Five ways hosting the World Cup 2026 games will impact Toronto

Toronto has won the right to bask in the spotlight of one of the world’s biggest sporting events — but it won’t come cheap.

Thursday’s announcement that Toronto is among 2026 World Cup host cities will kick off negotiations between the city and FIFA toward contracts that make host-city status official.

Soccer’s governing body has a long list of requirements, all with a cost. And in a surprise move, FIFA is making the host cities in Mexico, US and Canada, including Vancouver, wait to find out how many games they are being offered.

Here are five things we do know, based on what FIFA has told Toronto and information from city staff.

1. What are the city’s obligations in terms of venues and services?

Toronto would provide BMO Stadium, training sites, a 34-day “FIFA FanFest,” and enhanced city services such as transportation, and local safety and security.

BMO Field would require upgrades. That includes temporary capacity expansion from 30,000 people to 45,000 people. Dressing rooms and washrooms would be permanently upgraded and an elevator added. Training sites would also require modifications.

Exhibition Place modifications “strengthen connection to public transit, beautify the site and encourage active transportation (including biking and walking) throughout the area.”

2. How much would hosting the games cost?

A city report in March pegged the total cost at about $290 million, based on the assumption of five games in Toronto, or $56 million per game. That includes everything from facility upgrades to hiring staff to hosting the fan festival.

The city hopes the cost would be split equally between the city, the Ontario government and the federal government. The city’s share would total $73.8 million in expenses, plus another $20 million in provided city services and waived fees.

Rising costs, however, could increase the tab. City staff are “evaluating impacts of inflation since March 2022 projections. Barring unforeseen events, expectations are a return to normal inflation rates by 2023.”

3. What does Toronto get for its money?

According to March estimates, direct city revenues would total only about $3.5 million from the municipal accommodation tax charged on hotel rooms and Airbnb stays.

The big payoff would be in terms of global exposure for Toronto and also a big boost in business for pandemic-hit industries including hotels, restaurants and bars.

City staff predict a local economic boost of 3,300 jobs created, 292,000 visitor room nights, and almost $307 million in total spending.

4. Will Torontonians get to be part of the experience?

Tickets to games will be expensive and difficult to obtain. Most people would experience it through the 34-day fan festival the city would be obliged to host.

Fan festivals have been part of the World Cup since 2006. They include celebration spots outside of sports stadiums for fans to gather and watch games on big screens, much like Jurassic Park outside Toronto Raptors games and Maple Leaf Square for Leafs fans. There would be live music and other attractions.

Of course, Toronto’s neighborhoods and ethnic communities don’t need an official site to gather to cheer on their heroes. Having the World Cup in the city is expected to only increase attendance at street parties and restaurant patios.

5. What is left for Toronto after the players leave?

World Cup games in the city would not be on the same scale as the 2015 Pan Am Games, so there won’t be the creation of a new neighborhood like the Canary District.

However, city staff promise a full “legacy program,” including improved sports facilities, a boost in local amateur soccer activities, and strengthened ties to communities through programs to ensure celebrations involve local Indigenous and other “equity deserving” communities.

City finances, decimated by the pandemic, could take a big hit. City staff warn Toronto might need to sign hosting agreements with FIFA before getting cost-sharing deals with the provincial and federal governments, presenting a “significant risk” for Toronto if the other governments don’t come through.

David Rider is the Star’s City Hall bureau chief and a reporter covering city hall and municipal politics. Follow him on Twitter: @dmrider


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