Toronto is getting ready to host the first outdoor Grey Cup in the city in decades at the newly renovated BMO Field, now that the countdown to the 104th Grey Cup Festival has begun.
The four-day event is nine weeks away. It begins Nov. 24 and runs until the Sunday championship game.
Toronto Argonauts senior vice-president of business operation Sara Moore, COO of the 2016 Grey Cup Festival, unveiled plans for the weekend on Thursday with the help of Eleanor McMahon, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, and city councillors Norm Kelly and Mark Grimes.
“From my perspective, the uniqueness of this championship game is that it’s the only championship experience that will enable Torontonians to meet a wide spectrum of fellow Canadians,” Kelly said.
“This game is where Canadians gather, not only to party, but to talk with each other and get a flavour, a sense, of what makes this country different from our southern neighbours and an exciting place in which to live.”
The festival will take place mostly along Bremner Blvd. and the downtown Roundhouse Park, where an outdoor concert stage will be set up, along with an outdoor food and drinks lodge and a food-truck alley. The stage will feature Canadian acts, according to Moore, who made no mention of specifics as to who will perform.
A new feature this year will be a luncheon aimed at empowering women through sport.
“The summit will not only celebrate the important role women play in the Canadian sports industry, but also the vital importance of keeping girls in sports so they can become leaders in the future across all industries,” Moore said.
Inside the south building of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, fans will find team parties, the TSN SportsCentre desk, where young broadcasters-to-be can try their hand at the trade, and a CFL megastore. The convention centre will also host the annual CFL alumni legends luncheon and autograph stations.
Ripley’s Aquarium will play host to the Friday night Grey Cup gala, and, on Sunday, the party moves to Exhibition Pace and BMO Field, where “Canada’s largest tailgate party” will take over the Ontario Place parking lot.
Kelly said the Grey Cup festivities are expected to bring in more than $100 million to the city, which last hosted the game in 2012.
This time, however, it will be outdoors, since the Argonauts moved from Rogers Centre to BMO Field for this season.
“I love the outdoor Grey Cups. I’ve been to quite a few now and there’s something more exciting about it,” Moore said. “It’s dark, the lights are on, you can see the breath coming out of the players when they’re on the field.”
McMahon joked that, in football, Canadians “do in three tries what our neighbours to the south need four to do.
“The Grey Cup has a unique ability to rally Canadians in celebration,” she said. “It’s a boon for our economy and for jobs right here in Toronto and in our province.”
Organizers didn’t discuss ticket sales for the game itself, about which some have expressed concern due to the game’s pricing levels.
As part of the festivities in Roundhouse Park, a giant “#GreyCup” sign has also been set up, much to the delight of Kelly.
“This, the city had learned, is a good way of capturing the attention of the public,” he said, referring similarly to the sizable Toronto sign at city hall.
Kelly said the Grey Cup sign will be activated through Twitter.
“You don’t get any more modern or up-to-date or cool than that,” he said.
– Toronto Star