It has been a busy few weeks at BMO Field, as the home of Toronto FC‘s status as a multiuse facility has been put to the test.
Within the soccer world, BMO Field was a focal point for action during the MLS Cup Playoffs. Toronto FC’s run to the MLS Cup Final–which was hosted at the stadium–marked a major milestone for Toronto’s growing soccer scene, and the facility hosted capacity crowds throughout the postseason.
That, combined with Toronto FC’s strong attendance numbers during the regular season, gives BMO Field a certain level of distinction among MLS facilities. However, the stadium is designed to do more than host soccer, as it is also the primary home of the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts.
To accomidate the Argonauts, the stadium underwent years worth of renovations to make it more conducive to football and other events. The MLS playoffs and CFL’s Grey Cup were both hosted at the stadium in the final months of 2015, and took place in close proximity of each other–the Grey Cup was played on November 27, while Toronto FC hosted the Montreal Impact in a conference final on November 30.
Converting the field from football to soccer standards was itself a tall task, but BMO Field had another major event looming–the NHL’s outdoor Centennial Classic. That contest, which took place on New Year’s Day, was just weeks after the MLS Cup Final on December 10.
Arranging these events took careful planning on the part of BMO Field officials, something that the The Globe and Mail recently detailed in a fascinating feature:
Seated at the table in the BMO Field lounge were Nick Eaves, the chief venues and operations officer at Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment; Peter Church, the general manager of BMO Field; Robert Heggie, the head groundskeeper; and MLSE’s senior director of communications, Dave Haggith. These figures would play the supporting cast to the main character threading through the big sporting events: the stadium itself.
“We definitely want to pitch for more big events like these,” said Eaves of the stadium, which opened humbly in 2007 as the home of Toronto FC but underwent a two-phase, $150-million renovation, completed last spring, to make it a multiuse facility and add the Argonauts as tenants. “Yes, these special events are a lot of work, and we know that. But look at the interest. This really shows the versatility of the building, along with the ability of the teams to create very different atmospheres here. How many stadiums can host these three different outdoor sporting events in different setups with different capacities? It’s pretty unique.”
While the game was delayed 30 minutes due to the glare from the sun, the Centennial Classic proved to be a success at BMO Field. Over 40,000 fans packed into the facility to watch the hometown Toronto Maple Leafs defeat the Detroit Red Wings by a final of 5-4.
Image courtesy Toronto FC.