Predictably the mayor's office was quick to qualify the statement yesterday.
Posting on the Red Patch message board, Mayor’s office flack Stuart Green—the “other guy in the video”--made sure it was understood that Miller wasn’t marching down Dufferin with sod in his hand today. In case we didn’t understand, there were other parties involved.
“Hold up, y'all....this grass thing is on the wish list for next season. You all are savvy enough about the ways of the stadium to know it's not our call. We'd all love to see grass next season...but it's just not as simple as all that. (The) Mayor was expressing a similar desire to all of us on here but the terms of the stadium construction and the Letter of Intent specify turf so keep that in mind...”
For those new to this discussion, what Green is referencing is the requirement for “year round community use” that was attached to the building of the stadium. Since it’s difficult to grow grass in Toronto in February, that pretty much means FieldTurf is required.
If MLSE wants grass in the stadium—and it seems like they do. Tom Anselmi said just that on Prime Time Sports on Aug 12—it’s going to have to pony up some coin to make it happen. Paying for the renovations are obvious, but what some may not realize is that they would also have to built a facility that could be used by the community in the winter months.
Thanks to Mo Edu, they have some money to burn. The arcane MLS transfer rules prohibit MLSE from spending all the money they received for Edu's sale to Rangers on replacement players. Only $500,000 of the about $2.5 million they got in the deal can be used for that purpose. The rest has to be used on "soccer infrastructure"
So, there is about $2 million sitting around to build the Mo Edu Memorial Plastic Training Pitch in the parking lot between BMO and Ricoh.
But, to do that the company will need to have all the political people in line. It’s here that Miller’s statements are making soccer people excited. There is no greater stakeholder in the community use of BMO issue than the City of Toronto. That the Mayor seems OK with putting down some sod in the stadium is a good thing to those that are sick of the FieldTurf.
However, those that understand municipal politics realize that Miller is just one voice (or, more importantly, one vote). Getting grass into BMO will require the support of the entire council, and gaining consensus at City Hall in T.O. is slightly more difficult than herding cats.
Still, it’s better to have the mayor on your side than as an enemy.
As for what any of this matters at all…the reason MLSE and TFC season ticket holder David Miller are so desperate to get the plastic out of the stadium is simple. No one wants to play on it. TFC can’t attract players because of the FieldTurf. There is a reason Toronto, despite being the second most profitable team in the league (only LA makes more), hasn’t utilized the so-called Beckham rule. And it’s not because MLSE is cheap (bring in a marquee guy would make the team more money, not less. Even if they still lose).
Another, less articulated, reason for grass instead of plastic is that it would likely spell the end of the Argos to BMO talk. If the two teams shared the facility there is no way that a grass pitch would be feasible.
Although Miller’s “next year” claim seems like a stretch, this story is only going to get bigger in the next couple months.