SBD/March 24, 2014/Facilities

MLSE's Tim Leiweke "Extremely Happy" Rob Ford Opposes BMO Field Renovation Plan

Leiweke takes issue with Ford's assertion that the deal would be a "gravy train"
MLSE President & CEO Tim Leiweke on Saturday said that he "doesn't mind the fact that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford doesn't support" the planned $120M (all figures Canadian) renovations to BMO Field, according to Neil Davidson of the CP. The Toronto Exec Committee last week "approved the proposed stadium plan with Ford casting the lone No vote." Leiweke said, "This is the guy that I went in and met with, he was mad at us that we didn't go through him at first. He wanted this to be his plan. We took him through it and he said 'I'm for this, I want this, I'll support you.' I'm extremely happy he's not supporting us." Davidson noted MLSE wants $10M from "each of the three levels of government and plans to spend" $90M itself to expand the city-owned, MLSE-operated stadium. Leiweke said that the city's $10M "would be repaid over 20 years with interest." Leiweke: "They actually do better with this investment than they do their pension fund. ... We're taking a public facility that the city currently has a 50 per cent responsibility to pay for and we’re looking at bills over the next 10 to 15 years that will be $30 to $40 million out of the city’s pocket and we’re proposing a solution that has them put in $10 million and we repay them over 20 years. This is not a gravy train. This is simple smart math" (CP, 3/22). Ford last week said of the proposed renovation, "I just don't think the taxpayers should have to pay for it. It should be paid for by the private sector. It would be nice if we wanted to expand [Ford-family owned] Deco Labels and have the taxpayers help us out, but it doesn't work like that" (TORONTO SUN, 3/22).

ALREADY PAYING OFF: MLS Toronto FC on Saturday played its home opener against DC United in front of a sold-out crowd at BMO Field, which "showed just how quickly" some of Leiweke’s player signings this offseason "have restored some of the luster to a listing sports property" (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/23). But SPORTSNET's John Molinaro reported the venue's field "was in terrible condition after a long, cold Toronto winter." Streaks of "worn patches blotted the field that looked as though it had been chewed up by a CFL game." United coach Ben Olsen said the field "was as bad as I've ever seen in MLS" (SPORTSNET.ca, 3/22). TFC coach Ryan Nelson after the game "wasn't blaming the groundskeepers" for the field conditions. He said, "I blame God for that, for the winter He's given Toronto" (TORONTO STAR, 3/23).
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