BMO Field to get new grass surface this summer, with more to come

Neil Davidson, Canadian Press

BMO Field, forced into action in February because of the CONCACAF Champions league, is getting a new grass surface this summer.

And the plan is to lay a new surface at the end of the year from now on.

Toronto FC is taking advantage of a break in the MLS schedule in June, due in part to the World Cup, to lay down the new grass. The league champion hosts FC Dallas on May 25, plays the next three games on the road and doesn’t return home again until July 1 when the New York Red Bulls come to town.

The CFL Argos’ first home game is June 23 against Calgary.

Bill Manning, president of both Toronto FC and the Argonauts, said given the 2018 home season started Feb. 27 with a round-of-16 CONCACAF Champions League match, the timing wasn’t right to lay the new surface earlier.

Winter and the early start have taken a toll on the existing turf, which looked ugly for last week’s game against Mexican champion Tigres.

“Probably the worst it’s been in the history of BMO Field,” said Manning.

With the opening in the schedule and the fact that TFC has a spare field in Hamilton because it did not resod in 2017, the time was right to replace the grass this summer.

“We just knew that we’d want a fresh surface before the Argos got there so that we could make our way all the way to the playoffs and not have field issues,” said head groundskeeper Robert Heggie.

When it comes to the grass, TFC has been a victim of its own success.

“The problem is when you do so well, you start in February and you go until December. Neither of which are ideal for natural grass surfaces,” said Heggie.

In prepping the surface for those playoff games, Heggie’s groundskeeping crew is essentially going against nature.

“And when you’ve given them that perfect surface or as close as you can to a perfect surface Dec. 9, you’re increasing your chances of problems through the winter because you’re throwing off the natural processes.”

Going forward, the plan is to rip out the field at the end of each season, let the soil temperature drop and then bring in a dormant field and let it sit all winter before initiating growth in late January to get it ready for February.

That reduces winter damage “because it went to bed properly,” said Heggie.

“You can’t fool the existing plant into going to sleep quick enough. So the only way we can do it is bring in a plant that’s already sleeping,” he added

Even though BMO Field has underground heating, inflatable cover and grow-lamps, that isn’t enough to preserve grass in the depth of a Toronto winter.

In Heggie’s words, “You’ve got this plant that’s just stressing out underneath the tarp the whole time.”

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51 Comments on BMO Field to get new grass surface this summer, with more to come

  1. Rocky Mountain High // March 13, 2018 at 4:24 pm //

    Nice new grass is great, but what really needs addressed for the Argos is that area of artificial turf in the end zone. That transition point between the 2 surfaces is a hazard.

    • Very good point, the footing on the artificial turf portion of the field is horrendous with many players slipping on it last season.

  2. Doug Mc Clintock // March 13, 2018 at 4:28 pm //

    I think it is time to go artificial, everybody else has it so what is the big deal ? Are you trying to prove that real grass is the only way to play your games………..not with our winter climate !

    • I think it’s time to go natural in the end zones too and get back to grass fields without all the ugly ads displayed on the surface. If over half the NFL teams can do it(including northern teams like the Bears & Browns), then so can the rest of Canada. There is little about the NFL I prefer over the CFL, but this is one area they do better.

    • Both the Argos and the soccer team would prefer grass. I agree the end-zone should be grass too, but apparently that’s just got concrete under it, without the irrigation heating etc., so it would be a more major reno.

    • NO – REAL grass is a throwback it’s how football was meant to be played on.
      It doesn’t matter about our winter climate since the field at BMO is heated.
      Every city should have real grass heated under field and we can enjoy soccer and football as it was meant to be played.

      • Cal Gary Shampeders // March 14, 2018 at 5:44 pm //

        Football was meant to be played on a heated field???

        How did Canadian football survive the first 150 years?

  3. Bob Loblaw // March 13, 2018 at 4:50 pm //

    BMO Field is primarily a soccer stadium first. Leave the natural grass. You put artificial turf in there and it will be the death of the soccer team. TFC will not be able to attract international players to come for them with an artificial turf at BMO.

    • Yup soccer fans are picky about their fields that’s for sure. Of course it would be nice if they engineered a way for the turf section in the endzone to be consistent with the rest of the surface. Maybe a moving slab to put in grass for endzones kind of like what the Arizona Cardinals do for their entire field to accommodate moving stands in the ends?

      • Rocky Mountain High // March 13, 2018 at 5:44 pm //

        That sounds expensive!!

        • The truth is that I think it’s ok to have turf endzones. But they should fully commit and not have one endzone be a half and half. I’m sure that on game day it should be ok to put turf over the grass at that one end of the field. Then they could have a blue endzone with a big Argo logo. At the end of the game they could roll it up and leave the original grass.

          • Cal Gary Shampeders // March 14, 2018 at 5:47 pm //

            The truth is that it is a serious injury waiting to happen. What a joke the CFL in Toronto is these days. They used to sell out the Sky Dome. Now they can’t get 10K in paying customs to a small soccer stadium with dangerous end zones. Just contract the franchise already or move it to Saskatoon where they will play in front of more fans on a better field.

