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Toronto renames football stadium in Centennial Park after late former mayor Rob Ford | CBC News



The city has renamed a football stadium at Toronto’s Centennial Park after the late former mayor Rob Ford.

Centennial Stadium, near Renforth Drive and Rathburn Road, is now officially known as Rob Ford Stadium. Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow and Ontario Premier Doug Ford, along with members of the Ford family, unveiled a sign bearing the new name of the stadium at a ceremony on Tuesday.

“Our late former mayor Rob Ford loved football. He loved playing it and coaching it, spending many hours with young people, helping them learn the game and win the game,” Chow told the crowd.

“That’s why I think it’s fitting to name the stadium after him.” 

Ford, who died at age 46 in 2016, coached high school football at the stadium before and during his time at city hall. He served as Toronto’s mayor from 2010 to 2014. The renaming was done on what would have been his 55th birthday.

Chow said the renaming is a tribute to a long-serving public official in Toronto.

“I know the pain of losing a loved one and I know how difficult it is to lose someone so prematurely. He was young,” Chow said.

Chow said Ford and her late husband Jack Layton were friends and sat beside each other in Toronto council chambers. As mayor, she said, Ford paid tribute to Layton by renaming the Toronto Island Ferry Terminal as the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal. Layton died at age 61 in August 2011.

Rob Ford represented Etobicoke North as a councillor from 2000 to 2010 and from 2014 to 2016.

Renaming ‘incredibly thoughtful gesture,’ premier says

In a news release on Tuesday, Doug Ford said the renaming is a “incredibly thoughtful gesture” much appreciated by his family, especially Rob’s children, Douglas and Stephanie Ford.

“Rob’s greatest joy was the chance to serve the people of Toronto and give back to his community, and that was especially true when it came to the young people he coached,” he said.

Stephanie Ford, daughter of Rob Ford, said the stadium was an important place for her father. She said his first love was Etobicoke and his second love was football. She said she and her family are pleased with the renaming. (CBC)

The premier spoke to the crowd about his late brother’s legacy as a football coach. 

“Rob thought through football I can teach them values, values of being honest, supporting the community, teamwork, working together and getting things accomplished,” he said.

Ford’s daughter, Stephanie, said the stadium was an important place for her father. She said his first love was Etobicoke and his second love was football. Ford cared about the students from Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School in Etobicoke that he coached, she said. 

“My father wanted to give these kids the best experience they could have.”

Decision to rename stadium not without debate

In December, Toronto city council voted in favour of the renaming, but the decision was not without debate. Councillors voted 17 to six to rename the stadium.

Coun. Paul Ainslie, who represents Ward 24, Scarborough-Guildwood, moved the motion, saying it was an appropriate time to rename the stadium to recognize Ford’s public service.

Ainslie said the city has recognized the “service and spirit” of former mayors, including Mel Lastman with Mel Lastman Square, Barbara Hall with Barbara Hall Park and June Rowlands with June Rowlands Park.

“All of those who served with Rob Ford on council knew that he had two passions — representing his constituents not only across the city but in particular in his home community of Etobicoke, and football,” the motion said.

While opinions on Ford's legacy as mayor run the gamut, most in his home-town say he's left a mark there that won't soon be forgotten.
The late Rob Ford, former Toronto mayor, is pictured here. Centennial Park Stadium was renamed Rob Ford Stadium in his memory on Tuesday. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Ainslie added that the time was right because the park is undergoing a “significant reimagining” through the Centennial Park Master Plan that was approved by council in 2021.

At least two councillors, however, spoke out strongly against the motion.

Coun. Dianne Saxe, who represents Ward 11, University-Rosedale, said Ford was a divisive figure in Toronto, while Coun. Josh Matlow, who represents Ward 12, Toronto-St. Paul’s, said Ford was not deserving of a stadium named after him.

In 2017, just over a year after Ford’s death, then mayor John Tory backed a motion to name the stadium in Ford’s honour, but council voted against it 24 to 11. 

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