BMO Field

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BMO Field
BMO Field logo.png
Bmo Field 2016 East Stand.jpg
BMO Field seen in 2016.
Location 170 Princes' Boulevard
Toronto, Ontario
M6K 3C3
Coordinates 43°37′58″N 79°25′07″W / 43.63278°N 79.41861°W / 43.63278; -79.41861Coordinates: 43°37′58″N 79°25′07″W / 43.63278°N 79.41861°W / 43.63278; -79.41861
Public transit Exhibition GO Station
Exhibition Loop
509 Harbourfront
511 Bathurst
29B/C/D Dufferin
193 Exhibition Rocket
Owner City of Toronto
Operator Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment
Capacity 30,228 (rugby/soccer)
26,500 (Canadian football)[1]
Field size 105 × 68 meters (115 x 74 yards) (soccer)
134 × 59 meters (146 x 65 yards) (Canadian football)
Surface FieldTurf (2007–2009)
Grass (2010–present)
Construction
Broke ground March 29, 2006[2]
Opened April 28, 2007
Expanded 2010
2014–16
Construction cost C$62.9 million
($71.5 million in 2016 dollars[3])
C$120 million (2014–2016 renovation)
Architect Brisbin Brooks Beynon Architects (BBB Architects)
Project manager PMX, Inc.[4]
Structural engineer Halcrow Yolles[5]
Services engineer The Mitchell Partnership Inc.[6]
General contractor PCL Constructors Canada Inc.[5]
Tenants
Toronto FC (MLS) (2007–present)
Toronto Nationals (MLL) (2009)
Toronto Argonauts (CFL) (2016–present)[7]

BMO Field (/ˈbm/) is a stadium located at Exhibition Place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Constructed on the site of the former Exhibition Stadium and first opened in 2007, it is owned by the City of Toronto, and managed by Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment.

BMO Field was constructed as a soccer-specific stadium, serving as the home field of Toronto FC—the first Canadian expansion team of Major League Soccer, and hosting matches during the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup and 2014 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup. The venue has also hosted rugby union, having hosted matches of Canada's national rugby union team, and rugby sevens during the 2015 Pan-American Games.

From 2014 to 2016, the stadium underwent a series of major renovations costing $110 million which added an upper deck to the east grandstand, a roof over the seating areas and lengthened the field to make it suitable for hosting Canadian football. The latter allowed for the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League to move to BMO Field beginning in the 2016 CFL season.

Construction[edit]

BMO before expansion

BMO Field is the fifth stadium to be built at its exact location at Exhibition Place. The most recent was Exhibition Stadium, which lost its primary tenants, the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League and Toronto Blue Jays of Major League Baseball, with the opening in 1989 of the SkyDome. Exhibition Stadium was demolished in 1999.

The Argonauts submitted a proposal to the city to construct a new 22,000 seat stadium at Exhibition Place in March 2003.[8] That July the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) announced separate plans for a 30,000 seat $82 million stadium at the site, to host the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup which it had bid on.[9] The governments of Canada and Ontario agreed to provide a combined C$35 million in funding for a new stadium if the CSA was successful in acquiring the rights to the tournament.[10] At the time, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE), owners of the National Hockey League's Toronto Maple Leafs and the National Basketball Association's Toronto Raptors, was also looking for a stadium to host a new Major League Soccer (MLS) team they were considering launching. The league considered soccer-specific stadiums to be necessary for an expansion franchise to be granted, due to the improved atmosphere and control of revenue streams.

The Argonauts, CSA and MLSE agreed to partner to build a new 25,000-seat, $80 million Varsity Stadium at the University of Toronto.[10][11][12] Aside from the committed government funding, $15 million was to come from the UofT, which would own the stadium, and a $30 million loan would be taken out by the University with the annual $2.1 million financing charges paid by the Argos.[10] However, MLSE backed out of the stadium due to a lack of financial return, and the deal ultimately fell through in 2004 when the University's new President withdrew his support after its cost rose over $100 million.[11][12][13][14]

Later that year, the Argos and CSA announced plans to build a 25,000-seat, $70 million stadium at York University, which would contribute the land and $15 million, with the Argos adding $20 million to the government funding.[11][15] MLSE was not involved in this project.[16] However, the Argos pulled out of the stadium after signing a new 15-year lease at Rogers Centre with significantly reduced rent.[17]

