Politicians hail soccer stadium

ROB GRANATSTEIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:21 AM ET

Fans at the Grand Prix of Toronto race this weekend will notice a new sight-line obstruction: The city's $62.8-million soccer stadium at Exhibition Place.

Taking advantage of World Cup soccer fever kicking Toronto right now, politicians gathered at the construction site yesterday to pat each other on the back.

The stadium will host the FIFA Under-20 World Cup next July. It's billed as the second-biggest soccer tournament in the world, with a potential TV audience of 600 million.

ON SCHEDULE

Bob Hunter, senior vice-president of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, said the stadium is on time. The south grandstand is well-underway, while the frame of the permanent west grandstand is moving along quickly. It's also on budget, Hunter said.

"We've actually been able to add a few amenities -- a bigger video board, some LED message boards, and an upgraded sound system."

The stadium will be owned by the city and managed by MLSE, which has committed $18 million to the project. MLSE will also field a Major League Soccer team, Toronto FC, at the stadium starting next year.

Hunter said there's huge interest in the naming rights for the stadium from major companies, and a deal should be announced in the fall.

MLSE has guaranteed the city $10 million from the rights to put a corporate name on the stadium. It's also taking any risks for construction cost over-runs.

Toronto has put in $9.8 million plus land; the province added $8 million and Ottawa provided $27 million

The city will get to use the soccer stadium for free for 14 days a year. That time will be devoted to the city's 13 priority neighbourhoods, school groups and other underserved community groups.

COMPETITIVE RATES

Residents will also be able to book the field, and get it at competitive rates.

Mayor David Miller said the stadium will give skilled players a chance to play at home, and that should help Canada get to the World Cup.

"When you look at our under-20 players, we're pretty competitive," Miller said.

He added the bubble covering the field in the winter will be a huge boost, letting players practise year-round.

"This kind of facility was totally absent from the city."


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