New team scores big off the field

DEAN MCNULTY

, Last Updated: 8:14 AM ET

In order to truly gauge the success of Toronto FC's first season in Major League Soccer, one only has to look at the off-the-field highlights.

As of yesterday, the team already had surpassed the 14,000 season tickets it sold in 2007, and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd,. is now all but certain to raise the cap to 16,000 before next year's single-game seats go on sale.

That will leave only slightly more than 4,000 seats available for TFC games and, according to MLSEL's director of the team's business operations Paul Beirne, there are almost 5,000 fans on the waiting list to get tickets.

The 13% hike in ticket prices, one might guess, had no effect on renewals.

"We offered our season-ticket holders the option of buying four more seats for next season and as a result we have more than made up for the small number of fans who did not renew," Beirne said.

BMO expansion

While nothing official has been announced, expect to hear sometime next season that BMO Field will be expanded, probably to 25,000 seats.

Just how much money TFC has poured into MLSEL coffers this year is a closely guarded secret, but one look at the smiling faces of team accountants leaves the impression it was substantial.

Merchandise sales, for example, far outdistanced projections the team had for its inaugural season.

"We were surprised by how the community was so quick to embrace the team as its own," Beirne said. "We made a mistake in thinking we would have more than enough team shirts and other merchandise for the first six months. Within a month, we knew we had vastly underestimated the demand."

With the cash registers humming along at record pace at BMO, it's not a mistake that will be repeated next season.


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