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Update: "Edmonton to get 10,000 seat stadium"....

Winnipeg Fury

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Posted by Doyle, this has national implications:

Thinking big with Clarke Park

Mayor Bill Smith says Edmonton needs a high-quality, 10,000-seat stadium

Edmonton/Mayor Bill Smith looks at Clarke Park-its chewed-up grass field surrounded by a weathered, useless track and a tiny grandstand-and he sees 10,000 people watching a soccer game played on an artificial surface.

Wow, the campaign trail really does funny things to a guy.

If he's re-elected on Oct. 18, Smith says he will do what he can to make his vision a reality.

"The most pressing, long-term sports-related issue in Edmonton is our need for a high quality, 10,000-seat outdoor sports stadium," Smith wrote in an e-mail question to a brief questionnaire. "I would recommend the redevelopment of Clarke Park for this purpose."

"Commonwealth Stadium is too big and too costly for many worthwhile sporting events and concerts where the attendance is only 5,000 to 10,000 people. Soccer is one sport that would really benefit from such a facility. With a fan base that is growing by leaps and bounds, a 10,000-seat stadium would allow us to nurture this sport in Edmonton over the next 20 years."

It's an interesting idea for the soccer community, all right. There are 90,000 registered amateur players in this province and city fields are jammed with games all summer long. But a 10,000-seat stadium seems geared more towards the pro game, which for reasons too numerous to again document here, has never enjoyed any staying power in Edmonton. The Drillers, Brickmen, Eagles, and Aviators all bear testament to an embarrassing history of failure. While a soccer-specific stadium of the size Smith envisions will not guarantee a successful, lasting foray into the pro game, it may well inspire local promoters to take one more kick at it. For better or worse.

Smith's proposal triggers obvious concerns, beginning with the cost to Edmonton taxpayers for a facility that would be used by a small percentage of citizens. And does the capacity have to jump to 10,000?

"There's been no showing that 10,000 is needed (for soccer)," said Edmonton Eskimos' CEO Rick LeLacheur. "I'm not sure 10,000 is the right number. If you look at using it for junior football and high school, what's there now is plenty. Maybe you want to double it, get to 4,000 and prepare the site so you can put up bleachers the way the Aviators did."

Smith did not address the cost issue in his e-mail, but did write that he "will be facilitating discussions" with the Canadian Soccer Association as well as the city, provincial and federal governments to advance his concept.

He will also be calling on the Eskimos to pay for the installation of a new artificial surface at Clarke Park, using proceeds from the sale of the Trappers baseball team. The tab for that project would be over $1 Million but the Eskimos realized several times that amount from the sale-$10.5 million US less unspecified debts- and sound willing to invest in a new surface.

"That's clearly one of the things we would look at," said LeLacheur. "We've said right from last year that we were going to look at things that would help amateur sports."

It would seem prudent for a new facility to incorporate a synthetic playing surface like FieldTurf, which is sanctioned for international use by soccer's worldwide governing body, as well as a removable vinyl top, such as the one used at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa. They cost over $1 million but turn the place into a year-round facility.

"You'd get a lot more use with a dome," said LeLacheur.

No quibble there, but does Edmonton actually need another stadium, domed or otherwise? The mayor thinks so and he has been quietly polling the local sports community of late. He held a closed-door meeting with Alberta Soccer executive director Liz Ferguson last month.

"I came away with the feeling that it was something the mayor would endorse, knowing of course there was an election coming and we have to wait for that particular piece of dust to settle," said Ferguson. "He does want to do it. He can see the potential impact on the city."

Smith also remembers the previous impact on the city when the Aviators folded in the middle of their inaugural A-League season and left a hefty unpaid bill for their use of Commonwealth Stadium. The Aviators were drawing just over 1,000 spectators per game and their venue was clearly to large and costly for them.

"While many other things went wrong with the Aviators, stadium size was one of the issues," said Ferguson.

"The stadia in Edmonton are either too big or too small. They don't lend themselves to that middle-market venture."

Commonwealth seats over 60,000 and Foote just 3,000 leaving all sorts of middle ground for Smith and his vision.


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Do not see it happening WF. I would rather see my tax dollars go to fixing the sidewalks and streets in my neighbourhood than to the construction of a new stadium that would rarely be used or required given current demands.

If pro soccer investors envisage returning a profit from their venture, they should build the stadium or rent and utilize temporary bleachers at Clarke. The city should not invest any more funds than they are "guaranteed" a return from rental and taxes.

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another artificial feild......form what i've heard, feild turf isnt that bad to play on......but if the nats wont play on it then it's useless to the CSA....at leats as far as the CSA mens program is concerned...if our Nats would play on the stuff we'de have a game in ottawa by now

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quote:Originally posted by marcl_19

another artificial feild......form what i've heard, feild turf isnt that bad to play on......but if the nats wont play on it then it's useless to the CSA....at leats as far as the CSA mens program is concerned...if our Nats would play on the stuff we'de have a game in ottawa by now

I don't think the nats have ever said they wouldn't play on Field Turf, and I don't see this as a problem. In fact, in a cold climate like Edmonton's, it's the only way to go.

In fact, I bet we would hear far less bitching about the Field Turf, than we would about the condition of the field at Commonwealth.

We'll have to watch to see how this one devlops.

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On top of everything else, it is unclear whether Smith will be re-elected at all. His main rival, Robert Noce, used to have a major lead over him and has been marginally ahead of him in the most recent polls. he is campaigning on a fiscally tight platform, so an expansion of Clarke Stadium is unlikely under his regin.

Off course, this is civic elections where only 30% orless of eligible voters cast their ballots, so anything could happen, especially there is a third candidate who is also coming in and he might also pull off a surprise as well.

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That bubble thing too. That's hot.

First heard about Lansdowne having their field utilised for winter soccer last year and thought it was brilliant. Could put three indoor pitchs under the bubble. Realy opens up the viability of the place when you can get year round use out of it. Two grand a year at Soccer Spectrum to field an indoor team. Fifty'sh teams that's a hundred large and they're turning teams away because rink time isn't available. Never mind the kids indoor leagues and practice rentals and what-not. There's money to be made by renting an indoor acre come winter.

Hell, if you did it right you could capture the recreational soccer market in one fell swoop in a place like Edmonton or Winnipeg. And that's actualy a pretty big market.

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  • 11 months later...

Just an update on Clarke.

Went there to watch a few minutes of a high school football match last night, and at half-time wandered out to take a look at the new Fieldturf just installed. Permanent football and soccer lines on it, but the football lines are thick and bright white, and the soccer lines are pale yellow. From both the stands and on the field, it is very difficult to tell where the soccer lines are due to the overwhelming gridiron marks. It was certainly better for soccer when there was grass.

Talked to some of the city workers there, no plans they were aware of to increase the seating ("1,200" in a tight squeeze in the little grandstand), and that there was no schedule to use the place for soccer. And no plans for a dome.

Incidentally, the reference in the article above to Foote (UofA) seating 3,000 is a reference to the "football stadium" adjacent to the grasspitch/track side which sits under 1,000 (where EFC played some of it's A-League matches after the Aviator debacle). The football stadium is an asto-turf type surface (with large gridiron ,and small soccer and field-hockey permanent lines) that would not be suitable at all for soccer matches (though the provincial minor rep teams do use it for training camps).

Smith wasn't re-elected last fall, and there is no talk in the local press about new or improved soccer facilities here.

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