BMO Field deck-up for 2026 FIFA show


BMO Field renovation will be lead by Gensler Image: BMO Field, Abazz, CC BY-SA 4.0

The BMO Field in Toronto, Canada, is getting an upgrade ahead of the 48-nation 2026 FIFA World Cup™, but only one team got to compete for the design contract.

‘WAKING THE RED’ stated that according to minutes released by the City of Toronto, a non-competitive contract will be awarded to the Gensler architectural and design firm for the necessary upgrades of the national soccer stadium on Toronto’s Exhibition Grounds required to meet FIFA’s host venue standards.

The 30,991-capacity BMO Field is an outdoor stadium located at Exhibition Place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, home to the Toronto FC of Major League Soccer (MLS) and the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League.

The Toronto Football Club is a Canadian professional soccer club based in Toronto, Canada. The club competes in Major League Soccer (MLS) as a member of the Eastern Conference. The team plays its home matches at the BMO Field, located at Exhibition Place on Toronto’s shoreline West of Downtown Toronto.

The Toronto Argonauts are a professional Canadian football team competing in the East Division of the Canadian Football League, based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The BMO Field serves as their home stadium.

Toronto (Canada)-based the Canadian Football League is a professional sports league in Canada. The CFL is the highest level of competition in Canadian football. The league consists of nine teams, each located in a City in Canada. They are divided into two divisions: Four teams in the East Division and five teams in the West Division.

The Major League Soccer (MLS) is a men’s professional soccer league sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation, which represents the sport’s highest level in the United States. The league comprises 29 teams – 26 in the United States and 3 in Canada – since the 2023 season. The league is headquartered in Midtown Manhattan, US.

The 2026 FIFA World Cup™, marketed as FIFA World Cup 26, will be the 23rd FIFA World Cup™, the quadrennial international men’s soccer championship contested by the national teams of the member-associations of FIFA. The tournament will take place from a yet to be determined date in June to July 19th, 2026, and will be jointly hosted by 16 Cities in three North American countries: Canada, Mexico and the United States. The tournament will be the first hosted by three nations. Argentina is the defending champions.

Gensler is a global design and architecture firm founded in San Francisco, California (US) in 1965. In 2021, Gensler generated $1.235 billion in revenue, the most of any architecture firm in the United States. As of 2021, Gensler operated offices in 49 Cities in 16 countries worldwide, working for clients in over 100 countries.

Steve Chung, Design Principal, Gensler, US, is a Member of Coliseum – Global Sports Venue Alliance.

‘WAKING THE RED’ further stated that this redesign is budgeted to cost $4.2 million and will see an additional 17,756 seats added to the BMO Field, bringing the stadium’s total capacity to 45,736.

According to the executive committee, “A non-competitive contract is necessary to immediately proceed with the capital project at the BMO Field in order to meet the specific FWC26 Toronto event timelines as set by FIFA. To ensure efficiencies, the staff is seeking authorization to award and enter into a non-competitive contract with Gensler for the FWC26 Toronto capital project at the BMO Field.”

So, the above statement means the City of Toronto needs to start the renovations as soon as possible to meet FIFA timelines.

According to the City’s background report, the future construction contracts will be based on Gensler’s design, and Gensler will be in charge of engineering sub-contracts. In short, once the design is finished, a construction company will still need to be hired to renovate the BMO Field.

Here are the timelines for completing project planning:

The redesign plans need to be completed and submitted to FIFA by May 2024. Theoretically, this timeline would give the City of Toronto and the Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE) two years to complete renovations in preparation for the 2026 World Cup.

The Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Limited (MLSE) is a professional sports and commercial real estate company based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. With assets that include franchises in four of the six major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada, it is the largest sports and entertainment company in Canada, and one of the largest in North America.

Since the BMO Field is owned by the City of Toronto and the MLSE, there has to be agreements as to the nature and amount of money being spent on the stadium. The MLSE has already spent $120 million on upgrades to add seating and a roof in 2014. Various levels of Government contributed $10 million each to renovate the stadium.

Why Gensler?

The Gensler Architectural and Design has extensive experience designing soccer-specific stadiums – the MLS teams Austin FC’s 20,738-capacity Q2 Stadium in Austin, Texas, the Los Angeles Football Club’s 22,000-capacity BMO Stadium in Los Angeles, California, and the 2014 BMO Field renos (a renovation of a building or part of a building).

What’s the Hold Up?

Toronto was officially named a 2026 World Cup host venue in June 2022. What took so long to hire a design firm?

The simple explanation is Government bureaucracy and the City assuming they had plenty of time to complete the project. The logo and social media campaign for #WeAre26 were just released in May of this year. Anyone who has spent any time whatsoever in Toronto realizes how long projects take to complete. A Toronto FC adjacent project that seems to be never-ending is the Exhibition GO Station.

The Exhibition GO Station is a GO Transit railway station in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The station is one of the Lakeshore West line stations between Toronto and Hamilton.

The wheels of Government bureaucracy turn slowly. In Toronto’s case, these wheels may get tangled up in steel cables when trying to complete underground storm sewers.

When a large, incredibly wealthy global organization like FIFA snaps its fingers, usually Governments are quick to react. In this instance, the City of Toronto was forced into action to meet FIFA’s timelines.

While it’s not ideal, it explains the non-tendered contract.

Why Is a Non-tendered Contract a Big Deal?

Municipalities like Toronto usually put out design contracts for tender, meaning they invite bids from multiple companies. The City would then select the most desirable bid – considering factors like price, reputation and expertise. Plus, competition often creates the best scenario for municipalities looking for the best deal considering these factors.

Gensler certainly has an impressive CV. This firm was awarded the contract for “expediency”, or to make things go faster.

So, what’s the problem? Toronto waited too long and now has to rush to finish the stadium redesign. The negotiated price of $4.2 million is certainly going to rise, especially with tight deadlines. With many, many questions surrounding the financial goings-on of FIFA and Canada Soccer (Canada men’s national soccer team), awarding a contract to a company without putting the job out to tender is not ideal.

Also, there have been issues in Ontario with politicians awarding favorable contracts without any real oversight. For various parties trying to avoid any whiff of corruption/bias/favoritism, awarding contracts without much oversight is not the greatest look.

While the contract will be awarded to move the construction along quickly, there will be controversy. But what is the lead-up to a World Cup without controversy?

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