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Tim Leiweke, the President and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment responsible for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors and Toronto FC, told George about some of his interactions he's had related to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and the proposed renovations of Toronto's BMO Field.
Leiweke started off by explaining how he described Ford during an unrelated high-powered speaking engagement.
"Kiddingly I said, 'He's like Tommy Boy,'" said Leiweke, referring to the 1995 comedy of the same name featuring Chris Farley. "And so I'm, like, OK, recover, '... but let's not forget, Tommy Boy saved the factory.' It didn't work so well. So unfortunately things kinda spiralled out of control for him and the Tommy Boy thing kinda stuck elsewhere, but I think he blamed me. So when I first went in to see him a few months ago on the BMO (Field, soccer stadium) renovation he's like, 'Hey Timmy Boy, how ya doin'?' And I'm like, 'Oh, this is going to be a long meeting.'"
Leiweke then went into some detail to explain MLSE's side of the proposal to renovate BMO Field. As explained here, MLSE wants $10 million from each of the three levels of government and plans to spend $90 million itself to expand the city-owned, MLSE-operated stadium. The plan is to increase the soccer capacity from 21,500 to 30,000, with the potential to add 10,000 more temporary seats for special occasions. The planned renovations also call for a roof over the stands. The city's $10 million would be repaid over 20 years with interest.
"I know we have this reputation of being greedy," said Leiweke. "I know we have this reputation of only being driven by money and the bottom line. And I'm trying to do everything in our power to change that. The owners would maybe accuse me of going too far because we're spending a lot of money. We're putting every penny we make back into the organization now."
Leiweke also suggested that Ford, who's been calling MLSE's proposal "corporate welfare," shouldn't make the BMO plan part of his political agenda.
"We don't want to get involved in the political debate," he said. "We want to stay out of the mayor's race. It's not our place. I can't even vote. So we just went back to him and kicked him a little bit and said, 'Don't make us an issue. And don't call us the gravy train 'cause that's not fair.'"
George's interview with Tim Leiweke airs Thursday, April 3, 2014 at 7 pm on CBC.