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CNE big changes lately?

For most of the year, Exhibition Place, a 78-hectare expanse between the Gardiner Expressway and Lake Shore Boulevard West, feels desolate. Eerie feelings of loneliness creep into a pedestrian’s thoughts.

But looks can deceive. Something’s going on down there – or rather, a confluence of cool somethings – a mini-renaissance obscured by the jagged, crystal-shaped shadows of Toronto’s other renaissance.

One of the newer tenants at the Ex, Toronto FC, is Major League Soccer’s youngest franchise. The team recently announced it had sold all of its 14,000 season tickets in anticipation of its April 28 debut at the new 20,000-seat BMO Field, no small feat for a club in a sport with a checkered past in this city – remember the Blizzard? On Monday, the biancorossi (as the Italian-language press has already dubbed them) are set to release multi-game ticket packages for the less committed.

And although David Beckham will (barring injury) grace the turf at BMO Field on Aug. 5 when his L.A. Galaxy squad visits, there’s much more to be excited about down at the Ex than just the FC, the new stadium and the thought of Posh mingling with the locals. The FIFA Under-20 World Cup, soccer’s second-largest tournament, behind only the big boys’ World Cup, will be contested in six cities across Canada this summer, but it’s BMO Field that gets the honour of hosting the championship match on July 22.

Then there are the Ex’s award-winning environmental projects. The 2006 Canadian Solar Industries Association Solar PV Project of the Year award went to Exhibition Place’s board of governors for its 100-kilowatt solar photovoltaic installation atop the Horse Palace. And 100 kilowatts – enough to power 50 homes – is just the beginning. The goal is to expand the pilot project to 10 to 15 times its current size.

Over by the Automotive Building, 16 cutting-edge street lights were turned on late last month. They’re illuminating the road below with miserly light-emitting diodes, or LEDs. Should this technology be adopted across the 416, the city could save half the roughly $11-million it spends on illuminating Toronto’s streets while dramatically cutting carbon emissions.

And there’s a certain July institution – what was once the Molson Indy is now Frank D’Angelo’s Steelback Grand Prix of Toronto. But there’s more: The 2007 American Hockey League All-Star Game was at the Ricoh Coliseum, home of the Marlies and concert destination for bands like Snow Patrol (headlining tonight). Finally, the Ex is the site of a just-announced Genesis gig, kicking off the North American leg of the band’s reunion tour at BMO Field on Sept. 7.

National Post  
Saturday, March 31, 2007  
Page: TO4 
Section: Toronto: The City 
Byline: Philip Alves
Column: Neighbourhoods: Exhibition Place