Soccer's popularity in London leads to expansion of BMO Centre

The popularity of soccer is prompting the expansion of London’s BMO Centre. Ground breaking got underway Saturday to make the indoor soccer complex one of the largest in the province and one of the top three in the country.

The existing 110,000-square-foot facility with four soccer pitches will be expanded with a 65,000-square-foot addition that will include two more pitches. The expansion will cost about $8 million dollars.

More than 3,500 children on over 200 teams currently play at the facility, though soccer is not the only event held there. The pitches are also used for Ultimate Frisbee and football. Walkers and runners make use of its indoor track. A wedding has even taken place at the venue.

President of the London Optimist Sports Centre Tom Partalas says other cities have begun to take note of how the facility is changing. “They’re coming to us and they want to see how we did it, how we partnered with the City of London, with the province and even the federal government. We will be the driving force for other cities.”

Partalas says representatives of similar facilities from Windsor, Peterborough and Mississauga have visited the BMO centre to see the changes get underway.

London mayor Matt Brown lauds the facility for its self-supporting model. “This is really unique,” says Brown. “Thousands and thousands of children and young people come here each and every year and it’s operated by the community and self-sustained. It’s phenomenal.”