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New soccer stadium proposed for Toronto

Woodbine Entertainment, a company that operates in the horse racing industry, has teamed up with architectural design firm Populous to propose a new soccer stadium and high-performance training centre on land outside the Canadian city of Toronto.

Woodbine has said it is prepared to designate a portion of its 684-acre land at Woodbine Racetrack for the development of the soccer facility in the heart of Toronto’s Rexdale community, located around 30km north of downtown Toronto.

In working with private investors and various stakeholders, Woodbine said the project would feature an 8,000-seat soccer specific stadium and a 38,000 square foot training facility with a world-class grass pitch that meets FIFA professional standards.

The venue is intended to be a destination for national soccer training, hosting international federations preparing for major international events, with a view towards Canada’s co-hosting of the 2026 FIFA World Cup with the US and Mexico. Woodbine said the project would potentially be a “groundbreaking opportunity” for the further development of women’s soccer in Canada, from grassroots to the highest levels of competition.

The project would also complement Woodbine’s vision to create mixed use neighbourhoods and upgrade backstretch and stabling facilities for horse racing. The Woodbine Community Plan seeks to demonstrate how one of the largest pieces of undeveloped land in the City of Toronto can be transformed over the coming 25 years into a large-scale urban community – connected to Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) through a proposed privately funded train station to be built on the southeast corner of the property.

With approved zoning as part of the overall Woodbine Community Development Plan, Woodbine said the first phase of the project could be ready in 2023. The high-performance centre and stadium plan are being developed by Populous and with additional input and expertise from the Baldassarra family and Greenpark Group.

“With Canada on the brink of qualification for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the women’s national team Olympic gold medal win, and Canada co-hosting the 2026 World Cup, the time is certainly right for us to show our support for Canada’s growing soccer community,” said Jim Lawson, CEO of Woodbine Entertainment.

“We see the power of the game in bringing people together and we cannot think of a more complementary sport as we look to further grow and sustain the horse racing industry and the 25,000 jobs it supports throughout the province.”

The new stadium and performance centre is also envisioned as a permanent home for a potential domestic professional women’s soccer league. It would also be a key training base and stadium for Canadian Premier League clubs including York United FC.

“We are a family of builders and share Woodbine’s vision of creating communities for a better Toronto,” said York United chairman and Greenpark Group executive, Michael Baldassarra.

“We have been so proud to invest in the future of Canadian soccer in recent years and a high-performance training centre and stadium is perfect for what is to come as we see the women’s game poised to take giant leaps across the county. 

“This would also be an ideal site for Canada’s first women’s professional club, and I could see the wider community getting such a wide variety of uses from a facility like this.”

If completed, the Woodbine facilities would give the GTA two quality soccer venues. Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise Toronto FC plays at BMO Field, which has a 30,000 capacity for soccer games.

Image: Woodbine Entertainment