUCKIGN EYES THIS JUST MAKES SENSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Sarah replying to a comment from Junction Jim / March 12, 2014 at 06:56 pm
Its only Canada's National Soccer field because MLSE because MLSE worked out a deal that didn't allow any other Canadian soccer teams to be apart of MLS for 5 years once the deal was made. Now you've got Vancouver and Montreal.
DavidLaw / March 12, 2014 at 07:21 pm
The city already owns the area and already donate the city owned land on the ex grounds for the TFC.

Its only a good deal for the city because MLS is asking for 10 million dollars from all level of governments, municipal, provincial and federal. The Toronto taxpayer will be paying for this 3 times and those in all other provinces will be paying for this as well!! WHY? Go to the bank and get a loan if its so profitable
Big J replying to a comment from Jim Smith / March 12, 2014 at 07:28 pm
Correct that they Jays are planning on installing grass, but the reason the Argos must leave is not because they don't want them tearing it up (although that's likely part of their concern).

The bigger challenge is the fact that the stadium would need to be converted to permanent baseball configuration. When the stadium converts to football mode, the 100 level actually "opens up" by sliding on tracks to make enough room for a CFL field. So, if they put down baseball field shaped grass, switching to the football config will literally be impossible.
VanHoen / March 12, 2014 at 07:57 pm
The plans are a great idea, I think most agree on that,its just that they don't need our money to do it MLSE is putting up $90 Million and just looking to save a few bucks. They can pay for it themselves.

I love the CFL in every city BUT Toronto. Seeing a game at an actual outdoor field in the day or a nice evening game under the stars like the old days would be great! Not at the dome that is usually closed and if it is open it does not feel the same as an out door stadium but more like a car with a sunroof instead of riding in a convertible.

MLSE can afford this. If they need to raise the price of Leaf tickets or Beer at the Leaf games to cover the costs as most of us already can't afford to go to Leaf games so who cares, raise them a little more and MLSE will have its 30 million in a year.
JunctionJim replying to a comment from Sarah / March 12, 2014 at 07:59 pm
Regardless of how it became the National Soccer Stadium, it is, and it should stay that way.

Sandy / March 12, 2014 at 08:06 pm
Agros lease with Rogers Center ends in 2017. In 2018 they are putting in grass for a permenant baseball field.

dan beckman / March 12, 2014 at 08:16 pm
YES. soccer is the #1 sport in the world! (trust me your precious hockey ranks bellow womens high school badminton outside of canada) toronto benefits from a world class soccer stadium.
ChadBince / March 12, 2014 at 08:26 pm
Soccer is only the #1 sport in the world because you can play it with bare feet and a ball of dung. No investment required but they all with they had the $$$$ to play hockey!
Neville replying to a comment from dan beckman / March 12, 2014 at 08:30 pm
Agreed, Toronto does benefit from a better soccer stadium I think were all in agreement on that. The disagreement is who should pay for it. (Let's keep the words "World Class" out of this)
Tammy / March 12, 2014 at 09:03 pm
If MLSE can afford to pay Dion Phanuef $50 million for 7 years they can pay for the soccer field themselves. CHEERS!
Drew / March 12, 2014 at 09:07 pm
People the property already belongs to the city and MLSE is going to invest $90million into it while asking for a $30Million LOAN. Its a loan that will be paid back and city property will get a $90 million dollar investment from MLSE and they'll pay back the $30 million they're asking for . Can we all hold hands and say WIN WIN?
Boomcha / March 12, 2014 at 09:13 pm
No Argos at BMO Field. It has taken so long for Toronto to have a decent soccer specific stadium and now these clowns want to come and ruin this experience. The Argos had their chance to make BMO their field from the beginning and they declined. Why should Toronto FC and their fans have to suffer for this? I agree that MLSE should pay for this themselves and tell the Argos to get sinked.

It isn't a simple case of sharing the field. BMO Field has an extremely expensive grass field system right now with heating and watering under the pitch. That would have to be removed and then the pitch would be changed to a hybrid grass and turf. Good luck attracting good players to come play here soccer in the future.

Not to mention all the football lines on the pitch would ruin the soccer specific experience that exists now at Toronto FC games.
MJ / March 12, 2014 at 09:34 pm
I'd rather the 10M from City, Province, and Feds (30M for those of you that can't do math), go toward funding transit.
Peter / March 12, 2014 at 09:38 pm
The Toronto Blizzard and Argos used to share the same field back when we all didn't think we were so uppity and bourgeoisie BUT whatever you pay high rents or have a huge mortgage and think your a billionaire elitist and have some say in this.
Jorge replying to a comment from MJ / March 12, 2014 at 09:56 pm
We have the best transit in the country bro. If we reach out for that kind of funding for transit another city is more deserving... Use your mind, knowledge is key.

