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Toronto FC will play their CONCACAF Champions League home games at BMO Field despite the potentially challenging winter weather, club president Bill Manning has confirmed.

Ties in the competition’s first round – the draw for which will be made next week – are scheduled to take place between February 20 and March 1.

Toronto are a seeded team, which means they will play the second leg of their round-of-16 tie at home on February 27, 28 or March 1. The average low in February in Toronto is -5.6 °C, while in March that figure goes up to -1.9 °C.

“We’re playing all the games at BMO Field and hopefully we’ll play four games at BMO Field,” Manning said.

“I had the fortunate experience of managing a team in 2011, Real Salt Lake, that went to the finals. We actually went down in Monterrey in the first leg of the championship and tied 2-2, and unfortunately lost at home 1-0. But it gave me a taste of how close an MLS team can come to winning and I felt we were right there with them.”

Manning, speaking at his end-of-season media availability, also revealed that TFC hope to retain seating in the north end next season – with permanent expansion of BMO Field a possibility down the line – and introduce safe standing in the south end no later than 2020.

“This year we were just about [at] 21,000 season-ticket holders,” he continued. “I think, next year, I wouldn’t be surprised if we hit 25,000 season-ticket holders.

“I’m working with my friends down at [MLSE headquarters at] 50 Bay St. I’ve convinced them that we can cap it at 25,000 as opposed to 23,000 or 24,000.

“Our renewal ratio is as high as it’s ever been – it’s almost 97% right now. Over the last two seasons we’ve sold over 4,000 new season tickets a year, and we needed to that first year – we were only at about 81% renewal ratio.
“Last year it got higher, in the low 90s. This year, we’re only going to be adding to our season-ticket base so we’re very confident that place is going to be full.

“I really am looking at the north stand, and keeping that and making that a permanent addition to the stadium. And then there was a couple of little premium areas that we may make permanent, so that’ll add probably 1,400-or-so seats.

“And then as we continue forward, [expansion is] something we’ll look at. Let’s get through a couple of seasons selling out every single game, and then we’ll probably look at what are the opportunities for us to add 4,000 or 5,000 seats permanently.”

Manning is targeting the 2019 season for the introduction of safe standing in the area of the stadium inhabited by the club’s supporters’ groups, but promised it would be in place by 2020 at the latest.

“It’s something we’ve talked about,” he said. “It’s something I want to do.

“We would have to make a capital investment to make the whole south end standing room, and that’s something we’re looking forward to do.

“It will be done. Mark my words. It will be done.

“It won’t be done for next season. My hope is we can get that done for the 2019 season and I’ve told everyone downtown I’d like to have it done at least by 2020, because I think having the safe standing would be such a big… look, they stand all game anyway.

“Sometimes we get chairs broken – it takes out a lot of hassles, actually. So we’re hoping to get that done.”

Manning appeared to suggest the safe standing will take the form of rail seating, as has been popularized by Bundesliga stadiums, to ensure that the south end can be used normally for Toronto Argonauts games.

“It’ll still have a fold-out seat,” the president added. “That’s where that capital improvement comes in – we have to get it so that it’s fold-out.

“During TFC games, it obviously would just be folded back because they don’t sit anyway.”

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