Tim Leiweke is not happy with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s latest whopper, but the chief executive officer of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. is also not interested in an ongoing fight over BMO Field because the mayor “is only one vote” on city council.
The spat concerns Ford characterizing the $10-million loan MLSE is seeking from the city as part of the $120-million expansion plan for BMO Field as a handout. MLSE is pledging $90-million toward the expansion with the remaining $30-million coming in the form of loans divided equally between the City of Toronto, Ontario and the federal government. MLSE promises to repay the $30-million over 20 years with interest.
Ford had most of his power stripped by city council as the result of his various scandals, but he still sits on the executive committee that recently voted 11-1 to approve the $10-million loan. Ford cast the only dissenting vote. In remarks to the Toronto Sun, Ford characterized the loan as a handout from the taxpayers, which angered Leiweke.
The MLSE president and CEO slammed Ford on Saturday while he was speaking to Toronto FC’s season-ticket holders before the MLS team’s home opener at BMO Field. But, Leiweke noted, Ford was only one vote on the committee and he and his brother, Toronto Councillor Doug Ford, are only two votes among 44 when the expansion plan goes to the full city council for approval.
“I’m not going to talk about him any more,” Leiweke said Sunday of Mayor Ford. “I’m not going to let him position us like that.
“At the end of the day, [Ford] is trying to make us look like we’re asking for a handout or we’re on the gravy train. That’s not what we’re about.”
The expansion plan calls for MLSE, which already manages BMO Field, to build a second deck of seats, put a roof over all of the seats and make the stadium suitable for football as well. The Toronto Argonauts want to leave Rogers Centre for a more intimate setting and MLSE is considering a purchase of the CFL club as part of its larger plan to land an NFL club for Toronto.