SBJ/April 18-24, 2011/Facilities

MLSE planning training complex for Toronto FC, academy

Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment plans to build a $20 million, 14-square-acre soccer training complex for Toronto FC and its development academy. Construction crews are scheduled to break ground on the complex in early May, with the project slated to open in April 2012.

“We hope to create the soccer epicenter of Canada,” said Bob Hunter, executive vice president of venues and entertainment at MLSE.

The site is owned by the Canadian government and is on an old airfield in the Downsview Park neighborhood of Toronto. Hunter said MLSE chose the venue from 11 candidates because of its 10-mile proximity to BMO Field and because the site is adjacent to an existing community sports park that includes four indoor soccer fields.

The project is being funded entirely by MLSE, which signed a 20-year lease with the Canadian government to use the site. Hunter said MLSE has begun the search for a “significant title sponsor” for the facility.

The complex will become the permanent home of Toronto FC’s management offices, although business operations will remain at BMO Field. The complex includes four outdoor grass fields to be used by the pro team and its academy members, and one turf field enclosed in a semi-permanent bubble that will be available to local youth and amateur teams. The complex also includes a field house that houses team offices, workout facilities and training rooms, and five locker rooms. Hunter said the team toured MLS training facilities in Denver, Chicago, Dallas and Boston when designing the complex.

News of the training facility comes after Toronto FC announced in January that it was extending its academy team to include under-13 and under-14 players. Hunter said the practice facility plays a major role in the academy expansion. “The top feeder teams will all practice and train at the facility,” he said.

Toronto FC becomes the latest MLS team to build a training facility that also caters to the community. In late January, the Portland Timbers broke ground on an Adidas-sponsored facility in Beaverton, Ore., that will set aside one field for community players. The Houston Dynamo is building a publicly funded $15 million, 40-acre facility in southwest Houston that features seven fields, six of which are available to youth soccer games. Stadiums in Colorado, Dallas and Salt Lake City also feature adjacent soccer fields available to local clubs.

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