To those that question Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment’s willingness to spend money I offer Exhibit ‘A’.

Earlier on Monday Toronto FC made the long awaited announcement that confirmed that they will be spending upwards of $20 million of their own funds (no City, Provincial or Federal government monies are involved) to build a Training facility that will rival anything in Canada and for that matter in all of Major League Soccer.

The location chosen is Downsview Park in North York and it will be accessible from downtown via the subway. Ground is being broken next month and the scheduled opening date for the facility is May of next year. Virtually all of TFC’s training and of course Academy activities will be headquartered there. The scope of the facility (six training fields, a goaltender practice pitch, a year round indoor facility and a field house) will allow the scope of the Academy to be greatly expanded in order to allow younger players than ever to join the club and hopefully prosper.

TFC AcademyWhen the history of this fifth season for TFC is written, no matter how things turn out on the field, this day will be looked back upon as arguably the biggest day of the year.

The club has taken this tangible step (and $20 million is definitely “tangible” is it not?) to firmly establish the Academy hopefully as the premier destination for talented young players in Ontario that TFC supporters want it to become. Having a facility like this also makes the club more attractive in the future to professionals who might now consider signing/playing here once they see the scope of the club and the quality of its amenities when previously they would not.

The decision to build this facility within city limits is I think also a smart move for obvious reasons of proximity and increased visibility within this market. There were reportedly up to ten locations proposed for this facility and I would guess that a significant portion of those ten were for locations outside of Toronto.

Finally I think this significant expenditure ($20 million plus annual rent to Downsview Park and maintenance/upkeep) is another example that shows that the club is committed to the dual goals of both producing their own players and producing players that are fully versed in both the culture of the club and the style of play that the club wants to play. Doing this does not come cheap.

And to perhaps put this expenditure into some sort of context think about these examples. TFC’s expansion fee was $15 million dollars  in 2006. MLSE’s original financial share of building BMO Field and securing the naming rights to the stadium cost $18 million. And the expenditure on the training facility is roughly eight times the annual MLS salary cap of roughly $2.5 million.

Well done TFC. It is encouraging to see you put your money where your mouth is.


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