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Man United coming to Toronto
January 31, 2010, 6:12 PM
Filed under: BMO Field, Manchester United

Manchester United fans can take their anti-Glazer protests right to the doorstep of their American owners this summer – when the champions tour the US for the first time in five years.

United will play in Chicago, New York and Toronto in July and more destinations will be announced in the coming weeks.

And that will give fans who have reacted with fury to the financial meltdown at Old Trafford the chance to take their protests across the Atlantic.

The Glazer family, who have saddled United with debts of £711million and interest payments of more than £60m a year, also own the Tampa Bay Bucaneers American football team.

United have never visited Florida since being taken over by the Glazer family – but it is unlikely that will happen this summer.

That would be too close to home for the Glazer family who are public enemy number one among United supporters.

Fans groups have already staged protests and called for the Glazers to sell the club and more demonstrations against the American owners are planned.

Many fans have shown their disdain for the Glazers by wearing green and yellow shirts and scarves – the original colours of United when they first formed as Newton Heath in 1878.

The tour is in the final planning stage but it is understood United will also play in Canada for the first time, with Toronto the likely destination.

Source: Click Here

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Smoke’s Poutinerie at BMO Field
January 28, 2010, 4:18 PM
Filed under: BMO Field

Smoke’s Poutinerie has just signed a deal with BMO Field to sell its Toronto brand of poutine in the stadium’s CNE grounds parking lot during the upcoming Toronto FC season’s 40 games.

Toronto is, there’s no point in denying it, a trendy city. Whether it be condos, indie cafes or burger joints, things pop up on our streets in waves. Poutine is one of the latest, and though Poutini’s initially got some of the best reviews (at least partially because it’s close to the Drake, in a neighbourhood where many of the folks who review such thing tend to live, or wish they did), it’s Smoke’s that’s really taking the curds by the horns and going large.

After opening their first location over cult burrito joint Burrito Boyz on Adelaide West, and another on Dundas, Smiths Falls native and former graphic designer Ryan Smolkin is to open a third shop in late March on Queen Street just west of Bathurst.

According to Smoke’s general manager Glenn Mori, the new shop will be about 900 square feet and will seat 15.

The opening will represent as much as a 50 per cent increase in jobs for the company, adding between 10 and 15 positions to the quickly expanding company’s current 30.

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BMO Field Expands by 1,249 seats
January 4, 2010, 6:20 PM
Filed under: BMO Field, Toronto FC

Executive Committee approves 1,249 new seats at BMO Field/National Soccer Stadium at sole cost of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.

This was a bit of a no-brainer (although anyone that has ever had the misfortune of covering municipal council at any level knows that “brain” can often be in short supply there). The seats will be elevated above the beer garden in the north end of the stadium.

Many had hoped that the seats would replace the beer garden, but that was never in the cards. The insistence of everyone at MLSE on calling it the Carlsberg Beer Garden whenever it is referred to should give you a good indication as to why that was.

The problem with the beer garden is that it’s just too tempting of a place for the more casual fans to watch the game from. Or, “watch” as the case may be. That, in turn, makes BMO Field look far emptier than it is (people in the beer garden aren’t in their seats, which, in turn, makes for lots of empty seats). It isn’t a big deal, but it would help for atmosphere if everyone was sitting in the stands instead of hitting on beer girls.

The design of the new section might actually make the beer garden more enticing on cold or wet days, as it might provide some cover on the garden floor. We’ll have to wait to see what exactly it looks like when it’s up and running to be sure.

When It’s Called Football last spoke to Paul Beirne about the expansion, he said that most of the new seats would be held back for sale to the general public as single game tickets. That should, at least, ensure that those sitting in the north end are invested in being there. With the North End Elite to play off of (as well as the visiting supporters on some occasions) it has the potential of being a pretty rowdy section. Hell, it will be on top of a beer garden!

Source: Click Here



Mayor fan of grass for Toronto FC
April 22, 2009, 8:22 AM
Filed under: BMO Field, Mayor David Miller

Mayor David Miller, who has attended Toronto FC soccer games with his family, said today he would like to see the professional football club play on grass instead of turf.

