Over the past 6 years, MLS has seen an influx of wildly successful expansion teams. Seattle, Philadelphia, Portland, Vancouver and Montreal have been immensely successful at the gate. Major League Soccer is no doubt hoping for similar success when they move into New York City in 2015. The blueprint for all of these franchises was written north of the border where Toronto F.C. have enjoyed great success at the gate and on television. However, six years into the venture, TFC has yet to have a sniff of playoff action and the locals are getting restless. In a trendy city like Toronto, not being the hot commodity can have a catastrophic impact. TFC suddenly has unexpected competition. With the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL coming off of a Grey Cup victory in 2012 on home soil, and renewed interest and excitement in the Toronto Blue Jays, one must wonder if the honeymoon is over for TFC.
The challenges continue for the Reds, as they are affectionately known. The 2013 season, which was short on expectations to begin with, has been marred with late game collapses that make fans want to pull their hair out. As a result, there is something that feels just a bit off at a TFC game now. The energy that was once there is a bit muted. This should be a signal to the parent company, MLSE, that the on-field product needs to improve quickly.
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The food selections at BMO Field remain fantastic for a Toronto FC game. There are a ton of options and some specialty stands that will sure make you think. All of the expected players are to be found including hot dogs, burgers, fries, popcorn and nachos.
Some of the specialties that you most definitely want to consider can be found at the Real Sports Bar & Grill BBQ Pit. Options here include pulled pork or bbq beef brisket, or awesome barbecue combos like a pulled pork burger or the Triple Threat Sandwich, featuring brisket, pulled pork and Canadian bacon!
The Smoke's Poutinerie truck provides variations of the Canadian masterpiece, poutine. If you are interested in going south of the border (the US-Mexico border, that is) then Taco FC would be your choice providing a variety of tacos and deluxe nachos.
You will also find a wide variety of beers including imported Belgian beers like Stella Artois, Hoegaarden or Leffe. All are very different, and great selections. Budweiser is your choice if you are looking for something a little cheaper and more domestic. Coca-Cola products are what you will be getting for your soft drink choices.
The atmosphere at BMO Field is pretty good for a Toronto FC game. The stadium is one of the leaders as far as MLS soccer facilities goes. The design is simple with aesthetically pleasing features such as a sandstone brick exterior surrounded by wrought iron gates. The seating area is made up of solid plastic bucket seats, which do not provide the most comfort, but are better than sitting on metal benches.
The north end of the pitch features a large videoboard. The west side of the stadium features the luxury boxes and the Toronto FC Wall of Honour featuring the retired numbers of Jim Brennan and Danny Dichio. The east side of the stadium features flags for the Canadian Championships that Toronto FC has won. Although these championships do count as a birth in the CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) championship round, the competition in Canada has not been very significant to date. This has recently changed with the induction of the Vancouver Whitecaps and Montreal Impact into MLS.
Located at Exhibition Place, BMO Field is west of downtown Toronto, proper. The Ex hosts other major events including the Toronto Indy races, the Canadian National Exhibition and the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.
Exhibition Place is just a few kilometres west of major attractions like the CN Tower, the Hockey Hall of Fame, the Rogers Centre and the Air Canada Centre. To the east of Exhibition Place is the shore of Lake Ontario and just across Lakeshore Blvd., is the Molson Amphitheatre concert hall. Also on the grounds of Exhibition Place is Ricoh Coliseum, home of the AHL's Toronto Marlies. The weather can be a bit of an issue at Exhibition Place with a significant wind coming off of the lake, which is not pleasant on cool days.
There are a few locations for a pre or post game meal within a few minutes walk. To the north you will find the Brazen Head Irish Pub or Williams Landing, which are good options. You could also head east towards Front Street where there are a ton of options.
Toronto FC fans have proven to be some of the greatest fans in all of MLS, however years of less than mediocre teams on the pitch has taken its toll on the once rambunctious fan base. There is a little less energy, and more empty seats at Toronto FC games. As of 2013, not one season has seen the Reds challenge for a playoff spot. Toronto being a trendy city makes you wonder if the lustre of the Toronto FC experience is beginning to wear off.
The supporter sections make the whole fan experience tick. The supporters have been less excited lately and seem to be reserving judgement on the future endeavours of TFC. New MLSE CEO, and former Los Angeles Galaxy executive, Tim Leiweke has made some promises for future success on the pitch for TFC. When that happens, the attendance will increase again and the energy at a TFC game will be off the charts.
Getting to Exhibition Place can be a challenge some days, but there are a ton of options. Situated between the Gardiner Expressway and Lakeshore Blvd, Exhibition Place can be easily accessed by car from either the east or west. Make sure you check the news because there are often larger events in this area of Toronto that can close either the Gardiner or Lakeshore and make getting around much more challenging.
Public transit is readily available with the TTC Street Car or GO Train station located right at the Ex. Parking can run you around $15, but the public transit options can be limiting and expensive, so do your homework before heading out.
As of 2013, ticket prices have increased significantly. Tickets now begin around $50 and travel upwards significantly. Paying a $15 tab for parking coupled with concession prices that are not cheap leave the pocketbook much lighter at the end of the day. Also, I find that soccer can be the biggest question mark as far as an on field product. A game with one or two shots on goal does not offer a great return. That being said, you can find some deals for TFC tickets on the secondary market and I have had decent luck with the return. Overall, the return on your investment can be expected to be average.
The Danny Dichio song is sung at every TFC game. At the 23:14 mark of the game the supporters sections begin the Danny Dichio song, who was the first Red ever to score a goal, and it was at the 23:14 mark of that particular game. An extra point is most deserving for this tradition.
An extra mark goes to the die-hards who have stuck with TFC during some pretty lean years.
An extra mark for the fantastic soccer pre-game which features players being brought in with kids. It seems every game does this.
For the first six years, Toronto FC was all the rage in the Ontario Capital. However, the lean years on the pitch are beginning to take their toll on the game experience. It is crucial for MLSE to find a way to put a better product on the pitch or TFC may find its way in to the quagmire of struggling Toronto franchises at the gate. The honeymoon appears to be over. How long will the marriage last?
Follow all of Dave's sporting adventures on Twitter @profan9.
In only its fifth season in Major League Soccer, Toronto FC has taken the crowded Toronto sporting scene by storm. Owned and operated by sports giant Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), Toronto FC has seen unprecedented success at the gate and on television. In what was once thought to be a dead sport in Toronto, life has been recreated, capturing the interest of the vastly international city of Toronto.
Home for the Reds is BMO Field. Owned by the City of Toronto and operated by MLSE, BMO Field is located at Exhibition Place. What is significant about this location is that it is the former site of Exhibition Stadium; the original home of the Toronto Blue Jays. Also serving as the National Soccer Centre, BMO Field is a soccer-specific stadium that has seen such success that in its short lifespan, it has already been expanded by 2,500 seats.
Simply put, Toronto FC has very little history. What it lacks in history, it makes up for with some of the greatest fans in sports today!
165 E Liberty St
Toronto, ON M6K 3K4
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