“All it takes is Money and Engineering”
“All it takes is Money and Engineering,” The words spoken by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment President Tim Lieweke over a month ago.
When talking about what it would take to renovate BMO field and accommodate the Argos and TFC, Lieweke implied that anything is possible. Either that or he is fishing for an adidas sponsorship. Either way he is right. All the technological innovations already exist to convert a great Football stadium into a great Football stadium.
In my previous column (House Hunters: The Reds Double Blue Renovation), I laid out my ideas for an expanded BMO field that would preserve: the intimacy that makes it fun; and the natural pitch. On March 5, MLSE and Exhibition place unveiled their vision for BMO field, which included both Money and Engineering.
As expected, an additional deck will be added to the East side of the stadium, and expanded seating will be put installed in both endzones. This will increase the capacity for TFC, Soccer Canada and Rugby Canada to 30,000 seats. In an effort to preserve the intimacy the first 20 rows (approximately) in each endzones will retract to allow for the extra space needed for the CFL field. With the retracted seats the Argos will have a capacity of 25,000. Additionally, the plans call for the ability to add an additional 10,000 temporary seats in the endzones for special events like the Pan Am games, an Outdoor NHL game or a Grey Cup.
This is a win for the Argos, who last season averaged just under 22K per game last season in the Roger Centre. Lets face facts, a full stadium looks like more fun than a half filled venue, regardless of size.
Adding a roof over the stands is a great idea. It will help protect fans from the elements and it will increase the volume. The only drawback will be loosing the view, which is a sacrifice I am sure everyone is willing to make.
The pitch will be a Hybrid grass surface. Natural grass (locally sourced) interwoven with synthetic fibers to help strengthen the field. It is the same surface used Denver, Green Bay, many EPL stadiums and World Cup stadiums across the world. As Dave Rowaan of WalkingTheRed.com detailed, the Grass Master system was put to the test last fall at Wembley stadium, hosting several NFL, Soccer games in a month. To summarize, it passed with flying colors. Colors and lines were removed and added several times using removable paint. Evidence from many pictures shows American Football lines were not visible when England played a World Cup Qualifying match, 12 days after the Steelers and Vikings game.
The one piece of information at was not revealed was the plans for the CFL endzones. Lieweke, while on a local Toronto radio station, stated that they would be artificial. Fans who remember the US expansion of the 90s will once again get to relive beautiful fields like the Liberty Bowl where the Memphis Mad Dogs played their home games. I’m not saying that the mix of the two can’t work, just wondering where the money and engineering is? Using a palletized system for the endzones would keep that the surface consistent. If you are going to do it right, why not go all the way?
MLSE has pledged at least $90M to the project and is seeking $10M loans from each level of government. They passed the first hurdle on April 3rd, 2014 when the city of Toronto voted 39-3 in favour of the $10M loan. Total investment in the expansion is estimated at $120 Million. While the federal liberals are urging the Harper government to say no, it is widely believed that because it is to be used for the Pan Am Games and as a National stadium, it is a mere formality. MLSE has also confirmed that they will cover any construction over-runs, so the city, province and Ottawa will not have to put in any additional monies beyond their initial investment.
MLSE does not have to own the Argos for them to call BMO field home. Etobicoke-Lakeshore councilor and Exhibition Place, Board of Governors Chair Mark Grimes addressed ties to new ownership and the stadium, March 5th, 2014 on TSN 1050 with Mike Hogan.
“The Deal would be tied to the CFL franchise,” no matter what happens with the ownership, “Whoever owns the team will have a home at BMO”
Construction on the new stands is set to begin after Labour Day, to be completed in time for the 2015 MLS season. Roof construction is scheduled to begin after the 2015 MLS season. All it takes is Money and Engineering.