A World Cup in Toronto is an “irresistible” opportunity if you ask Mayor John Tory, who said that Torontonians are just as enthusiastic about the possibility.
“I think if you ask the taxpayers . . . they’d rather have the money go to that than anything else we do,” Tory said in a telephone interview Sunday.
Canada is in the midst of a three-country bid for the 2026 World Cup, along with the United States and Mexico. The winner will be picked in June and if the North American countries get the tournament, Canada will host 10 games.
Toronto will compete with Edmonton, Montreal and Vancouver for three to five of those games. The host cities will be selected in 2021.
A report from the City of Toronto says the World Cup would bring “substantial economic and global media impacts” with “very limited financial and other risks.” the report says that the city would have to get the federal and provincial governments to share costs with them if they were to go ahead with a bid.
“I’m particularly confident in the case of the federal government because it’s a national bid,” said Tory.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be a part of what I think is the greatest sporting event on Earth at a very limited cost.”
Tory is confident the city would benefit. “I don’t know why anybody would say ‘don’t do this,’ ” he said.
“The investment is very modest, for what I think will be a very significant return.”
That investment is estimated to be between $30 to $45 million, but none of that money will go toward a new stadium.
“We’re not going to build a new stadium, we’re going to put additional seating in BMO Field,” Tory said.
BMO Field has added extra seats before, for events such as the Grey Cup and the NHL Centennial Classic, which expands capacity to just more than 40,000. That capacity is dwarfed by many stadiums in other Canadian cities hoping to host games, like BC Place in Vancouver, Olympic Stadium in Montreal and Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton.
The Rogers Centre, which has about 10,000 more seats than an expanded BMO Field, would not be used if Toronto won its bid.
However, Tory is in favour of more soccer fields being built in the city.
“We are still quite short of really high quality soccer pitches in the GTA generally, not just in Toronto,” he said.
“In order to put on the World Cup, you need not just a place for the games but you need practice facilities for the teams, and I’m very hopeful this will stimulate, on a private-public partnership basis, the construction of additional facilities.”
With new fields will come new ways to get around the city, and Tory says that Toronto’s transit system will be able to accommodate an influx of thousands of World Cup fans by 2026.
“A lot of the transit we have underway today will actually be completed and in service if we can just keep at it,” he said.