But when the team and the city brokered a deal for BMO Field at Exhibition Place, part of the agreement hinged on community benefits: mainly the installation of a big bubble over the playing field in winter for the use of children and community indoor leagues.

“I’d like to see grass there,” Mr Miller said. “If there’s going to be grass there we have to find another place to bubble in the winter to provide the place for young soccer players to get a good start in Toronto. Part of the goal of this stadium was to increase the quality of soccer in Canada and the accessibility to young people.”

The Mayor said if the bubble is moved, FC can have grass – but he said football club owners Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment would have to foot the bill for both moving of the bubble and the removal of the artificial surface.

“I think there’s a reasonable chance we can get grass but that’s the big hurtle,” he said. “They have a duty to provide that space and it’s understandable. We want young people to have a chance. The stadium should be for every Torontonian, not just the pros.”

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Toronto adding grass for Euro friendly?
April 14, 2009, 7:11 AM
Filed under: BMO Field, Rumor, Toronto FC

Rumor has it TFC is getting ready to announce a summer friendly with a major European team. Part of the deal is said to be a grass field brought into BMO for the game.

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TFC has been a model of profit
April 3, 2009, 7:25 AM
Filed under: BMO Field, Toronto FC

Among the crystal figurines and other soccer-related objects d’art in the founders lounge at BMO Field, a seat cushion designed as a beer cap holds pride of place.

“We don’t want to forget that day,” Paul Beirne, Toronto FC’s senior director of business operations, said with a laugh.

It’s a reminder of their first home win on May 12, 2007, crowned by Danny Dichio’s historic goal, when 20,000 delirious fans began flinging their souvenir stool pads frisbee-style, cluttering the pitch.

“It could’ve been an unfortunate incident,” said Beirne, who had fears the game against Chicago would be halted or that Major League Soccer would be on the horn any second.

“But they were nice and foamy and it was such a spontaneous burst of emotion. That became a benchmark for us in terms of what we wanted to be, going forward.

‘WE’VE BEEN LUCKY’

“I don’t think you could ever write the plan that we’ve executed. We’ve been lucky, we’ve made good decisions and when we made mistakes, they were good mistakes; when we screwed up, it still turned around in our favour. That day just added to our story.”

TFC has indeed led a charmed life heading into the home opener of its third season tomorrow (4 p.m.) against the Seattle Sounders. Positioned among the top three in MLS attendance and general revenues, and second in jersey sales only to the Los Angeles Galaxy and absentee star David Beckham, TFC is the fledgling league’s most dynamic franchise.

Some teams have trouble drawing 14,000 to a game where TFC has that many on its season-ticket waiting list, parked behind 16,000 subscribers in a 20,000-seat soccer-specific stadium — proving again that if it can’t produce winning teams, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. can certainly print money.

But the true measure of TFC’s success has been criss-crossing the great divide of the GTA’s splintered soccer community and coming up with something all factions could support.

“That was certainly a big point of discussion when we started our research,” Beirne said of TFC’s first steps. “It’s where we came up with our ‘All For One’ tag line. We told everyone who would listen that this is not about replacing your love for Arsenal or Liverpool or Madrid or Milan, it’s about the best available soccer in your town. You can enjoy it, your Liverpool friend can enjoy it and he can sit next to your Everton friend and enjoy it, too.”

That was roughly the same approach of the Toronto Blizzard of the North American Soccer League during the 1980s and teams such as the Metros-Croatia and Lynx went down that road before and after the Blizzard. None, however, could pull it off.

“The Blizzard’s biggest games were usually the international friendlies,” Tele- latino Network soccer commentator Alf DeBlasis said. “But there was nothing else to whet the fans’ appetite in between. After the Blizzard, soccer teams would come and go and I think the media became jaded about the chances of a pro team.”

Yet when MLSEL did a post-mortem of the defunct teams, the common thread was that ground-level fan support had not been the big obstacle. The Blizzard had been so attractive at one point that it outgrew 19,000-seat Varsity Stadium and moved to the Ex. But the fake turf and the baseball/football surroundings were a turnoff, especially to an old-world soccer audience.

