Rob and Doug Ford’s dream of having an NFL stadium in Toronto could turn into a nightmare

Rob and Doug Ford’s dream of having an NFL stadium in Toronto could turn into a nightmare

The land occupied by the Hearn Generating station, right, has potential as an NFL stadium site (Image: Scott Snider, from the Toronto Life Flickr pool)

Just what do Rob Ford and his brother Doug want to do with the city’s shoreline? There’s been a lot of speculation about this since the pair started lobbing spitballs at Waterfront Toronto, the development body charged with sprucing up the derelict portlands. Last week, Doug shone some light on his plans when he told the Globe’s Marcus Gee that he dreamed of erecting, among other things, an NFL football stadium (and a monorail!).

As others have pointed out, there’s a bunch of problems with this idea. For starters, the plot of land Ford suggested as the site of the new stadium is the Hearn power station, currently owned by the Ontario government. But more fundamentally, NFL stadiums have a terrible track record in cities. How terrible? If the current NFL lockout lasts through to fall, leaving U.S. football stadiums sitting empty for months, some cities might actually be better off. NFL home games are such money-losers that the city of Oakland, having financed the stadium’s upkeep, would be better off if the Raiders didn’t even play.

According to the Atlantic Wire:

Take Oakland, for instance… the team pays $525,000 a season to rent the Oakland Alameda Coliseum and cuts the county in on “some revenue through concession sales and parking receipts.” Hardly enough to cover the $5 million the county says it spends each year “setting up for the team”… and annual $20 million payments on the bond debt from the city’s $200 million renovation of the facility in 1996. “Because it costs us so much to put on the games, this is not going to be much of a loss for us,” Deena McClain, interim director of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority, admitted. “It’s probably a net gain.”

And that’s just one example. The Atlantic Wire has several more, including Cincinnati, Arlington (where the Dallas Cowboys play) and our very own neighbour, Buffalo.

The NFL is a hard bargainer; it’s very experienced at getting cushy deals from cities and states. If Toronto wanted to get a franchise, the city would have few if any bargaining chips, except for maybe giving up some land and helping fund the construction of a stadium. And therein lies the problem. We could lose some potentially prime real estate on the lake in exchange for what the Atlantic calls a “stupid stadium.”

• No NFL Season, No Problem for Cities with Stupid Stadium [Atlantic Wire]
• Doug Ford sees stadium in waterfront’s future [Globe and Mail]