By John Matisz
It’s official: London’s newest sports facility will be backed by Canada’s premier soccer sponsor.
What was previously called the London Optimist Sports Dome will now be referred to as the BMO Centre.
On June 8, BMO Financial Group, the City of London and London Optimist Club jointly announced that BMO have taken to the pitch with a donation of an undisclosed amount to the project.
Other major contributors to the $10 million project are the municipal, provincial and federal governments as well as a $1.5 million commitment from the London Optimist Club over a 20-year span.
“This is going to be another signature piece, very much like the John Labbatt Centre,” Mayor Joe Fontana said.
“This shows that London – when it gets its act together – can do certain things really well.”
Construction at the Rectory Street site has been ongoing for the better part of a year. According to Fontana, it will be open to the public in early fall.
The 110,000 square feet facility will house four soccer fields, a clubhouse, meeting rooms and an elevated walking/running track. As well, its four fields have the ability to be converted into one large, expansive pitch.
Joining Fontana at the announcement was two of the project’s major stakeholders – president of the London Optimist Centre, Tom Partalas and vice-president of BMO’s Ontario South West District, David Blyth.
Partalas praised the bank for its substantial contribution to a dream that is slowly becoming a reality for the grassroots organization.
“Bank of Montreal has stepped up to the plate, or shall we say, has stepped onto the pitch,” he said.
BMO, which has been a member of the London community since the 1840s, are huge supporters of the Canadian soccer community.
“We consider ourselves to be the bank of soccer and we’re very proud of that,” Blyth said.
The institution is heavily involved soccer at both the amateur and professional levels throughout Canada. They own title sponsor rights to BMO Field, home of the Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC.