Toronto F.C., the MLS team owned by the Maple Leafs, is planning a major expansion of the city-owned BMO Field in time for next year’s Pan Am Games, with “the majority of the burden” promised to fall on the private sector, according to team CEO TIm Leiweke — hey, that’s where Tim Leiweke ended up!
As for specifics on who would pay for what how, Leiweke couldn’t have been more hand-wavy:
The total, he said, could amount to “twice” the price tag for the original [$63 million] project. He said Toronto taxpayers would probably make some initial payment. But he said MLSE would later return money to the public purse.
“I think if there is any contribution, it’ll be one where they get paid back over a period of time and get a healthy rate of return. So the significant majority portion of this is going to end up being us, and we get that,” he said.
“One of the things the city’s asked for is that we backstop a minimum revenue stream annually that would get their money back, plus some, over the period of the lease. So the city wants certainty. We’re working through that.”
The city fronting the money and getting paid with interest over time is certainly a legitimate investment model, though you really have to wonder why Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (which also owns the Raptors) couldn’t just borrow from a bank, given that they’re a $2 billion company. The trick here is assuring that the money being repaid is real revenue from the team, and not, say, increased tax revenue that would be going to the city regardless of how the expansion was financed.
This is Canada, not the U.S., so those kinds of shenanigans are trickier to get away with, though as we’ve seen elsewhere, not impossible. Hopefully Toronto’s elected leaders will be on the ball enough to keep on top of the situation and assess the costs with a calm, clear — oh, right.