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Official Review by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
In January of 2014, new Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke made a huge splash on the North American Soccer scene. In a crowded sports market, the soccer team that was teetering on falling to the forgotten side of the local consciousness was given a much needed shot in the arm. Toronto FC signed former English Premier players Michael Bradley and Jermain Defoe. Toronto followed that with a loan agreement to get Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar. These moves led to their very successful ad campaign claiming that Toronto FC was now "A Bloody Big Deal."
It was just the previous season that we at Stadium Journey asked if the honeymoon was over for Toronto FC. Going into their 8th year, Toronto FC had not yet made the playoffs and truthfully have not even come close with an 11th place finish as the high water mark. Tim Leiweke needed to re-energize the local fans as attendance was dipping below 20,000 on average. The beginning of the 2014 season has shown that Toronto FC has made a solid investment in their new players, with the team getting out to their best start in their team history. There is also excitement about a planned expansion of BMO Field that could possibly include a new home for the CFL's Toronto Argonauts. Overall, the injection of life into Toronto FC has made it a bloody big deal, indeed!
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Food options are good at BMO Field. There are many options at the main concession stands that are on the west side of the field as well as a few specialty stands that are around the stadium and on the field level. Highlights at BMO include the highlights that are found around Toronto and in the Air Canada Centre. Smoke's Poutinerie is a must for all, especially those visiting who have never had the privilege of indulging in what could be Canada's most popular dish.
The Real Sports BBQ Pit also serves up some excellent BBQ options. Pizza Pizza has a strong presence in BMO and serves up slices at $5 a pop. There are also a couple of different types of Nathan's hot dogs, including a foot long and a cheese and bacon foot long.
Budweiser is on tap and is the main beer presence with a tall can going for $9.75. Other craft beers can be found throughout the stadium as well. Coca-Cola products can be found throughout at $4.25 for a bottle.
BMO Field is located at Exhibition Place which is just north of the shores of Lake Ontario. Weather can be a real issue at Exhibition Place, and was one of the big reasons that the Blue Jays abandoned Exhibition Stadium for the greener pastures of the Rogers Centre. As a result, MLSE has approved over $100,000 in upgrades to expand the stadium and add some protection for the fans from the weather.
BMO Field is fairly non-descript and simple, with nice wrought-iron fencing around the stadium. The pitch is situated from north to south with a single level grandstand on the east side and 2 decks of seating with luxury boxes and media on the west side. The stands are made of the simple steel and aluminium that many bleachers are made of, and can produce that thunderous noise when the fans want to stomp around. The seats are plastic buckets and not the greatest.
The west side of the grandstands feature the retired kits of Jim Brennan and Danny Dichio. Brennan was the first ever player for Toronto FC and captain for a number of seasons. He was the first Canadian to score a goal for the team as well. Dichio was the first player to score for Toronto FC as well as receiving the first red-card. The east side features flags for the Canadian Championships that Toronto FC has won from 2009 to 2012. These championships have given TFC births in the CONCACAF Champions League.
The north end of the stadium features a good videoboard, while the south end of the stadium is home to the supporter groups of Toronto FC.
BMO Field is located at Exhibition Place which is also growing. It is the home of the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE), Toronto Indy and Ricoh Coliseum. A new hotel will be on the grounds, ready for the 2015 Pan-Am Games, which has a couple of events being hosted at BMO Field. Exhibition Place is just steps away from the Lakeshore, and blocks away from the beaches of Toronto.
If you head a little further east, you will find the more well-known downtown Toronto which features the CN Tower, Hockey Hall of Fame, Air Canada Centre and Rogers Centre. There are a ridiculously massive number of eating spots and night spots downtown, especially on Front Street between the Dome and ACC. You could head a few minutes north of Exhibition Place by foot to find a couple smaller spots like the Brazen Head Irish Pub and Williams Landing.
Toronto FC fans have become almost legendary. The supporter groups of TFC especially the Red Patch Boys add entertainment and passion to a TFC game that other clubs wish they could lay claim to. The supporters patron the south end of the stadium and sing and chant throughout the match. The fans have stuck with TFC through their existence, which has not been great.
After a bit of a dip in 2013, the fans of the Reds are coming back in droves with the additions of their high-priced talent in 2014. They are averaging 22,500 fans per match, which is second in the MLS behind only the massively huge fan base of the Seattle Sounders. The support that the fans have brought Toronto FC has played a large part in the investment MLSE is putting into both Toronto FC and BMO Field.
You should make sure you do your research when heading to a Toronto FC match. In downtown Toronto, events or construction to either Lakeshore Blvd. or the Gardiner Expressway can easily change what you may think should be a quick trip into a long, dull adventure. There is plenty of parking at Exhibition Place, but again make sure you are doing your homework. Events at either Ontario Place or Exhibition Place will make parking more of a premium.
There are numerous forms of public transit available including TTC Street Cars or the GO Train. Again, do your homework as transit options may not be cheap either, and depending on the number in your party, could cost you more than the $15 in parking.
Toronto FC tickets are not necessarily cheap. Tickets in the supporter section will go for at least $25 and increase to up to $130. Dynamic pricing can make tickets even more expensive than you would expect. Make sure that you shop around for a deal, even on the secondary market. Parking is a not cheap at $15 and concessions are on the more expensive side. The management has done a good job of attempting to increase the return on the investment, but the team has been pretty up and down in 2014 and a more consistent product on the pitch is necessary to improve the ROI.
An extra mark for the Danny Dichio song which is belted out by the supporters at the 23:14 mark of each match. It was at this time that Danny Dichio scored the first ever goal for Toronto FC.
An extra mark goes to MLSE for committing to Toronto FC and making a huge investment in both the team and the stadium.
An extra mark is awarded for the distinct possibility of a doubleheader. Depending on the time of year, a Toronto FC doubleheader may be a real possibility to be combined with Toronto Blue Jays, Maple Leafs, Marlies, Raptors or Argonauts games.
The Bloody Big Deal in Toronto has bore some fruit and bloomed into a huge investment in soccer in Ontario's Capital. The recent announcement that MLSE CEO Tim Leiweke will be departing by the end of 2015 has put a bit of a cloud over Toronto FC, but their push for their first playoff berth continues and it seems that the team has cemented its place in the Toronto sports lexicon.
Follow all of Dave's sporting adventures on Twitter @profan9
Member Review by 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!
Member Review by profan9 on Jul 30, 2013
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.
165 E Liberty St
Toronto, ON M6K 3K4
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