  4. Rocky Mountain High // March 13, 2018 at 5:47 pm //

    I thought FIFA has decided to allow certain field turfs to be used in competition now

  5. Lord knows those soccer players need nice fluffy grass to flop about and roll around on trying to draw penalties.

    • Billinburlington // March 13, 2018 at 9:51 pm //

      LOL. Good one Yup / Dave Hester.

      However, how many times have CFL players gone down during an extended drive by the opposition in an effort to give the defence a break and stall the drive. Happens all the time. Same with baseball with frequent and time consuming visits to the mound.

      I appreciate the commentary about soccer field requirements… now understand what will happen at Tim Hortons Field when soccer arrives.

      • Valid point Bill. Thanks for the insight Brian, was not aware of that requirement. Often wonder how many injuries occur as a result of turf vs grass regardless of footwear.

    • So true…they look like they got hit by a sniper……as there usually isn’t anyone with ten feet of them when they finally fall…..then flail away for ten minutes of an already boring enough spectacle……until the medic comes out with the “magic shin spray”…..and miraculously back onto his feet….what courage!
      Almost like a slotback over the middle…..NOT

      • Magic shin spray haha – classic JC. Do you know if they have any magic back spray in their bag….I could sure use some of that most days

  6. Bottom line – Argos got to put people in the stands , the perception is an embarrassment

  7. For those who don’t know FIFA Football requires grass surfaces for international competition including clubs in one country against clubs in another. Since TFC plays Mexican and other Central American clubs as a part of the Central and North American Champions league they MUST have grass. So the comments above of people saying to just go back to artificial don’t know that. The MLS is ok with its clubs playing each other on artificial but the Mexican clubs are not and FIFA takes their side on that issue.

    • No, FIFA does not require grass fields. They require grass or FIFA certified artificial turf (such as used at BC Place). Both the Whitecaps and the Impact have gone deep into the CONCACAF Champions League playing home games on FIFA approved artificial turf. The last WWC was played largely on FIFA approved artificial turf. And, while all LigaMX teams still play on grass, artificial turf is common in the two levels beneath them. Where did you get this nonsense?

      There is a legitimate argument that elite football players prefer grass and it is harder to recruit for clubs that play on artificial turf but that is becoming less prominent. And, it is only a matter of time before a major EPL, La Liga, or Bundesliga club makes the change to artificial turf and that will end any issue.

      • Grass is still the way to go.
        The EPL, or any other soccer league will NEVER convert to artifical field turf, the ball just doesn’t roll the same way on that artificial stuff.
        WHY are NFL team switching to real grass? because it’s a better turf less injuries.
        ALL the new NFL stadiums are converting to real grass.
        That turf at BMO is pristine and has been in constant use by soccer, rugby and football for a couple of years.
        Check out the NFL stadiums that have real grass, they have dropped field turf and they have fewer injuries.

    • Rocky Mountain High // March 13, 2018 at 9:24 pm //

      Thanks for that info Brian

    • FIFA will never approve a World Cup or a Euro tournament on artifical turf.
      Real grass only.
      It’s funny that everyone ignores the fact that there are EIGHT NFL teams playing on natural grass and new stadiums are installing similar systems to BMO – underheating

  8. So what about the Argos pre-season home game vs Ottawa that has yet to be scheduled?

  9. Edward Leslie // March 13, 2018 at 11:43 pm //

    Tearing out the grass after every season and trying to grow an all new grass field in wintertime is the plan. Uh huh… well that plan is C-R-A-Z-Y!
    The obvious solution is a choice of two things: Go with field turf or have the MLS shorten it’s interminably long season.

    • It happens all the time in soccer stadiums around the world AND NFL stadiums.
      The grass doesn’t last forever and must be resoded and seeded.
      The field is under field heated.
      WHY go for field turf when NFL stadiums are doing the same thing as Toronto. Check out Pittsburgh and Green Bay, both have real grass too!!

  10. Mhlintheshwa // March 14, 2018 at 4:42 am //

    Guys, a half endzome of turf isn’t going to kill CFL players. The footing is fine and no players have made an issue of it. The guys will always prefer grass .

    What is the issue with letting MLSE do what they are going to do? You guys are not paying for it, and if it keeps the likes of Giovanco here and the FC guys winning, I am good with it. Two teams, two Championships, one year. Can’t we all get along?

    • Also the fact that many NFL teams are on grass.
      Pittsburgh and Green Bay both have the real grass with the under field heating.
      It’s the new trend, get away from this artificial turf and go back to real grass and how the game should be played.

    • The problem is that many CFL fans are older, they don’t like change and they only want to understand one sport.
      They are also jealous that TFC can fill a stadium on a Wednesday night in the middle of winter but the Argos will only fill half the stadium on a warm Saturday afternoon in the summer.

      • Not sure it’s change they don’t like…..maybe it’s crappy third tier kickball they are not fond of….I know…..very un-pc right?

      • Robert Shmigelsky // March 14, 2018 at 1:02 pm //

        Most older CFL fans don’t even know TFC exists. I mentioned red patch boys one day to my dad, and he was like, “What’s that?”
        Saying CFL fans are jealous of TFC is an overstatement. It’s only the ones who know how to use the internet that are aware the soccer club even exists. And quite frankly, I think they wouldn’t even care it existed if it wasn’t for all the self entitlement issues going on right now.

