TORONTO – Toronto FC and members of the Toronto city council took part in a commemorative ground breaking ceremony Tuesday, kicking off the $120-million BMO Field renovation project passed earlier this year.
Doneil Henry, Dwayne De Rosario, team captain Steven Caldwell and Jonathan Osorio, shovels in hand, broke ground outside the stadium to begin construction. Meanwhile, Michael Bradley, decked out in a hard hat and an orange vest, took control of a bulldozer.
Renovations to Toronto FC’s home ground will be implemented in three phases over the next two years. The first phase will increase the stadium capacity to 30,000 seats; phase two will add a roof over the stands; the third phase, not yet approved, would see the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League move to BMO Field, which would mean demolishing the north stands and a portion of the southern stands to accommodate the larger CFL Fields.
The new BMO Field, Anfield-like in its appearance, has Caldwell remembering Premier League grounds.
“When you spend that amount of money on renovations, it’s definitely going to improve,” Caldwell told reporters. “The capacity is getting more in tune with the Premier League, so that’s very exciting. I think it just shows the growth of MLS and where it’s heading that everybody wants to improve their stadium.”
The first phase of construction is scheduled for completion on May 1, 2015. This could mean that Toronto FC will be without a home field for part of the 2015 MLS season.
For De Rosario, a Toronto native, seeing BMO Field transformed into a world-class soccer stadium left him feeling more than excited.
“I think it’s unbelievable,” De Rosario told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s a testament to how far this game has grown, how far this game has come. Don’t get me wrong, I think this stadium as it is right now is the first stage of welcoming soccer to, I think, more so the corporate world than the soccer fans. The soccer fans were desperately hungry for this.
“To repay the soccer community, our dedicated fans, with this new soccer stadium just shows that they recognize the power of soccer in this city and how important TFC is to people’s lives.”
- Get all the latest news on BMO Field rennovations at TorontoFC.ca
He said, based on the renderings, BMO Field will look like a “proper, professional stadium.”
De Rosario was instrumental in bringing a natural grass surface to the stadium during his previous stay with Toronto FC.
“I’m proud to say that I helped, that I’m a part of it,” De Rosario said.
But, he said the potential third phase of construction needs to be handled properly to maintain a professional soccer environment in Toronto. With CFL football and potentially MLS and CONCACAF Champions League matches to schedule, the field crew has their work cut out for them.
“We know American football has a lot of passion behind that as well,” De Rosario said. “Just as long as we don’t have any football lines and the field is not dug up, I’m okay with it. But once we play on football lines, that’s when we have problems.”