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Toronto FC Academy and Training Facility

To the delight of Canadian soccer fans, Toronto FC debuted at BMO Field five years ago. To continue delighting those fans, the Major League Soccer team also requires both a practice facility and a place to develop promising players. TFC will meet these goals when the Toronto FC Academy and Training Facility opens this summer.

The privately funded academy features four new fields and a field house adjacent to four existing fields that belong to Downsview Park. The north Toronto park, a former Canadian Forces base, has become a development mecca for squash, basketball and volleyball, and includes indoor soccer courts in a facility known as the Hangar.

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) took about a year to evaluate possible sites. Bob Hunter, executive vice president, venues and entertainment for MLSE, notes the ease of travel between the Academy and both BMO Field and Pearson International Airport, but he’s also drawn by more than 700 adult and youth league teams in the area. “Our vision for the Academy is to create a world-class venue and program unlike anything Canada and North America has seen before,” Hunter explains. “The Downsview Park site will allow us to realize that vision.”

Much of the action will happen outdoors on the three natural turf fields and one artificial turf field. “One of the biggest challenges related to the site plan was softening the resulting linear layout of the adjoining fields,” says Jon Joyce, an associate with MBTW Group. “Influenced by our golf course experience, we introduced large, organically shaped earth mounds to much of the site perimeter. Covered with low-maintenance fescue grasses, these mounds will provide a striking juxtaposition to the pristinely manicured soccer fields.”

“The two central natural turf fields are like large, flat golf greens,” says Joyce. “Designed to replicate playing conditions at BMO Field, under the grass is a customized sand root zone mixture and a SubAir drainage system that provides for high-quality playability.”

A remote wireless and programmed controlled lighting system suffices for training, sports clubs and minor league play. The lighting system can accept upgrades should lighting levels required for semi-pro games be needed later, according to engineer Remus Banulescu of Mulvey + Banani International Inc.

The air-supported structure over Field One (referred to as ‘the bubble’) will get set up faster each year thanks to the plug-and-play system designed jointly by the electrical and air-supported structure consultants. “Every year, they can plug in connections at the field boxes for normal lighting, emergency lighting, fire alarms and power without running new feeders back to the building,” Banulescu explains.

Lighting poles and the bubble will both sport aircraft warning lights, a requirement due to the academy’s neighbour, Bombardier Aerospace. The poles are also ready for ‘scouting cameras’ to monitor fields one and four.

Since the fields sit largely where military runways once lay, “PCL’s first task to prepare the site for the training centre was to remove the existing runway,” says Tanya Mackie, project manager with PCL Constructors Canada Inc. “The site-clearing crew removed existing granular Band topsoil and stockpiled it on site to be reused at a later date.” She notes that the crew unearthed another runway directly beneath the exposed one. “All borehole test pits missed this second runway,” she says.

The nearby field house, with its signature red wall, may be the most obvious sign of Toronto FC’s commitment to developing prospective professional players. The 40,000-square-foot field house will house dressing rooms, strength and conditioning facilities, team offices and other amenities.

The ‘big red wall’ running both inside and outside along the south portion defines the building with Toronto FC colours while lending strength to the overall design. “It acts as a spine to the building,” notes Lawrence Lippold, project director for BBB Architects. “All team offices are south of the red wall, facing the fields. On the first floor, your path from the main lobby to the first team dressing room follows the wall.”

A lean, efficient building, the field house features plenty of exposed structure, including load-bearing block and exposed glue-laminated beams. “We wanted a lot of light so we chose an exposed deck with expansive glass along the south elevation and an overhang to provide shading,” adds Lippold.

Wet weather in the fall of 2011 played havoc with the construction schedule. Thanks to a mild winter, field house crews made up time in the spring of 2012, but since the ground stayed moist due to a lack of winter’s typical deep freeze, it took longer for crews to get on the field.

Certain design details reflect MLSE’s aggressive timeline. “The building consists of structural block, precast slabs and structural steel columns with a structural steel roof,” says Mackie. “The intent for the structural block is that there is minimal lead time to procure materials to begin construction, unlike structural steel.”

“The load-bearing block system allowed us to start construction immediately,” says David Watson, principal of Entuitive Corporation, noting that foundations were simple, conventional strip and spread footings. ” It really accelerated the early stages of construction.”



85 Carl Hall Road
Toronto. Ontario


Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd.


BBB Architects


PCL Constructors Canada Inc.


Entuitive Corporation


The Mitchell Partnership Inc.


Mulvey + Banani International Inc


MBTW Group


40,000 square feet


$21.5 million

This article was originally published in Award Magazine. For a PDF of the print version, see below.

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