T.O.'s newest playground

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. COO Tom Anselmi announced a partnership with BMO Financial...

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. COO Tom Anselmi announced a partnership with BMO Financial Group, who acquired the naming rights to Toronto's new soccer stadium on Wednesday. (Toronto Sun File/Veroncia Henri)

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:47 AM ET

Someday, there could be a Canadian soccer star worthy of having a new stadium named in his or her honour.

That hoofer might well get his or her start at Toronto's new 20,000-seat soccer facility, which was christened BMO Field yesterday at a press conference on the Exhibition grounds.

BMO Financial Group and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. reached agreement on a 10-year deal for naming rights and sponsorship of both the Toronto FC team in Major League Soccer and various grass roots soccer projects.

Pressed for details on the value of the naming rights, MLSEL chief operating officer Tom Anselmi would not disclose a dollar figure.

"(MLSEL) invested $10 million up front, took all the risks on construction, we took the risk on getting a (partnership) deal with the city of Toronto ... it's a good deal for both BMO and ourselves," Anselmi said.

Construction is set for completion in May of 2007.

Toronto is to be the MSL's 13th team, and the first to have a soccer-specific stadium, though commissioner Don Garber said yesterday he is shooting for many more such stadiums as the league expands toward 16 teams in 2010.

BMO Field also will have a bubble over it in the winter months, adding 150 days a year to its lifespan for community use.

"We've seen a number of good buildings around the league and we're stealing some ideas," Anselmi said.

Garber talked of more friendlies between top European teams and the MLS and Anselmi thinks such contests are a natural fit for Toronto once the stadium is broken in with the FIFA youth tournament next summer.

"No one is lined up yet, but we've discussed some different opportunities," Anselmi said. "(Coach) Mo Johnston might have had a cup of coffee with someone, but a lot of it is done through MLS.

"We want to do a lot of (those exhibitions). We will target it toward what interests the community most; be it Italian, Greek or Portuguese and do it sometime in our opening year."

MLSEL president Richard Peddie said Toronto FC's relationship with the youth soccer culture would work both ways and eventually produce home-grown talent.

"I've also noticed the Leaf players warm up with a soccer ball in the hallway an hour before each game," Peddie added. "Maybe we'll get them down here to play our soccer team."


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