Soccer site is booted

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:46 AM ET

The Canadian Soccer Association's plan to build a 20,000-seat stadium at Downsview Park is not even close to becoming reality.

In the wake of a report confirming the CSA had chosen Downsview as its site yesterday, City of Toronto politicians blasted the association for backing out of a idea to build at Exhibition Place and the CSA confirmed it still needs some funding to help foot the $55-$60 million bill.

Toronto Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone said the city was interested in spending "in the (mid-to-high) single-digit millions" to help erect a facility at Exhibition Place, not anywhere else. The CSA sent out a letter last month indicating Exhibition Place was the desired location.

"I'm scratching my head at this," Pantalone, who cited environmental and transportation concerns, said.

"This is not the best place to ensure we have the proper customer base (for the facility)."

City councillor Maria Augimeri, who is responsible for the area where Downsview Park is located, is furious with the federal government for not consulting the city on the matter. The feds are slated to put up $27 million and the provincial government is expected to contribute $8 million, with the rest coming from private investors. However, the CSA has not sent its final proposal for funding to the federal or provincial governments.

Augimeri said previous events at Downsview Park have led to plenty of illegal parking in her Ward 9, blocking in residents and not allowing emergency services to access the area properly.

"This is going to wreak havoc on our community," she said. "It is absurd that they would do this without consultation. They're going to need to connect with our sewers (to run the facility). This puts me in a position where I'd say to our mayor, 'Let's not let them flush their toilets.' How else are we supposed to deal with this arrogance?"

CSA chief operating officer Kevan Pipe said he remains hopeful Toronto will help financially. He also admitted not all funding is secure for the facility, which needs to start being built by March 1, 2006 at the latest to ensure it is ready for the world youth soccer championships in July 2007.

"We've got a little ways to go," said Pipe, who has not revealed potential private investors. "We are marching toward that ($55-$60 million) mark."

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., which wants to place a Major League Soccer pro team in the CSA-operated venue, could be a small financial contributor to the stadium.

"(The CSA) will probably need some help," MLSE president/CEO Richard Peddie said. "I don't want to show our hand. It won't be (the bulk of the) $25 million (that MLSE commits), but we can help in many ways."


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