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T.O. soccer stadium getting closer


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T.O. soccer stadium getting closer


Plans for a soccer-specific stadium in Toronto moved one step closer Tuesday when the major players in the plan struck a deal to manage the proposed facility.

The Canadian Soccer Association, City of Toronto and Maple Leafs & Sports Entertainment concluded an agreement on how to run the stadium.

There are still several more hurdles still to cross before the 20,000-seat venue becomes a reality but the management deal is important. The stadium will become the property of the City, which owns the land, and Toronto officials were unlikely to approve $9.5 million of city funding unless they were happy with the plan to run the venue.

Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, which needs the stadium for its bid for a Major League Soccer expansion franchise, is expected to run the venue at Exhibition Place near the waterfront. As such, it had its own expectations for a management deal.

And the Canadian Soccer Association, as the go-between and deal-broker, needed both sides to be happy.

Those goals seemingly accomplished, the stadium project now goes before several key groups.

First up is the Exhibition Place board of governors, which meets Wednesday on the issue. It has to approve the project.

The stadium also has to get the green light from city council's policy and finance committee on Oct. 20 and then from the full council (44 councillors and the mayor) on Oct. 26.

Major League Soccer gave MLSE and the City until Oct. 31 to sort out the stadium issue, threatening to look elsewhere for an expansion home unless the issue was settled.

The federal government has pledged $27 million with another $8 million from the provincial government. If the city provides its $9.65 million, that leaves a little more than $17 million needed for the $62-million project.

Naming rights and a contribution from MLSE are expected to make up that shortfall.

The 12-team MLS added two new franchises this season: Real Salt Lake and FC Chivas, which plays out of Carson, Calif. Those expansion franchises cost $10 million US apiece.

MLS says the expansion price tag this time will be "slightly higher."

The league is looking for a second expansion team in 2007, with the leading candidates Cleveland, Philadelphia, Houston, Milwaukee and St. Louis, Garber said.

Exhibition Place is located opposite Ontario Place on the lakefront. It used to be home to the Toronto Argos and Blue Jays at Exhibition Stadium, and currently houses the American Hockey League's Marlies at the Ricoh Coliseum.

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