“It did give us a lot of hope that if done right, we could harness that energy this time,” Beirne said. And time was on TFC’s side when it went hunting for a franchise in 2005.

“Canada is 20 or 25 years more mature now, so the cosmopolitan nature of the city has only become stronger for football,” Beirne said. “Greece had just won (Euro 2004) and Italy was about to win the World Cup. That’s when it became apparent that soccer was still alive and well in Toronto. Each successive club victory in Europe or South America — or any club victory, for that matter — caused some sort of celebration in town. In the World Cup, if the Portuguese were out, they jumped on the back of Brazil and that kind of switching of allegiances happened as the tournament went along.

“The main thing we saw was that they were being vocal about soccer. I think Toronto has grown into the sport, and the people who ended up buying our tickets were the children of those who paid to watch the NASL. We also could offer a nice new stadium in a traditional part of the west end and benefited from hosting the world under-20 tournament, too.”

EXPECTED BATTLE

TFC initially expected something of a battle to sell tickets, figuring much of the target demographic would be the sprawling minor soccer community. But that was before the Red Patch Boys, U-Sector, Tribal Rhythm Nation and Northend Elite emptied that disposable income from their 18-45 age bracket right into TFC’s coffers. In no time, the 2007 expansion season and just about everything since has been sold out.

Fan clubs that had supported the Lynx or other small clubs reformed, new ones sprang up, team songs were composed and instantly turned BMO into a loud and proud house of pain for opponents. Compared with the reserved crowds for the Maple Leafs and Blue Jays, TFC fans reminded the city how much fun a game could be.

“I’d look around the stadium,” said Scarborough-born Dwayne De Rosario of his trips here with the Houston Dynamo, “and say to myself ‘Is this Toronto?’ I almost got into the crowd too much when I played.”

“The atmosphere was the biggest surprise for us,” Beirne said. “We just crossed our fingers and hoped that we could work with the support groups without trying to manufacture something. We were really sensitive about not pushing it, but cultivating it.”

Beirne, who had been with Mirvish Productions, also worked for MLSEL keeping thousands of Leafs and Raptors subscribers happy.

“We gave red scarves to our TFC season seat-holders and attached their first ticket to the scarf. That became our trademark and assured we had a sea of red for every game. And I think every single one of the sweaters we’ve sold shows up at our games, too.”

DeBlasis thinks TFC is now “everyone’s second-favourite soccer team” after their own national or club loyalties.

“I can’t speak for all the ethnic media, but from the view of the Italians there’s a sense of professionalism now that wasn’t there in past teams,” DeBlasis said. “They did it right, they laid down the management structure, hired credible people such as (manager) Mo Johnston, marketed under a single team name with the city prominent in it and made ticketing affordable.

“The feeling is they have to show some results now, but this year, they’ve hung their hat on bringing home a local golden boy in De Rosario, who could work out to be here 10 more years.”

TFC has tried to whittle down the long wait list for subscribers by offering some mini-packages of games. But if it wants to clear a few thousand off the books and is serious about getting more group sales to minor soccer teams, then BMO will have to be enlarged. That’s a thorny issue, with most fans and players liking the cozy confines as is. MLSEL thinks it can put 8,000 seats in, mostly in the south end, without upsetting too many people.

“I don’t know if inevitable is the word for expansion, but it seems a likely next step,” Beirne said. “There is far more demand than supply. Unlike the ACC, where you can’t take the roof off, there’s an easy growth plan here.”

MLSEL originally paid a $10 million expansion fee in 2005, compared with $30 million for the Sounders and a reported $40 million that the Montreal Impact was going to be charged before backing out.

“We got the early-bird special,” MLSEL executive vice-president Tom Anselmi said jokingly.

Now all they have to do is make it work on the pitch.

Source: Click Here



Food review: the new offerings from TFC
April 2, 2009, 9:26 AM
Filed under: BMO Field, Toronto FC

Good stadium food has to meet two main requirements: One, it has to be the kind of food you want to wash down with an ice cold beer, which usually means a meat and carb-rich item. Most sports fans are beer drinkers, and this is how they want to chow down.

