Update: Toronto FC has now confirmed everything that John Molinaro said in a story on their website. The game will be played at Rogers due to safety and comfort concerns and will be on an artificial playing surface.
I am glad to say that I can finally confirm that Toronto FC will be playing the Los Angles Galaxy at the Rogers Centre on March 7. The choice was confirmed today by TFC's front office staff in conversation with Sportsnet's John Molinaro but it was something that I have long speculated would be the case.
The logistical issues of playing this game at BMO Field in potentially freezing cold weather were just too much for the club to overcome. If you recall TFC's home opener from this past spring it was a very cold day and the club had a very hard time getting the stadium prepared and then keeping it that way. They were fighting a losing battle with freezing pipes as BMO is not a winterized facility other than the main building and offices under the west stand. So rather than trying to make their home field ready for a game in the freezing cold, at what would certainly have been a high price tag, they have decided to go and borrow the home of the Toronto Blue Jays and head to Rogers Centre. The dome comes with its own set of issues which are highlighted by its lack of a grass surface and its sheer size but they are issues that the club will have a much easier time dealing with.
The official announcement from the club is expected to take place tonight and that will hopefully give us all the remaining details.
Without the official announcement from the club, basically all that we can do is speculate on a number of things about the game. In the past the club has gone on record as saying that if the game is going to be played at the Dome they would have to bring in grass. That grass would likely have to be shipped in from the southern United States but that is an investment that the club views as essential to avoid all the potential pitfalls of playing the beautiful game on a field surface that was never intended for it. John Molinaro did say in his Sportsnet article that the game would actually be played on the artificial surface already in place but I hope that he is wrong on that point and we shall have to wait and see what comes out with the clubs official announcement.
The other details that are starting to make the rounds are in regards to what sort of ticket prices we can expect the game to come with. Daune Rollins over at CSN is reporting that most of the seats will be available for $20 dollars and under. It would seem that the upper bowl, 500 level, seats could be going for as little as $10 each for this game with the middle bowl likely to be priced at $15 dollars. The other good news is that supporters section seats will be going for around $19 dollars. There is no word yet from the club about which sections of the dome will be set aside as supporters sections and how many of them, or if the official supporters groups will be given access to selling tickets as happened with the recent Canada games, but with tickets likely going on sale within a few days we will not have to wait much longer to find out. Duane does note that the supporters groups have decided to sit behind the south goal as they would at BMO rather than another option closer to the centre of the pitch. I personally would have liked the groups to elect to go to a more prominent area if it was offered as a choice, but that is mainly for the sake of tv camera's catching them more frequently during the match. The other remaining question that there's no rumour of yet is what the high end ticket prices are going to be like. As of now there has been no indication of what the lower bowl will cost but hopefully it is still a low amount.
It is clear that the decision to move the game to Rogers Centre is something that Toronto FC has put the work in to. It was not a decision that was made on a whim as some people involved in the running of the team made it known that BMO was their preference. We can be sure that the club has used the long period of time since the team qualified for this game to make sure that this is the absolute best move. So far it seems that they have made good use of all that time and even came up with a ticket pricing scheme that should quell many people's fears. Most of the worries about going to Rogers stem from the fact that it could very well be rather empty for the game and that would kill the big game atmosphere. If the ticket prices are as they are being reported that will be step one towards getting a good crowd. Step two is something that TFC has already been working on and that is promoting this game to death. There is no reason that anyone living in the GTA should not know that this game is taking place and where they can buy tickets to attend. Since the club decided to have the game at the Dome it is now their job to fill the thing. The supporters will certainly do their part, and hopefully the club works hard to take advantage of the supporters groups to boost ticket sales, but at the end of the day if the club really does want to show the city of Toronto and the whole MLS that the buzz around the team is back then they have to pull this thing off and make it huge.
We will of course continue to update you on this story as it breaks including when the formal announcement comes from Toronto FC but at this point that announcement will likely just be confirmation of all the info I have already mentioned. A few more interesting details I will be on the look out for include if the club plans any sort of major pre-game event to draw in the non-bar going type crowd. Any such event could easily take place in the square by the ACC and culminate in what could be a fairly impressive supporters March.
Regardless of which camp you were in about the venue it is now time for us all to do our part and make this game huge. There is no reason, assuming price reports are confirmed, that we can not find a way to get 40,000 or more people in to Rogers. Hopefully the club will run lots of promotions, group rates, and even give away tickets, but we will all still have to do our part.
See you at the Dome!