Val / March 12, 2014 at 10:46 pm
As both an Argo and TFC season ticket holder I'm ecstatic with this proposal.
1. TFC gets a bigger, better home. Let's stop with the delusions, BMO field was built on a budget and it's not exactly world class. An investment in this facility will improve the overall game experience.
2. Argos return to the Ex into a facility which is large enough to hold Grey Cups etc, but small enough to maintain the intimacy which the Rogers Centre can never provide.
This is not about favoring one team over the other, it's about a solution that can benefit both teams and provide city infrastructure which will benefit generations to come.
J / March 12, 2014 at 11:25 pm
Why do Rogers and Bell need a loan from the government to do this? They have more than enough of our money already. If they need a loan - they can go the bank.
Spike replying to a comment from Drew / March 12, 2014 at 11:50 pm
Can we all hold hands and say, 'Lose Lose?' Because that's what will happen if this goes forward.

Let the Argos front the money to build a new stadium instead, and let civic funds go towards funding civic needs (which a stadium is not one of.)
Greg Hannah / March 13, 2014 at 02:30 am
Build a proper 30-40K seat stadium in the Portlands, and plan it so that it can be relatively easily expandable (seating easily doubled with a second deck all around) for a potential NFL franchise. Bury all the parking with 5 or 6 levels below the stadium and plan the downtown relief line to stop there for great transit access. BMO field is in the wrong place and hard to get to, why keep building on a mistake? Start fresh and do it right this time, and then I'm OK with helping to build it.
Lee / March 13, 2014 at 03:10 am
"But BMO is the national soccer stadium". Yes, and we all know what a Powerhouse the National mens soccer team has become because of it. lol. Seriously, the soccer integrity talk is a joke. The MLS was ranked 88th best soccer league in the world. Talking about attracting top MLS talent with a pristine pitch is equivalent to buying fine China to serve chicken mcnuggets and great value cola. Get the damn football team in there so the stadium isn't just a target for seagull turds 300 days a year. The city owns it so lets all make use of it.
Jim Smith replying to a comment from Lee / March 13, 2014 at 08:39 am
And yet attendance for MLS is 15th in the world for outdoor sports and 18th across all indoor/outdoor sports (across all sports, not just soccer).

The league is growing in quality, very quickly - and having viable soccer specific venues has been a big part of that.
This Drew replying to a comment from Drew / March 13, 2014 at 11:35 am
Exactly. It looks like it is structured as a P3. Payback is guaranteed for all parties and the risk ultimately rests with MLSE.
ML$E - leading sheep to slaughter AGAIN replying to a comment from This Drew / March 13, 2014 at 01:48 pm
Nope...SHILL. MLSE ought to front ALL costs here. They're rolling in it.
Stefan / March 14, 2014 at 04:04 pm
CFL football alright but tax dollars going to house league soccer is ridiculous. My daughters timbits squad would walk away with the mls cup
Mike in park dale / March 14, 2014 at 10:19 pm
So which team changes colours? You can't have a red and a blue team sharing the same stadium, or will they change the seats too? Red and blue are the two most common sport team colours, and are naturally opposed.

Here's a thought - The agros rent varsity stadium from U of T. It's on the subway line and the seats are already blue. Oh, and it's turf so it won't completely destroy BMO field.
Jerry / March 15, 2014 at 07:50 am
100% support this initiative - terrific news for Sports fans in Toronto. BMO is owned by the City and the Argonauts should be part of the new plans. I am a big Argo fan and this is terrific! And who knows maybe I will also get to my first TFC game at some point as a result of the partnership at the stadium. Cheers and ARRRRRRGOOOOOOS!
Jerry-Paid SHILL replying to a comment from Jerry / March 15, 2014 at 10:14 am
HAHAHA...Jerry u kill me. Are you working FOR MLSE directly or just being paid for this one job?
Spike / March 18, 2014 at 11:36 am
Dave Zirin has some thoughts about this kind of bullshit idea:

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Jimbrowski, you seem a bit agitated. You might want to run around the block a few times and come back to the computer once you've worked off the insanity.
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tim lovejoy replying to a comment from Horrible Idea! / October 1, 2014 at 02:46 am
>f they switch to the proposed Hybrid turf system, all the world
>class players will leave, and those on MLS won't come.

Thanks for showing how clueless you are.
the hybrid system is used in the EPL...even the fabled Wembley uses the hybrid.

nice try, you fail.
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