Toronto okays $10m in city funds for soccer stadium expansion

Toronto F.C. won the first round in its quest for public money to expand BMO Field from 21,000 to 30,000 seats, as the Toronto city council’s executive committee voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to kick in $10 million toward the $120 million project. The city money would supposedly be repaid by added parking revenues from the expanded stadium, though if SBNation’s Toronto F.C. blog is correct, this is just a projection, not a guarantee.

In any event, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns the soccer team and is perpetually rumored to be interested in luring the Argonauts CFL franchise as well, still needs to get $10 million apiece from the province of Ontario and the Canadian federal government, neither of which is nearly as sure a thing as the Toronto money.

You can read more of the Toronto agreement here, though it doesn’t actually spell out all that much, and is of course completely mum on the provincial and federal funds, or on how (or whether) they’d be repaid at all. There’s still a long way to go for this project — and, since this is Canada, it’s an extra ten yards farther.

Toronto considering soccer field expansion, still mum on funding details

Toronto city councillor (and Exhibition Place chair, because that’s how they roll in Canada) Mark Grimes tells the Toronto Sun that Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, which owns Toronto F.C. in addition the Maple Leafs, is “getting close” to a deal to expand BMO Field for both the soccer team and possibly the CFL Argonauts, who currently play at whatever SkyDome is called these days. As for what the deal would look like, though, it’s about as vague as when MLSE first discussed it last month, with Grimes saying only, “It is going to cost us money to expand, there is a portion that we would pay that we’d be guaranteed back.” (Eeeagh, comma splice!)

The big question remains whether “guaranteed back” means actual revenue to the city to repay the money it would be fronting, or some bogus “repayment” involving taxes the teams would have to be paying anyway. It would be really, really nice if someone with better access to the principals involved — I don’t know, maybe some Toronto newspaper named after Earth’s nearest star? — would ask these kinds of questions at some point, but I guess there’s only so much one can ask, even of Canada.

 

Dolphins, Argonauts: We need new stadiums because our old ones are too roomy

Yesterday was the Canadian Football League’s Grey Cup, and I bet most of my non-Canadian readers couldn’t tell you what the score was, what teams played in it, or how many yards long the field was. (They might have heard that Justin Bieber got booed lustily at halftime, though.) But anyway, championship games aren’t really about winners and losers, they’re about media opportunities for league commissioners to stump for new stadiums:

The Toronto Argonauts need to have their own, smaller stadium in the long term, CFL commissioner Mark Cohon said Friday as he fielded questions following his annual state of the union address.

“They want to make the Rogers Centre work and you will see on Sunday when that stadium is full that it’s exciting,” Cohon said. “But I think long term, when you look at the size of the new Tiger-Cats stadium and the size of the new stadium in Ottawa, all around 24,000 seats, that’s perfect for CFL football.

“I think a long-term plan should incorporate a strategy around potentially a new stadium in the Toronto region.”

The Rogers Centre (née Skydome) was, of course, built at huge public expense in part to serve as the home of the Argonauts, which is why it has that old-school circular shape and artificial turf. Any prospect of a new Argos stadium is a long way off just yet, but if it picks up steam, you have to wonder if the Blue Jays owners will begin agitating for a baseball-only facility as well. In fact, really shouldn’t every sports team have one stadium for well-attended games, and a smaller one for games where tickets are hard to come by? It’s been done before.

And the Argonauts aren’t the only ones complaining that their stadium is too plus-sized:

Completed in 1987 as team founder Joe Robbie’s answer to the decaying Orange Bowl, the Dolphins’ home is now the 10th-oldest stadium in the NFL. It has few eye-popping features to compete with the home-viewing experience and, with a capacity of 75,540, it’s too big for the club’s dwindling number of season-ticket holders…

The stadium has seen more than $300 million in improvements in the past 7 1/2 years – primarily in upgrades to the club and suite levels and the high-definition scoreboards – but attendance remains disappointing and the low-tech facility doesn’t give Super Bowl bids much punch.

“We’ve got a 25-year-old facility, and it clearly needs some tender loving care,” Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said. “This facility, in its current form, is not going to serve the anchor tenants for the long-term. We’re going to be in a competitive environment with a lot of facilities that have been built in the last 10 years. Clearly, it’s something that’s going to have to be addressed at some point.”

So, to recap: The Dolphins need a new stadium in order to draw more fans, and also to accommodate fewer fans, and also because it’s 25 years old, except for the parts that were just upgraded. Maybe they should go back to complaining that they built the seating bowl all wrong, and won’t someone please fix it for them?