Put simply, Toronto is an overachieving city. Already Canada’s largest metropolitan area and its financial, culture and tourism hub, Toronto is a city that appears consistently on top 10 lists, wish lists and bucket lists. The story is the same for Toronto sports. With more than 200 venues and facilities hosting a seemingly endless variety of international sports, both amateur and professional, Toronto is a world-class sports destination that has the world’s attention. As this exceptional city amps up for the 2015 Pan American games, all eyes are on Toronto.
Preparing for Pan Am
The world’s third-largest international multi-sport event, the Pan Am Games, held in conjunction with the Parapan American Games, occur every four years. Organizers anticipate more than 10,000 athletes and officials will visit Ontario during the Games, along with a quarter-million tourists and fans. It’s an undertaking that will cement Toronto as an MVP in the sports world, and prepare the city to accommodate even more sports, even more often.
“We’re gearing up for the Pan Am Games, but also for everything beyond that,” says Robert Kawamoto, Director of Sales, Tourism Toronto. “Simultaneously we’re upgrading a number of existing facilities, but also new facilities will be opening. It’s an exciting time for sports in Toronto.”
You might think Toronto, as a Canadian city, is all hockey, all the time. Yes, it is home to the Toronto Maple Leafs, one of the NHL’s “Original Six” and the Toronto Marlies, the Maple Leafs’ top American Hockey League affiliate. But Toronto is also home to six other professional sports teams, including basketball, lacrosse, baseball and football (including Canadian, American and International varieties), creating a super-charged sports environment as well as a city filled with spectacular venues.
Toronto is the place to go for popular mainstream sports, but it’s also a town that isn't satisfied with the status quo. The city’s commitment to diversity is clear in the sports it hosts, from the Canada Day Twenty/20 Bash Cricket Championship to April’s Ultimate Fighting Championship mixed marital arts show, which set a record sellout at 55,000 tickets.
Toronto’s wide variety of venues also illustrates the city’s sports diversity. Whether an event needs a grand stage or a more intimate, exclusive setting, Toronto has the ideal facility.
· The University of Toronto Varsity Centre is a brand new, state-of-the-art facility that includes a 5,000-seat stadium, 400 meter, eight-lane track, artificial turf field and a dome for winter use.
· The Rogers Centre, with its fully retractable roof, is an iconic part of the Toronto skyline as well as home of the Toronto Blue Jays (1992 and 1993 World Series Champions) and the Toronto Argonauts Football Team (Canadian Football League). The Roger Centre has a capacity of more than 55,000 for sport events, concerts, family shows, trade shows and conventions.
· The Hershey Centre is a 5,500-seat multi-purpose arena in Mississauga and home to the Ontario Hockey League Mississauga St. Mike’s Majors. In addition, the Hershey SportZone features an indoor soccer field, two lit outdoor artificial soccer fields, six additional NHL and one Olympic-size community rink ice surfaces, triple gymnasium, gymnastics centre and a portable FIBA-size basketball court. Over its 12 years of operation, the facility has welcomed high-profile events including Skate Canada Regional, National and International events an unprecedented two times in four years. It has also hosted the Mastercard Memorial Cup, one of the most coveted junior hockey trophies in North American sport.
· The Powerade Centre is Brampton, Ontario’s state-of-the-art facility offering four NHL-sized rinks including a spectator rink that features a seating capacity of 5,000. The Powerade Centre is home to the Ontario Hockey League Brampton Battalion and the Ontario Lacrosse Association Brampton Excelsiors.
· The Ricoh Coliseum in downtown Toronto on the grounds of the Exhibition Place is the home of the Toronto Marlies and the Toronto Triumph, a member of the Lingerie Football League. Host of the 2007 AHL (American Hockey League) All Star Game, the 8,000-plus-seat arena underwent a massive renovation in 2003.
· BMO Field, also located downtown at Exhibition Place, offers a seating capacity of 20,000 and is home of Canada's National Soccer Team as well as Toronto FC, Canada's first Major League Soccer team. Canada's first soccer-specific stadium, BMO Field was the main venue for the third most watched sporting event in the world, the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup, which drew 260,000 people over 12 games.
· Air Canada Centre is home to the Toronto Maple Leafs Hockey Club, Toronto Raptors Basketball Club and the Toronto Rock Lacrosse Team. In the decade since the Air Canada Centre opened, it has received more than 25 industry awards and hosted over 26.8 million fans at close to 2,000 events. The Air Canada Centre is located in Maple Leaf Square, the epicentre of Toronto’s sports and entertainment district and home to the Real Sports Bar & Grill voted North America’s number one Sports Bar in 2010 by ESPN.
· The Rexall Centre, an international tennis facility, is more than just a world-class sports venue. It was also built with the local community in mind, including a park-like setting that provides dining, shopping and interactive activities to add to the tennis experience. The Centre’s full-surround stadium seats 12,500 and includes 41 executive suites and hosts some of the tennis’ most high profile events, such as the Roger’s Cup.
“In addition to many major professional sports venues, we have numerous other facilities, including amazing university and college stadiums and gymnasiums and golf courses,” says Kawamoto. “It would be hard to list all of the venues and facilities we have to offer in Toronto, but suffice it to say, whatever you want, we’ve got it, and we’ll find a time and date that makes it work for you.”
Experience Meets Excellence
You might expect an all-star sports city to offer a serious depth of event planning experience as well. In typical Toronto style, Tourism Toronto is ready to exceed that expectation.
“We’ve got proven success hosting even the largest, highest-profile sports events, including the FIFA U
-20 in 2007, the Major League Soccer Championship Cup in 2010, and the annual Honda Indy Toronto, Ontario's largest annual sporting event and among the most respected motorsports events in North America,” says Kawamoto. “It’s pretty simple, really. Our job is to make your job easier and to make your event remarkable.”
Event owners planning events in Toronto receive the full assistance of the Tourism Toronto Team, which includes Kawamoto as well as Account Directors Shelley Crawford and Sonja Turek, who are both NASC Certified Sport Event Executives (CSEE), the first two Canadians to hold this designation. Tourism Toronto is one Convention Visitors Bureau (CVB) whose service stands out in people’s minds. In an independent survey (U.S. based Watkins Research), event planners ranked Tourism Toronto #1 CVB in Canada for service since 2002.
Furthermore, Tourism Toronto offers right holders access to an exclusive set of marketing and communications tools, streamlined, stress-free RFP and venue selection processes, and the considerable experience of the team’s creative approach to overcoming any challenges and creating the most successful event possible.
A True Destination
When planning a sports event, choosing a destination with an irresistible draw can be the true success secret. The cultural and recreational attractions of this charming metropolis are up to the task.
“Whatever the sports event, Toronto truly makes the perfect backdrop. You’ve got tons of outdoor cafes, all of the activities along Lake Ontario, theme parks—the options are endless,” says Kawamoto. Add to that the city’s huge range of dining and hotel options, including over 40,000 rooms and the case for Toronto becomes very clear.
Transportation is just another reason to give Toronto a serious look: an international travel hub, Toronto is an easy and affordable travel destination from virtually anywhere in the world.
Whether you know what you want or just want to see what Toronto has to offer, the Tourism Toronto team is ready to help. Visit www.seetorontonow.com/Sports-Tourism to find out how. “We’ve been expecting you!”