SBD/January 2, 2014/Facilities

Toronto's BMO Field Could Be Expanded In Effort To Host '17 Winter Classic

A current capacity of 22,000 would need to be nearly doubled for the Winter Classic
A "complicated and costly deal" is being discussed that would see BMO Field "significantly expanded in time for the Maple Leafs to host the Winter Classic" in '17, according to Chris Johnston of SPORTSNET.ca. Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment President & CEO Tim Leiweke said that the organization has "held high-level discussions with the municipal, provincial and federal governments and believes that they are all on board with renovating the six-year-old stadium." The "driving force behind the proposed expansion is a desire to hold major events like the Winter Classic and NHL sources indicate that Toronto is in line to land the signature outdoor game should the building’s capacity be increased." Leiweke said, "I think if the league liked that idea we can 100 per cent get a deal done with the various government agencies and then do the renovation so we’d be ready." Johnston noted the "biggest issue to be worked out for the project is determining how it is financed." The building is owned by the City of Toronto and Leiweke "indicated that all three levels of government would likely kick in for the upgrade." The current capacity is "about 22,000 for soccer and it would need to be almost doubled to make it feasible to hold a Winter Classic" (SPORTSNET.ca, 12/31). 

IS IT WORTH IT? YAHOO SPORTS CANADA's Andrew Bucholtz wrote it is "tough to see" BMO Field "working as a 40,000-seat stadium in general." Toronto FC "doesn't need the extra capacity at the moment, and while they might draw more fans if they start winning, it's a rare MLS team that can draw in that range." There is a "reason most MLS stadiums have a capacity of 25,000 seats or less." Even if the "considerable difficulties of convincing football and soccer teams to share a home are overcome, the Argonauts aren't going to draw 40,000 fans regularly." Only three CFL games "crossed the 40,000 mark this year." It would be "awfully difficult to make a business case for a 40,000-plus seat stadium as regularly needed for MLS or CFL games" (CA.SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/1).
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