As a Toronto native, I can tell you that there’s quite a divide in this city in regard to what the citizens think of new mayor Rob Ford. But Ford and his brother Doug (a city councillor) are definitely scoring points with the city’s NFL fans. At least the ones who want to see Toronto land its own NFL franchise in the not-too-distant future.
Two years ago, while addressing the media at Super Bowl XLIV in South Florida, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell spoke of Toronto having “a stadium issue that has to be addressed.”
The Fords, who are very involved with high school football in the Greater Toronto Area, have a desire to address that issue. Councillor Doug told the Globe and Mail Friday that he envisions a waterfront stadium in the city’s future:
Mr. Ford stresses that the Portlands stadium complex is still only an idea. “This is just Doug Ford’s opinion,” he said, and “this is not in concrete.” If Toronto were to get a National Football League franchise, something he admits might be a “pipedream” in the end, a stadium could go to Woodbine, Downsview or Exhibition Place instead.
But he said that, despite his Etobicoke roots, he prefers a downtown stadium site, and the Portlands district on the eastern side of Toronto harbour has many advantages. He says the area of 400 acres has huge tracts for development and big patches of parkland, too.
“Make that a green area – bicycling, beaches – and then make massive retail outlets, but not just the regular retail. I’m talking the Nordstrom, the Macy’s, the Guccis. Something different.”
Building on the site of the massive Hearn plant on Unwin Avenue would save $120-million because the stadium could reuse its foundation, he says. “It goes right down to bedrock.”
Those savings are significant, and with Rogers Centre turning 22 this summer the city of Toronto should consider a long-term replacement at some point in the next five or 10 years. A new venue on the waterfront would boost that entire area, and it would also presumably give the CFL’s Argonauts a new home.
The key — as always — is where the money would come from. Ford claims the venue would pay for itself “through the private sector,” and that’s completely necessary in Ontario, where it’s very difficult to get public money for projects like these.