Stadium a one-trick pony?

DEAN MCNULTY, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 3:14 PM ET

For those who thought the $45 million in public dough that was forked over to Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment to help pay for BMO Stadium was going to result in a multi-use facility, think again.

After a report yesterday that the 20,000-seat stadium at Exhibition Place -- in its final stages of construction -- was configured in such a way that would make it impossible to use for anything but soccer, as in MLSE's new Major League Soccer team Toronto FC, there were concerns that Toronto politicians may have been duped.

The problem is the grandstands at the south end of the pitch are anchored in cement, making moving them to extend the field impossible.

That means the field, as it is right now, is too short for the 110-yards, plus 20-yard end zones needed for football -- be it the Argonauts, University of Toronto Blues or any local high school squad.

Toronto Councilor and former Etobicoke Mayor Doug Holyday said yesterday he was outraged all of the facts about BMO Stadium were not made public during the approval process at City Hall.

"We were told that down the road there was a possibility of even the Argonauts playing there," Holyday said. "I had asked that question as a matter of fact (when the issue was before council) because I knew the Argonauts were somewhat interested in an outdoor facility.

"We were assured the stadium was to be built in such a way that in the future it could be altered (for football). I am disappointed to hear that this is not the case."

MLSE vice-president of operations Bob Hunter said yesterday that Holyday's recollection of the deal doesn't jive with what actually happened.

COMPETITION

"When this deal was before council this building wasn't even designed yet," Hunter said.

"There was no one working on the design at that stage. We held a competition later and that was what came back."

Hunter said MLSE was, and still is, open to have the Argonauts as part of BMO but that the cost of moving the grandstands --which he said would be about $15 million --would have to be borne by the football team.

Holyday, who was a supporter of the proposed deal when it came before council, said he had good reason at that time to give it a thumbs up.

Before deciding to build the stadium on the Exhibition Place site, there was plenty of lobbying to have it moved away from downtown Toronto.

"My thoughts were that why send (the Argos) up to York University or somewhere else to build a stadium when we already had one that could be built (at EP)," he said. "Another factor was that (the city) was going to get federal and provincial money to go with its own to help pay for it.

"With that money, somebody was going to build a stadium. If it wasn't with us it was going to up in Vaughan so we gave the go-ahead on the premise that (the stadium) could be altered for other uses."


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