In 2005, the stadium site was moved back to Exhibition Place, on the location of the demolished Exhibition Stadium and then-existing Sports Hall of Fame building, in a partnership between MLSE and the CSA. With a total costs of $62.9 million (all figures are in Canadian dollars) to build the stadium[18] ($72.8 million including the land), financial contributions came from multiple sources.[19] The Canadian Federal Government contributed $27 million, the Government of Ontario added an additional $8 million, and the City of Toronto paid $9.8 million and contributed the land for the project (valued at $10 million),[20][21] while retaining ownership of the stadium.[21] MLSE contributed $8 million towards construction costs and was responsible for any cost overruns.[21] In return, they got the management rights for the stadium.[22] MLSE committed to purchase a MLS soccer team to play in the stadium. The remaining funds came from MLSE, which paid $10 million for the naming rights of the stadium for the duration of the 20-year management agreement, which they later resold to the Bank of Montreal (BMO) for $27 million over the first 10 years.[21][23][24]

The proposal approved by the City of Toronto was for a stadium that was "capable of a conversion to a football format."[8][25] The Argonauts attempted to join the project at the last minute, but MLSE, citing budget and time limitations, constructed the stadium such that it could not fit a CFL field without demolition and reconstruction of the endzone stands.[25][26][27]

The field of play dimensions are 74 yards (68 m) wide × 115 yards (105 m) long,[28] meeting FIFA standards. The stadium features seats which are entirely red with the exception of a design on each of the main stands. On the east side, the design is a large maple leaf while on the lower west stand the design spells out "TORONTO", and has a portion of the Toronto FC logo. The south stand has "BMO" spelled out.[citation needed]

On May 11, 2006, Major League Soccer announced that Toronto FC would join the league as its 13th (and first Canada-based) team in 2007, with BMO Field serving as its home.

Renovations[edit]

A view of BMO Field before more seating was put on the East Grandstand, looking eastward towards downtown Toronto in 2012.

BMO Field originally used FieldTurf rather than a natural grass pitch, which attracted some criticism.[29][30] A temporary grass turf was laid in August 2009 for a friendly against Real Madrid.[31] Prior to the 2010 season Toronto City Council approved MLSE's request to convert the stadium to natural grass.[20][32] MLSE paid the $3.5 million for the conversion, and promised to cover all additional costs to maintain the surface.[33][34] A variety of Kentucky Bluegrass was installed in the spring of 2010, along with a state of the art drainage system and heating system in the field. MLSE spent a further $2 million to expand the north end by 1,400 seats for the 2010 season.[35][36] As part of the deal to convert the field to natural grass, MLSE spent $1.2 million adding a winter bubble to Lamport Stadium and $800,000 building a new artificial turf field to replace the community use hours lost at BMO.[37]

In November 2009, it became public that the Argonauts were in discussions with the City of Toronto over the possibility of moving from the Rogers Centre to BMO Field, potentially as early as the 2010 CFL season.[38] The CFL agreed to study the feasibility of the Argos playing at BMO Field, which was built too short to fit a full length Canadian football field despite the requirement that the stadium be convertible to CFL configuration in the original stadium agreement.[39] According to Tom Anselmi, former executive vice-president and chief operating officer with MLSE, without significant renovations BMO Field could only fit a 100-yard field with 15-yard endzones or a 110-yard field with 10-yard endzones, which is 20 yards shorter than the standard 110-yard field and 20-yard endzones.[40] On December 16, 2009, the Argonauts officially abandoned the idea following receipt of the CFL study which stated that "Canadian football could not be played there in its current state."[41]

Anselmi indicated in 2009 that a second level could be added to the east side stands and extra rows added to the south side stands, which would add an additional 8,400 seats, for approximately $15 million.[42] Following Tim Leiweke taking over as president of MLSE in June 2013, he began discussing the company's plans for a major renovation of the stadium.[43][44][45] In early January 2014, Leiweke said that next six months would be spent consulting with experts to determine the feasibility of the project.[46]

As the stadium is owned by the City of Toronto, their consent is required for any modifications.[47] The City insisted that any renovations included making the playing surface longer to fit a CFL field so it could house the Argonauts, who had to vacate their current home Rogers Centre by the end of 2017 season.[48][49][50][51] Mark Grimes, Chairman of Exhibition Place's Board, began negotiating with MLSE on the project and said "I think I have Mr. Leiweke's ear in that I am a big CFL fan and that we need to get the Argos on stable ground."[52] Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly said that "the Argos have got to play there" and that "I think there is a very good chance that they will."[53] On February 25 Grimes said that a deal was "getting close" and could be reached "in the next couple weeks".[54] Preliminary plans were released to the public on March 5.[55][56]

