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MLSE looking at roof for BMO Field, shoots down talk of artificial turf

Fans await the start of the TFC home opening game against the Philadelphia Union at BMO Field in Toronto on Thursday April, 15, 2010.

Peter Power/Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment is looking at roof options for Toronto FC at BMO Field at a cost of $100 million-plus.

"I've been to many of the games this year. It's almost like there's a direct correlation between rain and a TFC game," Tim Leiweke, MLSE president and CEO, told a breakfast question-and-answer session with Toronto FC supporters Saturday.

"I've never seen anything like it. Are we cursed or what? It's just the most incredible thing I've ever seen. We got to get you a roof. The owners know it. (MLSE chairman) Larry Tanenbaum is actually involved now day-to-day on the design of the roof.

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"I spent three hours with Larry and contractors and engineers the other day looking at different kinds of roofs. We have an October board meeting with Bell, Rogers and Mr. Tanenbaum and we're bringing the roof to them in October."

The city of Toronto owns the stadium, which cost $62 million to build, but Leiweke says MLSE has promised to pay for all the renovations.

Leiweke says a key issue is how to build a roof without having to have the MLS team move out during construction for a year.

"I think we have found a way to do that. I hope we've found a way to do that," he said. "Roofs are really expensive but we're going to do the best we can now to get that money. I wish it was $90 (million), it's now $100 (million) plus.

"We've got to get a roof there for you."

Leiweke said afterwards that MLSE is a looking at a variety of designs, with a variety of cover.

Ironically, he made the comments on a day when the sun came out for a Toronto game. The last few home games have been played in downpours.

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Leiweke also told the TFC supporters that the stadium would never revert to artificial turf.

"We can't get the kind of DPs (designated players) we want to get if we're on anything but grass," the MLSE boss said. "They're not coming."

On the issue of sharing a field with the Toronto Argonauts, Leiweke said the city of Toronto had approached them in the wake of news that the CFL team has signed its final lease with Rogers Centre.

"We are not anywhere close to this decision at all. We're spending all of our time right now on a roof and how we do that," said Leiweke. "If and when we get to a point in time where the Argos are a point of conversation, I'm going to promise you three things. We would only do it if we can spend the money to make sure the pitch, the experience, the seats and your sightlines stay the same or better than you have today for soccer. Two, we will come talk to you again and have a conversation about whether or not we can co-exist with them — on grass and at the stadium and there's technology to make that work.

"We are a long way away from that conversation. We have not bought the Argos. We are not in the middle of closing a deal with the Argos. When that time comes, we will have a conversation with you and the conversation will mean that your experience has to get better, the sightlines have to stay the same or get better.

"That's what we're going to do. But for right now ... getting this (MLS) team better is first in our mind."

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