Never has so much fuss been made over some blades of grass.
This week Toronto city council will vote on a proposal by MLSE, owners of Toronto FC, to lay a grass pitch at BMO field.
Having heard the calls from their own players to ditch the plastic pitch and perhaps, tired of seeing big-name talent pass over the city for … ah-hem … greener pastures, MLSE has proposed to front a $5.5-million overhaul of BMO, Lamport stadium and a new pitch in Etobicoke, just to bring in permanent grass for their team.
Problem is, the stadium was built and paid for by taxpayers’ dollars and the funding was contingent on it being made available for community use.
And because you can’t have beer leagues running around on a professional grass pitch 80 hours a week, it’s necessary to find another suitable location for high volume community use.
Let me be clear: I have seen their proposal first-hand, and MLSE is not asking for a cent. It is 100 per cent being paid for out of their pocket.
And with addition of the Etobicoke field, as well as the renovation at Lamport, community use will actually go up.
So, why then, have there been rumblings that this is not a slam dunk to pass?
It seems to be, from the insiders I’ve spoken to, that coming up on an election year certain councillors are feeling hesitant to pass anything that looks even slightly like it’s not in the general taxpayers’ best interest. Toronto’s talk-radio has helped to spread a lot of misinformation on the subject.
David Miller’s announcement he will not seek a third term as mayor Friday also has thrown a wrench in the plans.
Miller, who is a staunch Reds supporter (west-side stands, second deck toward the middle for anyone who’s ever looking), was famously caught on camera last year, looking “refreshed” after a game and promising to bring grass to BMO.
How those loyal to him will vote now that he won’t be around in a year is a question for concern.
What MLSE has going for them is the reality that TFC is now Toronto’s summer sport. The bathrooms at a TFC halftime draw a better attendance than a mid-week Blue Jays game — in a $600-million taxpayer-funded stadium, no less.
Come Wednesday, city council will be weighing whether this move is in the best interest of the city.
MLSE is banking on those councillors not putting their own best interests first.
– Watch Ben Rycroft on the It’s Called Football show every Monday at metronews.ca; email@example.com