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BMO Field Renovations 
170 Princes' Blvd, Toronto
Developer: Maple Leaf Sports + Entertainment


BMO Field Renovations | ?m | ?s | MLSE | Gensler

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#1
BMO Field: City Considering Expansion

Expansion of city-owned BMO Field considered

Sold-out success of Toronto FC prompts talks to boost stadium seating to 30,000
JENNIFER LEWINGTON

CITY HALL BUREAU CHIEF

June 20, 2008

The huge popularity of professional soccer - Toronto FC is essentially sold out in its second season - is driving serious talk of expanding city-owned BMO Field.

Although still in the exploratory phase, the idea is to boost capacity at the $72-million stadium by 50 per cent to 30,000 seats from 20,000, officials confirmed yesterday.

A final decision, not expected until later this year, will hinge on how to pay for the expansion and how to retain the intimate atmosphere of the stadium for soccer fans.

"Our ultimate goal is not to change the experience that exists today," said Bob Hunter, executive vice-president of venues and entertainment for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., which manages the facility for the city and owns the Major League Soccer team. "If we thought it was going to change the experience we have today, we would not be recommending to go ahead."

He added "we have a lot of work to do" before making any recommendation.

The strong fan embrace of Toronto FC is the reason for talk of expansion.

This year, MLSE sold about 16,000 season tickets, up from 14,000, with the other 4,000 tickets snapped up by the public every game so far. The rest of the season is also expected to be sold out, "well ahead" of forecasts, Mr. Hunter said.

Initial design work is under way by MLSE on how to add 10,000 seats for soccer games, either retractable or removable. Also under consideration are changes that would lure the Toronto Argonauts football team away from the Rogers Centre.

Detailed financial discussions are still several months away.

"It [expansion] is a thought in everyone's head," said Dianne Young, general manager and CEO of Exhibition Place. "Will it happen for a year or two? Not likely."

On the touchiest political issue - who would pay for the project, which is estimated to cost between $15-million and $20-million - Exhibition Place chairman and deputy mayor Joe Pantalone was firm.

"The city clearly is not going to pay," he said. "We have already made our investment and it has been very successful."

Told of the comment, Mr. Hunter said "that is a good opening position."

He noted that the city shares equally with MLSE in profits from the stadium, which operates 351 days a year for professional and amateur soccer as well as non-sporting events.

"The long-term benefit of adding 10,000 seats is good for both parties, given the way the finances work," he added.

The city put up $9.8-million for its share of the project, with funds from senior governments and $8-million from MLSE.

Constructed in time for the FIFA under-20 World Cup tournament last year, the stadium turned a profit of $900,000 during its eight months of operations in 2007.

Without the one-time revenue generated by the FIFA tournament, BMO Field is expected to generate a profit of $98,000 this year.

***

The numbers

BMO Field, home of the Toronto FC professional soccer team at Exhibition Place, scores on and off the field. Here are key details:

20,000

Stadium seating capacity

1,370

Hours of community use for amateur soccer in first season of the bubble (erected last winter)

14

Number of free days for city use

$98,000

Forecast profit for 2008
 

confusion

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#2
I don't know why they built such a small stadium in the first place.

Toronto is a very international city. Soccer is a very international sport. Someone is not very bright thinking soccer would fail here. (And don't give me the Toronto Blizzard arguement, that team was worse than the one I played on).

Why stop at 30,000, I say at least 35,000. I'm sick of not being able to get tickets.
 

Jayomatic

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All I know is that MLSE should be paying 100% of the cost. They already screwed the city on the naming rights.

Could they add another deck?
 

ProjectEnd

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#7
I actually think dreamer's CNE condo plan makes some sense. The market however, is slowing and it would be difficult to market such a huge expansion. And where would that lamest of carnivals, the CNE, find a home?
 
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#8
They built small initially because they really weren't sure how TFC would be welcomed in Toronto. But there were always provisions for it to be expanded to 30 000. As much as Toronto is an international city, professional soccer has a long history of failing here.

I say leave it be for the first 5 or so years. If the newness of the stadium begins to wear off and attendance drops then you don't expand. If they continue to sell out then expand. Remember the appearance of scarcity is a wonderful thing. It is much better to have 20 000 people packed into the stadium and, say, 5 000 people outside wishing for tickets. Than to have 25 000 people in a 30 - 35 000 seat stadium and no more demand for the remaining 5000 - 10000 seats.
 

MetroMan

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#12
Why not just build condos around the stadium? So, concession stands/retail on the ground floor, more seating on maybe 10 floors, then another 20 floors of condos. Or am I crazy?
I can guarantee you that this would not fly with Exhibition Place, the CNE or the City. Guarantee.

Giving up this land for residential uses will not happen. Period. On the other hand, Exhibition Place and the City – and the CNE to an extent – would probably consider the idea of a hotel built on the parking lot land to the East of BMO Field with seating "leaning" against the hotel.

Regardless, I don't think that even that idea will happen. MLSE will likely just add a second tier of seating over the existing East stand.
 

jn_12

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#14
30k is the most realistic number.
If you look at European stadiums and compare the fan base/catchment, 30,000 is probably the average size stadium for most top flight leagues in Europe. I don't think you can consider Toronto's fanbase to be equal to that of most top flight clubs in Europe, but I guess there is a very large difference in ticket prices here compared to over there.

In England the average EPL stadium is almost 39,000 and there are 7 Premier league clubs with stadiums of 31,000 or less. (This number will go up over the next decade as teams like Liverpool, West Ham and Everton are moving into larger stadiums). I went to White Hart Lane in April to watch Tottenham and their 38,000 seat stadium was very intimate and was a fantastic atmosphere, so I don't think BMO would lose anything in terms of atmosphere by adding 10,000 seats. I think a roof over the stands would be the best way to ensure that the intimate atmosphere is maintained.

As for outside the stadium, I've made a lot of noise in other threads about turning the CNE grounds in to a pedestrian area with many of the CNE buildings turned into museums. Considering the area is served by both GO and TTC very well, there is no need for such a large parking lot. There's a lot of potential there if we got past the notion that the CNE is something special. Let it go elsewhere and become a truly national exhibition. We can do better than it.