Social media has been all, ahem, atwitter lately over a mysterious nighttime glow emanating from the west end of Toronto as of late.
Every night for a number of days, an otherworldly light has breached the night sky causing many to wonder just what is happening — fire, UFO landing, gigantic grow-op.
A weird glow in the sky, Toronto west side. At first I thought it was a fire. It’s been happening all week and I just read it’s the BMO soccer field. Apparently every February they use grow lights at night to grow the turf. pic.twitter.com/p4GaMvLpZ3
— Sook-Yin Lee (@sookyinlee) February 12, 2024
— WPS (@warrenpsonoda) February 12, 2024
But we have cracked the caper. And as it turns out, a gigantic grow-op is actually quite accurate.
The Toronto FC season gets underway in five weeks, and since the decision to move from fake to natural grass, each winter BMO Field, where the team plays its home games, turns into a massive growing operation to nurture the field to life in often-hostile winter conditions.
In April 2019, MLSE converted the field to a hybrid-grass surface.
In an article for the Ontario Agricultural College of the University of Guelph, Robert Heggie, director of grounds with Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, said “BMO Field has some of the most sophisticated grass in North America. In recent years, more than $10 million has been invested into technology like heating systems, artificial grow lights and a subsurface aeration system to keep the turf healthy.”
It’s that artificial lighting that can be seen from miles away.
“We have a tough schedule for natural grass that comes with its challenges,” said Robert, in the article. “I have yet to find a chapter in a turf book that tells you how to grow grass in February.”
Toronto FC’s home opener at BMO Field is scheduled for March 9 versus Charlotte FC.