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Thursday, November 3, 2011

When in Dome, do as The Domans do?

"Drugs are out at SkyDome? BMO Field it is."

Next Tuesday, in the gleaming controversy-free halls of CONCACAF's New York headquarters, the draw for the Champions League knockout phases will be held. Our beloved TFC will be entering this stage for the first time and as reward will face one of two Mexican powerhouses - Santos Laguna and Monterrey, or, star-laden MLS rival LA Galaxy. There is little The Reds can do about the draw itself, but where the home leg of the quarterfinal is played is a different question.
The match will take place on March 6, 7 or 8 - the tail end of Toronto's notoriously craptacular winter (the season, not manager) which gives rise to a venue conundrum. Does TFC stick to "Our House (TM)" on the barren, windswept Exhibition grounds, or, opt for the concrete elephant, the Eighth Wonder of 1989, the Artist Formerly Known as SkyDome - Rogers Centre? While our knee-jerk reaction after the win in Dallas was to #occupySkyDome, sober thinking urges us to weigh the pros and cons...
This one is a given - SkyDome (yeah, we're gonna be that way) could potentially cram 50K into its concrete bowels while BMO Field is limited to its low 20K's maximum. However, considering CCL fixtures have rarely been a hot seller, is this really a big deal? It's slight, but ADVANTAGE: SKYDOME
The only way SkyDome can win this is if 50K rabid TFC supporters and whatever number of Mexicans fill the joint. Even when 30K show up at the Dome, it is a cavernous and dead venue. Anyone who knows what BMO is like when its rammed and fired up will agree, ADVANTAGE: BMO FIELD
SkyDome is not MLSE's house. If TFC are dropped in, will the Bay Street Bankers have the ability (or smarts) to make it feel like "Our (Bigger) House (TM)"? Can fans count on MLSE to do the little things like put all the supporters' sections in one place, stick all the away fans together and concentrate their ticket sales together rather than spread attendance over large areas? Forgive us for not having faith in the ownership on this one. BMO Field may have some downsides including chilled fans and chilled bathroom pipes but ADVANTAGE: BMO FIELD
This one is a great unknown with the owners. MLSE is very Jekyll and Hyde in these cases and it could go either way. We would expect nearly similar pricing if the match is at BMO but SkyDome could go one of two ways. MLSE could do the right thing and mimic Montreal's famous CCL match in The Big O by papering the stadium with cheap seats, thus creating an electric event; or... their evil side will be too tempting to resist and they will try to cover the extra expenses (stadium rental, loss of concession revenue etc.) by jacking up prices to "special event" mode (see Real Madrid friendly). Too early to know thus ADVANTAGE: EVEN
BMO Field is possibly the most extreme weather stadium in MLS. The lakeshore locale in the middle of the CNE Grounds means that over the course of a season, supporters are treated to: Arctic chill, sleet, sideways rain, monsoon gusts, almost-tornadoes, searing heat, locusts, biblical lightning, a return to Arctic chills - dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria! On the other side of the coin is SkyDome's publically-funded convertible lid. Eff you winter (again season, not manager) at the push of a button means ADVANTAGE: SKYDOME
You don't need to hear MLSE crow on any more about how awesome BMO Field's grass is... despite the shameful lack of "Scotts' Girls" in 2011. It is a lush, emerald carpet with under-soil doo-dah's that keep it somewhat living (like an arborist zombie) during the winter. However, it has its sub-zero temperature frailties and may not be ready for cleats as of early March. However, SkyDome is no treat in this category - a fairly crappy Field Turf built for the Blue Jays and Argos is a footballer’s nightmare and changes the way the game is played. Trucking in a one-time use real grass pitch would mean MLSE putting Southern USA grass on a truck and shipping it in - a cost the fans would cover in the end. With the weather being the great decider, this one is ADVANTAGE: EVEN
Many fans take the view that forcing Mexicans (or Los Angelinos) to play outdoors on a harsh Canadian winter's day would be a great advantage to TFC. While it is true that our Latino pals would think they had arrived in Bizarro Hell, there aren't that many impact Reds who will have experienced those conditions either. Even those used to Northern European winter fixtures won't have felt the potential -15C windchill coming off Lake Ontario. The likes of Ryan Johnson, Joao Plata and Eric Avila will have no advantage in freezing conditions and a hard pitch - nor dare we say will most of the "native" Canadian players. SkyDome turns into something of a "neutral venue" for TFC tactically as training time at the Dome would be somewhat limited. ADVANTAGE: EVEN
One of the biggest arguments for putting the match into SkyDome is to give "new fans" a chance to experience TFC in a grand event. Even if MLSE can manage to do everything right and also fill the Dome with cheap seats, will it really "build the TFC brand"? There is a valid counterpoint that says a packed BMO Field buzzing with an electricity seldom seen since the heady days of seat-cushion tossing may have an equally valuable impact to the club's image. Bringing back the feeling that BMO Field is THE most exciting place to watch live sports in Toronto again could be quite the coup for TFC.It definitely beats the potential of 23K fans having their voices lost in "The House That Tax Payers Built". After all, freezing or not, BMO Field is "Our House"... ADVANTAGE: BMO FIELD
In the end, the variables will outweigh the emotions. The financial impact is really a push for MLSE so the decision will likely come down to technical logistics. By a slim margin, we have to think that BMO Field is the better choice and who knows, Mexicans tripping over themselves as Danny "Snowshoes" Koevermans puts an orange ball past a frozen Latino keeper could just be the stuff of legend.
Tell us how you feel below and whether either venue would affect your attendance.


  1. Won't affect my attendance.

    Great post!

  2. I am really looking forward to an early March match at BMO. In your blog you indicated that if MLSE got about 6 things right there could be an awesome match atmosphere at Skydome. Ya right! MLSE hasn't got six things right in the last 2 seasons. We will end up with 5,000 people spread all over the Skydome.
    Get the ticket pricing right at BMO. Put some space heaters in the concourse, half off Hot Totties, could be a real Canadian experience.

  3. BMO choice. A Canadian Winter (ha!) Classic.

    MLSE already has a huge history of tripping over the obvious in pursuit of the immediate cash gain that working a venue at Skydome would be a disaster for TFC Branding.

    Frozen Mexicans on the pitch, writhing in painful fetal positions around the box while Danny pops a few in.....I'd pay Pesos for that!