Real grass a hit at BMO

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 1:35 PM ET

For soccer purists, the scene at BMO Field Wednesday was idyllic; real green grass, cascading sprinklers and plenty of sunshine.

Too bad it won't last beyond tomorrow night's friendly between Toronto FC and Real Madrid and a Saturday pro lacrosse game. The $250,000 natural turf, a cost picked up mostly by the promotion company for the Spanish soccer giants, will be pulled up and discarded by Sunday.

But compared to the FieldTurf system that most local soccer people have condemned, the four-inch thick sod was a welcome sight, if only for 72 hours. A small army of workers from a local company called NGF that specializes in golf course layout, was more than half finished by noon, with Real scheduled for an open practice Thursday night.

"We're confident they'll find this very suitable to play on," said Bob Hunter, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd.'s executive vice-president for venues.

Nothing other than politics can stop the installation of real grass at BMO by 2011.

"The problem again is we can't permanently install grass in this facility until we have the approval of our partners in the building," Hunter said of the City of Toronto and the board of governors of Exhibition Place. "A few of our own players have been very vocal about it. Given the option, they would far prefer grass, make the game as authentic as it can be.

"We hope it's in for next year, more likely it's the year after. This is a 10-day solution to reflect the quality of the team we're playing.”

MLSEL's building permit at BMO requires it to allow community groups to use the facility when not occupied by Toronto FC or the Canadian Soccer Association. Converting to real grass means finding a new all-weather locale for public use.

Hopes for city approval to approve the turf change at a council meeting in early October could be delayed by matters pertaining to the long civic workers strike. Hunter noted the FieldTurf is getting in rough shape because of the constant use of all BMO tenants and might have to be resurfaced with the latest technology for at least the 2010 MLS season.


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