Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke told media on Thursday that he has not ruled out the idea of the Canadian Football League finding a home at Toronto FC’s BMO Field, but that the MLS franchise will come first if it comes to a new tenant on their turf.
Rumors have been lingering in Toronto about the city’s CFL team – the Argonauts – moving from the Rogers Centre to BMO Field, and Leiweke said any such development would only come to fruition if it was able to be achieved without taking away from the TFC game day experience.
“We clearly understand [the situation] and would never think of taking the stadium and ruining the intimacy of an MLS game by building it in a static setup for CFL and then having huge gaps and amounts of space between the fans and the pitch,” said Leiweke, the chief executive for TFC's ownership group, in a conference call with reporters on Thursday. “We get that the only way to think about this is that the stadium is going to have to be able to move in and out and the pitch is going to have be scheduled in a way where you can’t do football and an MLS game on the same weekend.”
“There are ways to make it work, but no decision has been made,” Leiweke added. “Is it a conversation? Yes. It’s been a conversation from day one with the idea that became BMO Field and MLS here in Toronto. We’re going to continue to look at it. The commitment that we are going to make is that we will not ruin the intimacy of the viewing and the current setup for MLS and we would do it in a way where we won’t turn the field into dirt.”
Leiweke also said that MLSE is only at the beginning of a process that will be used to determine how BMO Field could be upgraded to bring it more into line with the impressive MLS stadiums that have been built in recent years in place like Kansas City and New Jersey.
“We are now engaging the people in our organization that make these decisions and implement these visions to go out and go look at all the other fields and stadiums in Major League Soccer,” Leiweke explained. “We took a whole group out to Kansas City to see that stadium recently. We have a group that is going to Portland. We’re going to go look at Vancouver and Montreal. A group has already been to Red Bull in New York. We are actively involved and are beginning to understand that this league is changing quickly.”
“We are going to do something that we haven’t done in a while, which is to send out all of our people to begin to see the changes that are occurring with the new technology and the new roofs,” Leiweke added. “Then we will bring back best practices and put it all together and make sure from an engineering, design and construction standpoint that we can do it. And then go to our owners and see what level of capital they are willing to spend.”
BMO Field has been Toronto FC’s home since the team’s expansion season in 2007. It has also hosted international games for the Canadian national team and the rugby team, and briefly served as the home for the Toronto Nationals of Major League Lacrosse in 2008.
The stadium was initially built with FIeldTurf surface, but grass was installed in 2010.
“In the last five years the league has dramatically changed as it relates to facilities, amenities for the fans and season ticket holders, with the new stadiums that have been built,” Leiweke said. “BMO Field worked when we began eight, nine years ago. But today we are going to have to change. That means everything is under consideration and nothing has been decided.”