Seeing Red – A Toronto FC Game Day Guide
By Mitchell Tierney. Toronto FC is a team that has always been known for its loyal fans. Even though TFC has not won a championship (yet!) and only made the playoffs for the first time last season, the exhilarating atmosphere on game day keeps people coming back again and again.
BMO Field: Home of the TFC
When the soccer squad is playing you’ll hear the fans before you see them. Their chants echo throughout Exhibition Place, the home of BMO Field. Their drums rhythmically beat and their feet thunderously stomp on the metal stands. Clad in red, they have called BMO Field home since 2007 when Toronto was first awarded a Major League Soccer franchise.
That home now looks a lot different than it did back then. BMO Field recently underwent $150 million renovations to transform the stadium into one of the best soccer venues in North America. The renovations included increasing the stadium’s capacity to 30,000 seats and adding a canopy roof that protects its faithful fans from rain.
Whereas Toronto’s other two big sports venues are downtown, BMO Field is located on the lakeshore just west of the downtown core. This gives you the opportunity to explore Exhibition Place or take a scenic walk by Lake Ontario.
Where to Hang Out
Most fans spend their time pre-match in Liberty Village, a growing urban neighbourhood across the train tracks from BMO Field. Here you will find a number of newly-built restaurants and bars where you can grab a bite to eat or a drink before or after the game.
One popular pre-game location is Shoeless Joe’s, located at 1189 King Street West. As the game day home of the Red Patch Boys, Toronto FC’s biggest fan group, this bar offers a taste of the atmosphere at BMO Field. Whether the team is playing at home or on the road you’ll find the bar full of enthusiastic supporters.
Another option is the Brazen Head Irish Pub, which is just a 12-minute walk from BMO Field. With two levels of patio seating it’s ideal for summer game days. For away games, Toronto FC fans can also be found at the Football Factory, a soccer-centric bar closer to the city’s downtown core.
About an hour before the game, Liberty Village comes alive as TFC supporters parade through the streets. Their chants serve as a signal: it’s time to go watch some soccer.
Getting to the Game
There are many ways to get to BMO Field on game day. Exhibition Place has 5,000 parking spots, but those spots fill up quickly so if you’re driving to the game, plan to arrive well in advance of kick off. Otherwise, public transit is your best bet. The Lakeshore West line of the GO Train stops at Exhibition Station, just across the street from the north end of BMO Field. The 509 streetcar, which boards at Union Station, will also take you to the exhibition grounds.
At the Match
Once you make your way to the stadium, you will be greeted by a carnival-like atmosphere outside. A stage in the north end of the stadium provides live music before and after matches. Several vendor tents are set up outside the stadium, selling food as well as team merchandise.
If you’re going to buy an item of Toronto FC paraphernalia, make sure it’s a team scarf. During the national anthem, fans all across the stadium hold their scarves above their heads, creating a sea of red. It’s quite a sight.
When choosing where to sit at the match, you have many options based on the sort of fan experience you’re looking for. The north end of the stadium is a standing-only patio. The east and west stands are where most supporters sit, covered by the canopy roof they can sit and watch comfortably throughout the match.
The die-hard fans can be found in the south stands, the liveliest part of BMO Field. If you choose to watch the match there don’t expect to sit much, as fans usually stand for the full 90 minutes to cheer on their team, waving giant flags, chanting, singing and drumming.
Along with renovations to the stadium, for the hungry fan, the game day menu was also updated and now offers Belgian style fries, BBQ brisket and ribs, and specialty paninis.
Regardless of whether the team wins or loses, Toronto FC games are one of the best sports experiences Toronto has to offer. Fans continue to cheer until the final whistle no matter what and you will find yourself getting caught up in joining in one of the club’s several catchy chants.