TORONTO – Toronto FC’s home stadium is set for a massive facelift after the Toronto City Council voted 39-3 in favor of investing $10 million in improvements to BMO Field.
“We’re very grateful for the leadership and support of the City,” Toronto FC president Tim Leiweke (above) told the Toronto Star. “This is an important issue, not just for Toronto FC, but also the CFL, the Pan Am Games, our ability to host Winter Classics, Grey Cups, and the proposed 2026 World Cup bid for Canada.”
"Without support from the Provincial and Federal governments this deal does not happen, so together with the city, we will focus our attention over the coming days and weeks to finding the matching funds," he added. "Without these matching funds, we will be looking at a major issue for all of the proposed uses for BMO Field. We have work to do.”
The three votes against funding the project came from Toronto mayor Rob Ford, his brother, councilor Doug Ford as well as councilor Mike Del Grande. The mayor opposed the vote but chose not to speak at the executive committee, adding later that he believed the deal was “corporate welfare.”
City manager Joe Pennachetti disagrees with that assessment.
“We’re enhancing our own asset and it’s costing us nothing at the end of the day,” Pennachetti said. “I believe this is a significant enhancement to a city-owned asset that basically is something that rarely comes along.”
Deputy mayor Norm Kelly echoed the sentiment, stressing that BMO Field is owned by the city.
"We're not giving any money to a private corporation – we are co-investing," Kelly said during a council meeting. "We're co-investing in our own asset.”
Speaking to fans before Toronto FC’s first home game against D.C. United, Leiweke outlined that the city would have to fund routine maintenance costs anyway, but offered the city a deal whereby the city’s initial investment is paid back with interest over a 20-year period.
In exchange, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, Toronto FC’s ownership group, will fund the rest of the upgrade costs and enters into a 10-year lease extension. The stadium will most likely be shared with the Toronto Argos of the Canadian Football League.
The stadium renovation has been a project Leiweke has been pursuing since he started working for MLSE. The upgrade plan called for expanding BMO Field to 30,000 seats, along with adding a partial roof over the stands.