In addition to making the field compatible for CFL games, the upgrades, which were originally budgeted for $115–120 million, added a new upper deck on the east side, raising capacity from 21,566 seats to 30,000 for soccer, with 26,500 seats in CFL configuration, and is temporarily expandable with additional endzone seating to 40,000 for big events[48][49][50][51][55][57] such as the rugby sevens at the 2015 Pan-Am games, an NHL outdoor game, Grey Cup, MLS Cup, possible 2028 Summer Olympics or later or a successful 2026 FIFA World Cup by Canada.[45][49][50][51][55][58] The plans called for $30 million retractable endzone seating in the south and a retractable terrace in the north end to ensure that fans aren't farther from the playing surface in soccer configuration due to the longer CFL field,[48][51][55][59] and a roof over most permanent seating areas.[48][49][55][57] Leiweke promised that soccer playing surface will remain natural grass.[46] A reinforced hybrid playing surface such as Desso GrassMaster, in which artificial fibres are embedded in the turf to allow for the grass roots to intertwine with them to strengthen the pitch, was originally under consideration,[46][51][55][56] but concerns that this would complicate repairs to the pitch led MLSE to decide against it.[60][61][62] A $1 million subsurface heating system and a $1 million artificial lighting system were installed to encourage grass growth,[1][59][60][63] and MLSE secured an exemption to use pesticides on the field.[60] Portions of the CFL endzones are artificial turf.[64][65] Removable paint is used for lining the field to allow for the football lines to be removed prior to soccer games. As well, the field has two football goalpost configurations so that the same grass isn't relined every game.[60] Under a two-phase construction process, the field was lengthened and the capacity of the stadium increased for $77 million by May 1, 2015, with the roof added by May 1, 2016 for $43 million.[47][49][51][57][57]

Leiweke in the past had said that even without an expansion the stadium needed $30 million in repairs, and that the original agreement called for the city and MLSE to split that bill equally.[66] Instead, MLSE looked for $10 million in public funding from each of the municipal, provincial, and federal governments to top up their $90 million contribution, plus any cost overruns, for the expansion.[49][50][53][57][67] MLSE argued that the new stadium would result in $8 million in economic benefits, including taxes, accruing to the province annually,[68] and $18 million in taxes on the construction project.[69] The company has agreed to pay a fixed annual rental fee of $865,000 to the City for the upgraded stadium, rather than the variable revenue sharing model under the present agreement which returned an average of $397,000 to the city over the previous five years, to help ensure that the city recoups its investment.[49][57] The new arrangement guaranteed the city $25.4 million, and with the projected $6 million in parking revenues the $31 million in revenue over the term of the lease would be $19 million more than under the former agreement.[70] As manager of the stadium, MLSE gets any profit turned by the stadium, and is responsible for any losses.[57] MLSE's management and naming rights agreement for the stadium, which was set to expire in 2027, were extended by 10 years under the proposal.[49][57] The agreement requires MLSE to reach a "long-term use (i.e. 20 years)" lease with the Argos for usage of the stadium starting in 2015.[49][50][57] The proposed renovations were unanimously approved by the Board of Governors of Exhibition Place on March 7,[20][48][49][51][71] and the City of Toronto's Executive Committee gave their consent on March 19.[47][71][72] The full City Council approved the deal on April 3,[71][73][74] and the agreement is planned to be finalized by June 15.[57] The Provincial Minister of Tourism and Culture Michael Chan said that MLSE has submitted a funding request that that "we are looking at it", while the Federal Infrastructure Minister Denis Lebel's spokesperson said that "the federal government has no program to fund professional sports facilities".[75] A spokesperson for Lebel would later say "our government will not fund the BMO Field as long as it is used by a professional sports team".[69] However, according to Leiweke, the federal funding "is not going to the stadium, their money is going to host big events."[76] In another interview he said "the feds are giving us the resources to (temporarily) expand to 40,000 for our Grey Cup bids and Winter Classic bids".[77]

By late May 2014, MLSE had not reached a financing agreement with either the federal or provincial governments to fill the $20 million funding gap. The fall of the government of Ontario, with an election scheduled for June 12, prevented them from approving their share of the funding.[78] With deadlines approaching to start construction to ensure that the stadium was ready for the 2015 Pan-Am games, MLSE decided to move forward with the first phase of the renovation without first securing further funding commitments from the government.[69][76] The revised plan proposed a $65 million addition of an upper east deck in the first phase, and $40 addition of a canopy in the second phase.[79] The lengthening of the field to make it CFL compatible and the infrastructure to allow for a temporary increase in seating capacity was postponed to a third phase costing $20–$25 million to be completed by May 1, 2017, pending a commitment by the governments or other parties to fund it and a usage agreement being reached with the Argos.[69][76][80][81][82] MLSE agreed to pay the city an additional $160,000 annually for as long as phase 3 remains uncompleted to compensate the city for the envisioned parking revenues at Argos games.[80] Leiweke pledged that if both levels of government funded the project "we're obligated to renovate the stadium for the CFL",[76][83] but if the necessary conditions for phase three are not met by 15 May 2017, MLSE can pull out.[80] The new proposal was approved by city council on June 12.[84] It is thought that if the Liberals win the provincial election they will fund the project.[69] The official groundbreaking took place on September 23.[79][85][86] In April 2015, it was reported that the renovations were $10 million over budget due to pressure to meet deadlines, which MLSE is obligated to fund.[87]