  11. Kickball fans are such an insufferable lot! Whiny beta males supporting cut rate competition. If your gonna roll over for the “world’s game”…..shouldn’t it at least be for the WC or one of the top flight Euro leagues? MLS is garbage….not even as good as the old NASL……
    The only good soccer players are kickers!

    • The MLS sent 28 players to the last two world Cups. Top Euro and south americans are playing in the MLS.
      The Euro teams that visit North America are having a hard time playing MLS teams.
      Sorry JC you are just wrong.

      Besides what’s the big deal about a grass field? Do you know that there are at least 15 NFL teams with grass.

      • I have no problem with grass….was meant to be more of an anti kickball first rant. And I stand by my statement…..top flight Euro teams are hardly having any competition issues with MLS teams….I don’t know that much about soccer…..but even Pele couldn’t defend that crazy overstatement? Touring teams often send their scrubs…..and if those top euros and sams….we’re really top…..they’d be in Europe where the best talent plays for top $……sorta like the best Canadian football players are in the NFL.

  12. BMTNON37 // March 14, 2018 at 9:08 am //

    Anyone see that match in Mexico last night? Mexican league must be garbage too.

    • You watch Mexican soccer?
      Lots of Mexicans watch it. The problem is that the best Mexican players are playing in the MLS. Not much money in the Mexican league.

    • I am sure it is….likely dangerous as well…….aren’t these the aholes that throw batteries at foreign teams trying to qualify for the WC?

  13. Many NFL teams have real grass too.
    The problem with the CFL is our field with the end zones is too long. Why not cut the length of the field and we won’t have a problem at BMO and all other CFL cities. We can fit soccer and football and have seats right up to the end of the 10 yard end zones just like the NF

  14. Edward Leslie // March 14, 2018 at 10:06 am //

    Joe, the league that should change the field dimensions is Soccer. The bigger than NFL field actually helps add more excitement in the CFL by opening things up, but the huge field hurts soccer. If the MLS made the field twenty yards shorter MAYBE less than 50 percent of the games wouldn’t be 1- nil snoozefests.
    And as for the MLS inexplicable popularity in a handful of cities, I put it down to being trendy.
    Hey, New Kids on the Block and N’Sync were huge for a few years too.

    • Yeah, the team that draws 30k should conform their field dimensions to the team that draws 13k over half as many games. Makes total sense.

  15. NFL teams with REAL grass, it’s a new trend and more teams ditching the artificial turf:

    Arrowhead Stadium. Kansas City Chiefs.
    Bank of America Stadium. Carolina Panthers.
    EverBank Field. Jacksonville Jaguars.
    FedEx Field. Washington Redskins.
    FirstEnergy Stadium. Cleveland Browns.
    Heinz Field. Pittsburgh Steelers.
    Lambeau Field. Green Bay Packers.
    Levi’s Stadium. San Francisco 49ers.

    I too would love to see more CFL stadiums going back to real grass for football an soccer. The ball just doesn’t bounce or roll the same on artificial and of course it’s easier on the joints on real grass.

    • That’s right. Most of the critics cry foul when they hear that real grass must be replaced for soccer at BMO and that maybe a CFL team must play on real grass. They have no idea that 8 NFL teams are playing on real grass too.
      The Argos had the lowest injury rate last season, I wonder why?

  16. Edward Leslie // March 14, 2018 at 10:56 am //

    BMTNON37:
    Since my suggestion is to make the MLS pitch smaller, this wouldn’t really affect the other kind of football. The Soccer would just use a smaller portion of the field.
    Forget about the 30,000 people for a moment. They are mostly just fad seekers or foreign born residents. The TV ratings for MLS, as everybody knows, is much much less than the CFL.
    Soccer simply will never catch on big in North America because IT’S TOO DULL and THERE ISN’T ENOUGH GOAL SCORING. A smaller North American regulation field might change that.

    • You need to address CFL attendance in Toronto – never mind “fad seekers or foreign born residents”. Lets hear some tangible concrete suggestions rather than abstract political views and a 1991 mentality.

  17. Edward Leslie // March 14, 2018 at 3:53 pm //

    Hey, 1991 was a good year. No MLS or NBA for the Argos to compete with.
    And actually, I think it’s Randy Ambrosie’s job to fix the Toronto situation, not mine.

  18. HenleyFan // March 14, 2018 at 10:05 pm //

    I’d love to see the CFL open a discussion about field dimensions (and goalpost position) while they’re discussing the length of the season. A hundred years field with term yard end zones wouldn’t feel as constrictive as it does in the NFL if the width of the field remained the same. Pushing the goalposts to the back of the end zone would encourage more third down gambles, which everybody loves. This could help alleviate the problem at BMO field but also bring the football crowds closer in every stadium.

  19. HenleyFan // March 14, 2018 at 10:08 pm //

    *hundred yard field
    *ten yard end zone
    Sorry, typing with one finger with my elbow in a sling!

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