Show me the person at the big game hankering for arugula skewers with a nice crisp chardonnay and I will show you someone apt to be beat up in the parking lot after the final buzzer.

Two, good stadium food has to be easy to eat, which in the best-case scenario means you can eat it with one hand. Few people want to have to sit there with their knees together making a little table on which they use a knife and fork to cut their spaghetti. That kind of arrangement is way too messy and awkward when the excitement of a goal causes you to leap to your feet.

But in a city as culturally rich as Toronto, the food at any major sporting event should reflect the city’s range, especially when it comes to a team like the Toronto FC. “We have a very diverse fan base,” says Robert Bartley, executive chef and director of culinary for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.

Today, MLSE held a taste-testing event to reveal the new items that will be on the menu at BMO Field this year. How do the new foods stack up?

Mac n’ Cheese Fritters (pictured at top)
Chef’s description: “Making an old time favorite new again, packed full of flavor with and without smoked bacon, sun-dried tomatoes and cheddar cheese.”
Country of origin: United States.
Originality factor: Mac n’ cheese may not be new, but Mac n’ cheese in a breaded ball deserves top points for solving the conundrum of how to let sports fans eat it with one hand.
Why it scores: The breaded coating makes for a great texture with the smooth and creamy inside.
Reason to red card it: There’s four in a serving, and after putting three balls in your mouth the fourth is bound to taste a little bland.

Crispy chicken curry rolls
Chef’s description: A hand held taste of Mumbai. Seasoned chicken in fragrant curry sauce and Basmati rice, rolled and served crispy, hot and with traditional mango chutney.
Country of origin: India.
Originality factor: Let’s give the people at MLSE points for showing India a little love. You’re not going to get this at a Leafs game.
Why it scores: Packed with rice and served in a thick roti roll, it’ll create solid base for fans that need food to soak up suds.
Reason to red card it: It’s a bit on the dry side. Make sure to load it up with the chutney.

Nathan’s Hot Dog:
Chef’s description: “Today, Nathan’s has gained [a] reputation for being among the highest quality hot dogs in the world.”
Country of origin: United States.
Originality factor: Not much. It’s just a hot dog, after all.
Why it scores: It’s a very good hot dog. The team at MLSE actually tested more than 100 kinds of hot dogs earlier this year, so you know you’ve got the best dog going.
Reason to red card it: You can get a hot dog anywhere. Go for something more out of the ordinary.

Angus Meatball Sandwich
Chef’s description: “Seasoned meatballs in rich tomato sauce, sautéed mushrooms and Provolone cheese.”
Country of origin: Italy.
Originality factor: Minimal.
Why it scores: The tomato sauce is awesome and it’s loaded with cheese.
Reason to red card it: With the exception of a favourite xxxxx, Ye Olde Chip Butty, it’s one of the greasiest menu items.

Chicken and Shiitake Mushroom Sausage
Chef’s description: “With caramelized onions—great for the side line BBQ offering an unique flavour profile.”
Country of origin: Canada.
Originality factor: The chicken and mushroom mix in the sausage makes for a fairly deep flavour profile compared to your ordinary sausage.
Why it scores: The caramelized onions it comes topped with are rich and delicious, and the bun it comes served on is just about perfect.
Reason to red card it: Big bun, large sausage: you might want to avoid this one if you’re not prepared to do some serious mouth breathing.

Grilled Italian Vegetable Ciabatta
Chef’s description: “Grilled and stacked high with melted mozzarella and Tomato Jam.”
Country of origin: Italy.
Originality factor: High. It’s not often sporting events have much in the way of good vegetarian options (peanuts don’t count) and this one will have you screaming “Goaaaaalaaaaa!”
Why it scores: It manages to have all the heft of a burger and the tomato jam it’s served with is mouth-watering. It’s also pretty huge.
Reason to red card it: All that ciabatta bread can make it a little dry.

Source: Click Here