Stadium still on track

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:28 AM ET

A change in the federal government likely won't change plans to build a soccer stadium at Exhibition Place.

That's the opinion of some people connected with the project and eyeing its development said yesterday when contacted by the Toronto Sun following the victory by the Conservative Party in Monday's federal election.

"We're very happy and very delighted," Canadian Soccer Association chief operating officer Kevan Pipe said. "We don't anticipate there will be any difficulties. We think it will be a positive result by the Conservative government."

The proposed $63-million stadium, which is slated to have a seating capacity of 20,000, is scheduled to be ready for the the world under-20 soccer tournament, July 1-22, 2007.

The stadium will be funded by all three levels of government -- $27 million by the federal, $8 million by the province of Ontario and $9.8 million by the city of Toronto, which is also providing the land -- and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. MLSEL, which will manage the stadium, has guaranteed to pay the remaining $18.2 million, some of that through naming rights to the stadium. MLSEL is also picking up any cost overruns.

The project still requires federal Treasury Board approval.

MLSEL executive vice-president Bob Hunter said independent of the governmental change, time is critical.

CAN'T WAIT

"We can't wait," he said. "We're going ahead right now. We can never make that schedule if we sat and waited."

Hunter said as soon as the cabinet is put in place by incoming Prime Minister Stephen Harper, calls will be placed by the CSE and the city of Toronto to the minister whose portfolio covers the stadium project.

Monte Solberg, the finance critic for the Conservatives, was recently quoted as saying if his party is elected it would honour financial commitments for roads and sports-related projects green-lighted by the Liberals.

"In my heart of hearts, I don't think (a change in the government) will change anything," said Strathcona Group/Fieldsports general manager Alan Kasperski, who has been publicly critical of the stadium due to the rushed process by the municipal government.

He sent Solberg an e-mail last week to ask about his party's commitment to the project, but hasn't received a reply.

"I just wanted to see whether there's a way they will reverse (the government's commitment) and whether it deserves the funding," he said. "I don't think it does. I believe in process and doing it the right way."

One opinion expressed is that because the Conservatives did not make any significant gains in Ontario, which is a Liberal stronghold, they wouldn't try to stop the project because it would impact negatively on the party if it hopes to become stronger in the province in the future.


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