Toronto prepared to host as many 2026 World Cup games as possible: Tory
Chris Fox, CP24.com
Published Wednesday, June 13, 2018 12:02PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, June 13, 2018 4:23PM EDT
The World Cup is coming to Canada and Toronto is ready and willing to play host to “as many games” as officials see fit, according to Mayor John Tory.
A joint North American bid between Canada, the United States and Mexico was awarded the 2026 World Cup on Wednesday following a 134 to 65 vote by FIFA member associations.
The current plan for the tournament calls for the U.S. to host 60 games and Canada and Mexico to host 10 each.
The potential Canadian host cities identified in the bid include Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal, though FIFA will have final say on which cities actually host games.
Speaking with reporters at a news conference at BMO Field, where World Cup games would conceivably be played, Tory said that there is “no place in the world” that would respond to the World Cup with more enthusiasm than the City of Toronto.
“The diverse nature of this city, the fact that you could have any two teams from any two countries playing a game in the City of Toronto and get an enthused, energized population of people who will be supporters of those two teams makes this such a great place to host World Cup soccer,” he said. “I can safely say that of the 48 counties (in the 2026 World Cup) they will all have a community here that will rabidly support them.”
Cost to city likely north of $30 million
A number of potential host cities, including Vancouver and Chicago, pulled out of consideration due to concerns about the cost to taxpayers.
That left a list of 23 candidate cities, which FIFA will now narrow down to 16 actual host cities.
Tory said that he believes that the city would spend about $30 million if chosen as a host city, most of which would go to temporarily expanding the capacity of BMO Field, staging a fan expo and putting in place a plan to improve transit before and after games.
He said that while there would be a significant cost associated with security for such a big event, his expectation would be that the federal government would take the lead on that file.
“We will get a limited number of games that will allow us to contain the costs, we are going to retrofit an existing stadium and then there will be some costs with regards to a fan expo and perhaps a transportation plan,” he said. “The investment is relatively modest for an event of this scale and I just think it is a good investment that will provide substantial returns.”
BMO Field would be expanded
BMO Field currently has a capacity of 30,000 seats but would likely being expanded with temporary seating to host World Cup games.
TFC President Bill Manning told reporters at Wednesday’s news conference that the goal would be for the stadium to be able to accommodate up to 45,000 people.
He said his expectation right now is that a city like Toronto could be awarded one three-country group for the first round as well as at least one elimination game in the groups of 32 and 16.
“I couldn’t sleep last night because I was so excited about what could happen,” he said. “As a American I am very happy that the World Cup will go back to the United States but I am also just so excited to be part of this in my adopted country of Canada. This could be a platform for Canadian soccer for the next eight years.”
Tourism impact would be significant
Tory said that the 2026 World Cup would present a “once in a generation opportunity” to showcase Toronto to the world.
That’s an assessment that Andrew Weir, the executive vice-president of Tourism Toronto, largely agrees with. He told CP24 on Wednesday afternoon that the “power of major events to drive business” to restaurants, bars, hotels and attractions is well established.
He said that with an event on the scale of a World Cup the impact would also likely to be felt long after the players leave the pitch.
“Think about the Pan American Games, the NBA All Star Game, these sort of events bring a lot of fans and a lot of attention and when you are talking about the World Cup it is global attention,” he said. “When you are holding an event as significant as a World Cup, where billions of people are watching, it has tremendous impact not only in the moment when you have thousands and thousands of fans, officials, teams and sponsors here but the lasting effect would be the exposure.”
Weir said that while there will be some cost associated with hosting World Cup games in the city, he said it is an investment that will be well worth it given the potential economic spinoff, not to mention the excitement it will generate.
A previous staff report from the city cited included an estimate from a consultant group, which pegged the potential economic impact of hosting three to five 2026 World Cup games at $210 million. The same consultant group also said that the same number of matches could translate into 1,000 new jobs for a city.
“There I no better place in the world to experience the World Cup than I think Torontro because everywhere you go it is a home game. It is a hometown for every country in the world and you can see it in the cars and the flags,” Weir said. “It brings out the best of Toronto’s diversity and energy and that is when it is happening across the world. You can imagine what it will be like when it is happening here.”