On May 20, 2015, it was announced that two of the three ownership partners of MLSE, Bell Canada and Larry Tanenbaum's Kilmer Group, had acquired an ownership stake in the Argos, with the deal to close at the end of the year, and would move the team to BMO Field for the 2016 season.[88] The new ownership group for the Argos committed $10 million to the conversion costs for BMO Field, with MLSE matching this to fill the $20 million funding gap.[64][89] Part of the agreement would see two Grey Cups played at the newly renovated BMO Field.[90][91] The renovations for the Argonauts added a state-of-the-art 10,000 sq ft (930 m2) dressing room. In February 2016 it was announced that BMO had extended its naming rights sponsorship agreement for an additional ten years.[92] The renovation ended up costing $150 million in total.[64] At the reopening ceremony it was announced that the province of Ontario had contributed $10 million to the financing.[93] After the renovations, the field for configuration for football has only 18 yard end zones (instead of the standard 20 yards) due to space constraints and the necessity of a safety zone for players beyond the field of play.[94][95]

Events[edit]

Toronto FC played their first game at BMO Field on 28 April 2007. The grand opening celebration took place on 12 May 2007.[96]

The only music concert thus far at BMO Field was performed by progressive rock group Genesis on 7 September 2007.

The 2008 MLS All-Star Game was held at BMO Field on 24 July 2008 versus West Ham United of the English Premier League.

In 2009, the Toronto Nationals of Major League Lacrosse began playing their home games at BMO Field. The team moved to Lamport Stadium for 2010 and to Hamilton in 2011 before folding in 2013.

On July 18, 2009, BMO Field had its first alcohol suspension, due to an incident that occurred on 21 May 2008, regarding alcohol consumption by a minor.[97]

BMO Field became the first venue outside of the United States to host the MLS Cup in 2010, featuring the Colorado Rapids defeating FC Dallas 2–1.

Rugby at BMO Field

BMO Field has become a home venue for Canada's national rugby union team. Since 2011, the team has played at the venue regularly.[98][99][100]

On July 24, 2014, BMO Field hosted the opening match of the 2014 International Champions Cup between Olympiacos and A.C. Milan; Olympiacos won the match 3–0.[101]

With the Argonauts moving to the renovated BMO Field beginning with the 2016 season, the team was awarded on October 1, 2015 the right to host the 104th Grey Cup at the stadium on November 27, 2016.[102] On June 11, 2016, the Argonauts played their first game at BMO Field, a preseason (exhibition) game; the Argos defeated the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 25–16.[103] On June 23, the Argos played their first regular season game at BMO Field; the Ti-Cats defeated the Argos 42–20.[104]

In March 2016, the National Hockey League announced that the first NHL Centennial Classic outdoor game would be played at BMO Field on January 1, 2017, between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings.[105]

Historic moments[edit]

The first goal at BMO Field was scored by Eddie Johnson for Kansas City Wizards in a 1–0 Major League Soccer win over home side Toronto FC in the stadium opener on April 28, 2007. The first ever Toronto FC goal at the stadium was Danny Dichio's first-half strike against Chicago Fire on May 12, 2007 (also his club's first ever MLS goal).

The first goal at BMO Field scored by a Canadian came at the official opening on May 11, 2007, in a U-20 friendly between Canada and Argentina. David Edgar scored a penalty in a 2–1 defeat for Canada, just four minutes after Gómez had scored the first ever international goal at the stadium.

Costa Rica's Víctor Núñez scored the first ever senior international goal in a 1–1 friendly draw with hosts Canada on September 12, 2007, shortly before Dwayne De Rosario scored Canada's first senior goal at the stadium.

The first Toronto FC goal scored by a Canadian at BMO Field was in a June 25, 2007 friendly against Aston Villa of the English Premier League. Andrea Lombardo scored an equalizer at BMO Field's south end to make it 2–2 before Aston Villa ran out 4–2 winners. The first league goal at BMO Field scored by a Canadian came when Miguel Cañizalez scored for Toronto FC in the second minute of their 2–1 defeat to Columbus Crew on September 22, 2007, snapping an 824-minute MLS goalless streak.

