TORONTO - A proposal for the expansion of Toronto’s soccer stadium is one step closer to reality.
The Exhibition Place board of governors voted unanimously Friday to approve planned expansion and enhancements to BMO Field, home of the Toronto FC soccer team.
If the city’s executive committee gives the plan a green light, it will then need full-council approval before the massive renovation can get underway.
The proposal, brought forth by Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment, which owns TFC, as well as the Maple Leafs and Raptors, includes a increased capacity for 30,000 permanent seats and an additional 10,000 temporary ones, a partial roof that would cover the majority of seating, a new hybrid-style field of play combining natural grass with durable artificial fibre, two large video screens and various enhancements to fan amenities.
The new stadium could also be a new home for the Toronto Argonauts, as well.
“I think (MLSE is) a great partner, and I’m looking forward to bringing this to the council floor,” said Councillor Mark Grimes, who serves as the Exhibition Place board chairman.
MLSE boss Tim Leiweke called it an important step in the stadium’s future, both from a business standpoint and from that of enhancing the fan experience.
“We knew this would be a process, so we move on one step at a time,” said Leiweke, who later said that MLSE will work with officials from other events who are worried field expansion will negatively impact their respective events that also take place on the Exhibition Grounds.
Patti Stewart, an official with the One Of A Kind Show, is concerned the additional crush of sports fans driving to an expanded stadium would mean additional congestion and parking struggles for One Of A Kind when it comes to accommodating its own visitors arriving in vehicles.
“Currently, the capacity of parking is barely enough to accommodate what is (happening) on the grounds currently ... when the major events are happening,” said Stewart.
Leiweke said MLSE is now in talks with the Metrolinx regional transportation body to provide an incentive for season ticket holders to take public transit to BMO Field. One option, he said, could be that season-ticket holders would be granted a return transit pass for each game along with their tickets.
Mayor Rob Ford — a football fanatic — said the expansion would be “great.”
“The Argos need a proper home, this is a perfect fit,” Ford said. “I just can’t wait to get the Argos in there.”
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