Tuesday September 23rd, 2014

The term "soccer-specific stadium" sure meant something far different in Toronto around 2007 than it does now, and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment will spend $105 million to modernize the definition.

The owners of Toronto FC’s BMO Field kicked off its expansion project Tuesday, starting an initial phase that includes a new second level of seating on the east side to bring capacity to about 30,000 by May 2015, up from roughly 22,500 currently able to pack into the MLS venue.

Courtesy of Toronto FC

The second phase’s big-ticket item includes turning BMO Field from the look of a majestic high school football stadium into a European-style soccer venue with a “full-size canopy,” as the club and architect Gensler dub it, covering all seats except those in the north grandstand. Expect the covering in place by May 2016.

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Along with the 8,400 new seats in a new second level on the east side, BMO Field will also get 12 new executive suites, two party suites, a loge box, a new full-service kitchen, two new private clubs, a larger HD videoboard to replace the existing north-end board and a new second-level concourse on the south end to create a continuous concourse.

The second phase incorporates new sound and lighting systems to match the fresh roof.

Courtesy of Toronto FC

BMO Field, Canada’s first soccer-specific stadium, opened in 2007 with a Brisbin Brooks Beynon Architects’ design and as Canada’s National Soccer Stadium installed a natural grass pitch in 2010. The latest effort will see MLSE fund all but $10 million of the two-phase renovation.

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A potential third-phase, one that is yet unfunded and has created discussion between the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts about the football team moving into the venue after its Rogers Centre lease expires following the 2017 season, could potentially redo the north end stand and add a roof there too.

In Toronto, soccer-specific may eventually make room for football.

Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.

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