In lacrosse, the first MLL goal at BMO Field was scored by Merrick Thomson of the Toronto Nationals in a 15–11 win in their home opener on May 22, 2009.

In Canadian football, the first CFL points scored at BMO Field was a Toronto Argonauts completed touchdown pass caught by Vidal Hazelton, thrown from Logan Kilgore, in a June 11, 2016 exhibition Argos win; final score 25–16.[103] The first regular season points scored at BMO Field was a conceded safety touch of 2 points by Canadian Argos kicker/punter Lirim Hajrullahu in a 42–20 loss on June 23.[104] The first regular season points scored by the Argos at BMO Field was a successful field goal kicked by Hajrullahu in the same game.[104] On July 25, the Argonauts won their first regular season game at BMO Field, defeating the Montreal Alouettes 30–17.[106]

Major tournaments[edit]

2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup[edit]

BMO Field hosted the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup, the first major tournament held at the stadium. The stadium saw the Canadian Under-20 squad once. The stadium also saw six knockout stage games including the Final; which was won by Argentina. Due to FIFA sponsorship regulations, the venue was referred to as the National Soccer Stadium during the event.

Date Team #1 Result Team #2 Round Attendance
July 1, 2007  Canada 0–3  Chile Group A 20,195
July 2, 2007  Portugal 2–0  New Zealand Group C 19,526
 Gambia 0–3  Mexico
July 5, 2007  New Zealand 0–1  Gambia
 Mexico 2–1  Portugal
July 8, 2007  Chile 0–0  Austria Group A
July 11, 2007  United States 2–1 (AET)  Uruguay Round of 16
July 12, 2007  Argentina 3–1  Poland
July 14, 2007  Austria 2–1  United States Quarterfinal
July 19, 2007  Chile 0–3  Argentina Semifinal
July 22, 2007  Chile 1–0  Austria 3rd Place Match
 Czech Republic 1–2  Argentina Final 19,526

2014 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup[edit]

BMO Field hosted the 2014 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup. Canada played in Toronto for the first two match days, with Korea DPR, Finland, and Ghana in their group. National Soccer Stadium also hosted a quarterfinal match on August 16.

Date Team #1 Result Team #2 Round Attendance
August 5, 2014  Canada 0–1  Ghana Group A 20,195
 Finland 1–2  North Korea
August 8, 2014  Canada 3–2  Finland
 Ghana 0–3  North Korea
August 13, 2014  South Korea 2–1  Mexico Group C
 Costa Rica 0–3  New Zealand Group D
August 16, 2014  North Korea 1–1 (3–1 on penalties)  United States Quarterfinal

2015 Pan American Games[edit]

During the 2015 Pan American Games, BMO Field hosted the rugby sevens competition (soccer events took place at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton). Due to PASO sponsorship regulations, the venue was referred to as Exhibition Stadium during the event.[107]

2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup[edit]

Date Team #1 Result Team #2 Round Attendance
July 14, 2015  Jamaica 1–0  El Salvador Group B 16,674
 Canada 0–0  Costa Rica

Attendance records[edit]

The largest attendance overall at the stadium was on May 10, 2015 for a Toronto FC game when they hosted Houston Dynamo in front of 30,226 fans in their home opener.[108]

MLS[edit]

Season Season
average
Highest
gate
Lowest
gate
2007 20,130 20,522 19,123
2008 20,120 20,461 19,657
2009 20,344 20,902 19,843
2010 20,453 22,108 18,394
2011 20,267 22,453 16,313
2012 18,681 20,071 14,623
2013 17,639 21,700 12,627
2014 22,086 22,591 18,269
2015 23,978 30,226 16,382

Rugby[edit]

The largest crowd for rugby at BMO stadium and in Canada occurred when the Canada national rugby union team hosted the New Zealand Māori All Blacks before 22,566 people on 3 November 2013.[109]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]

Events and tenants
Preceded by
first stadium
Home of
Toronto FC

2007–present
Succeeded by
current
Preceded by
Stadion Galgenwaard
Utrecht
FIFA U-20 World Cup
Final Venue

2007
Succeeded by
Cairo International Stadium
Cairo
Preceded by
first stadium
Home of
Toronto Nationals

2009
Succeeded by
Lamport Stadium
Preceded by
Rogers Centre
Home of
Toronto Argonauts

2016–present
Succeeded by
current
Preceded by
Qwest Field
Host of the
MLS Cup

2010
Succeeded by
Home Depot Center
Preceded by
Investors Group Field
Host of the
Grey Cup

2016
Succeeded by
TBD