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

City officials renamed a football stadium at Toronto’s Centennial Park after the late former mayor Rob Ford at a ceremony on Tuesday.

Centennial Stadium, near Renforth Drive and Rathburn Road, is now officially known as Rob Ford Stadium. A new sign for the stadium was to be unveiled at the ceremony in Etobicoke.

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.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Rob’s brother, said in the release that the renaming is a “incredibly thoughtful gesture” much appreciated by his family, especially Rob’s children, Dougie and Stephanie.

“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,” the premier said in the release.

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

Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow said in a news release on Tuesday that the renaming is a “beautiful tribute” to a long-serving public official in Toronto.

“I personally know the pain of losing a loved one, which is why I supported the motion to rename the stadium. I understand what this means for the Ford family and I understand how difficult it is to lose someone so prematurely,” Chow said in the release.

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.

Aerial (drone) images of Centennial Park in Etobicoke. The go kart track and the beach volleyball court batting cages are slated for removal for the development of more baseball fields.
Aerial (drone) images of Centennial Park in Etobicoke. The park is undergoing a “significant reimagining” through the Centennial Park Master Plan that was approved by council in 2021, according to Coun. Paul Ainslie, who moved the motion to rename its stadium in memory of Doug Ford. (Joe Fiorino/CBC)

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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