Jump to content

MLS future could include Edmonton


fishman

Recommended Posts

BY DAN BARNES, EDMONTON JOURNAL MAY 1, 2009

EDMONTON — Major League Soccer isn’t on the Edmonton horizon, but its rise to relative prominence elsewhere on the continent has piqued the interest of a local businessman with the kind of loot it takes to get into the game.

Edmonton Oilers owner and pharmaceutical industry billionaire Daryl Katz has apparently considered, if only briefly, the prospect of expanding his Rexall Sports empire to include professional footie. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not next year. But perhaps one day.

“It’s something they might have an interest in looking at down the road, but not now or any time soon,” said Katz spokesman Josh Pekarsky.

Since the issue of timing is rather nebulous, the questioning should start with why? The simple answer has to be profitability, because this isn’t the same kind of deal as Katz’s hockey team. The Oilers are first and foremost his passion and have been for much of his life. They are also an integral and important piece of Edmonton’s social fabric and he has committed to safeguarding their long-term future here. And yes, he obviously hopes his $201 million US investment pays off long-term, a good bet since the revenue-generation possibilities in a new downtown rink are massive.

The Oil Kings Western Hockey League franchise came with the Oilers as a package deal and are seen as a work-in-progress in terms of a business venture. The Golden Baseball League Capitals, who cling precariously to the fringe of Edmonton’s sports scene, were in dire need of resuscitation, lest they simply die of neglect. The Oilers bought them at the bargain basement price of $400,000 from former owner Dan Orlich, in part to save pro ball for its few Edmonton fans, but also to gain access to Telus Field as a venue for concerts and other public events.

To date, that’s the stable. Despite localized rumours to the contrary, there is no deal pending to buy the Edmonton Rush of the National Lacrosse League from owner Bruce Urban. No arena football. No basketball.

If Rexall Sports is going to continue fostering its master plan for Edmonton’s sport scene, and make itself into “a fully integrated sports and entertainment company” as Katz has declared, soccer would certainly present a challenge. No soccer venture works here for long and nobody knows that better than entrepreneur Mel Kowalchuk, who dates back to the NASL days. But he swears he has witnessed a sea change.

“I do believe soccer has really turned the corner in the last couple of years. It’s got some legs. I’m convinced it does. I believe in time Edmonton could be a very successful MLS city. I can see it happening but maybe not until 2015,” he said.

MLS, headquartered in New York, recently announced expansion franchises in Vancouver and Portland will swell its numbers to 18 teams by 2011. Seven cities applied, driving the previous franchise fee of $30 million US to $35 million. The five cities that lost out — Montreal, Ottawa, St. Louis, Miami and Atlanta — won’t necessarily be at the head of the next class.

“Our timetable has not been finalized as far as future expansion,” said MLS director of communications Will Kuhns. “The commissioner (Don Garber) has said we will expand at some point to 20 teams. He said that could happen as soon as 2012. It has been taken as a definite. It may not be the case. Because of that, we’re still focusing on the current round of expansion.”

It has been a boon. Insider estimates put the average franchise value at about $37 million now, though David Beckham’s association with the L.A. Galaxy pushed the team’s value to perhaps $100 million and Toronto FC is worth about $45 million. Little wonder there was a long line of suitors.

“The model was set by Toronto and Vancouver is following that and will exceed it,” said Kowalchuk. “They’re going to succeed hugely in Vancouver. But they’ve had that base with the Whitecaps for years and years. In Edmonton, the MLS is too premature right now. But I can honestly see it down the road.”

Edmonton Oilers president Patrick LaForge, who put together the deal to buy the former Cracker-Cats baseball franchise, is always on the lookout for ways to improve the company balance sheet but he doesn’t see the need to rush into soccer.

“Pro sports people are always looking and listening to what’s happening in our industry,” he wrote in an email exchange. “Last year MLS was high profile with David Beckham and the Galaxy. Everyone reads the news; there was a bidding war for MLS franchises which is over for now.”

The successful applicants met the most important MLS criteria, having a soccer-specific stadium, which Edmonton would need to build or gain via conversion of Clarke Park perhaps. The league schedule currently runs from March to October, which would present a climatic challenge as well. There are others. MLS senior vice-president of communications Dan Courtemanche laid out the league’s wish list in an email.

“MLS expansion is conducted very strategically as the league’s goal is to secure the following: Committed local ownership group with the appropriate financial resources. A comprehensive stadium plan where the ownership controls the venue (preferably a soccer-specific stadium) or plans to build a soccer-specific stadium. Appropriate market (attractive to sponsors, TV partners, geographic location). History of strong fan support for soccer matches and other sporting events.”

Edmonton falls short on some of those points, but there is no arguing Katz’s commitment to the city’s sports scene. A handful of years from now it may have led him to make a pitch for soccer.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Like Ottawa, Calgary and any other decent sized (700k+) city in Canada I think Edmonton would be better off in the USL-1. Build a base of supporters and a team much less expensive than MLS, get into the Voyageur's Cup and get things going. The MLS or nothing will leave us with the latter.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

quote:Originally posted by Fort York Redcoat

Why assume that no one would come forward to be Edmontons Evil Bert?:D

I don't get it. I hope you guys know that everytime you bash Evil Bert, you bash the Voyageurs. People had no problem standing and chanting along side him in Montreal for the game against St. VAG. You had no problem cheering beside him when he made trips to Edmonton. What are you going to do...kick him out of our section when he travels to support Canada in the future?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

quote:Originally posted by masster

I don't get it. I hope you guys know that everytime you bash Evil Bert, you bash the Voyageurs. People had no problem standing and chanting along side him in Montreal for the game against St. VAG. You had no problem cheering beside him when he made trips to Edmonton. What are you going to do...kick him out of our section when he travels to support Canada in the future?

I'm a Voyageur and I am not an Evil Bert supporter. I didn't even know he existed until that abominable tv appearance with Bobby L.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

quote:Originally posted by StandUpIfYouHateChelsea

why edmonton? honestly we dont need another "soccer mom" support style team!

Putz. Edmonton supported soccer long before the "miracle at BMO field". Unbelievable the pomposity of some of you TFC supporters. It's not like you have had generations of supporters out there (try 2 f*ing years).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

quote:Originally posted by StandUpIfYouHateChelsea

why edmonton? honestly we dont need another "soccer mom" support style team!

Putz. Edmonton supported soccer long before the "miracle at BMO field". Unbelievable the pomposity of some of you TFC supporters. It's not like you have had generations of supporters out there (try 2 f*ing years).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

quote:Originally posted by Ed

Putz. Edmonton supported soccer long before the "miracle at BMO field". Unbelievable the pomposity of some of you TFC supporters. It's not like you have had generations of supporters out there (try 2 f*ing years).

Really? How well did the Aviators do? Lasted 1 year didn't they and if you've been to Edmonton for a match...the atmosphere doesn't even come close to BMO, Commonwealth is a morgue in comparison.

Honestly the over sensitivity of you western footy fans in unbelievable.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

quote:Originally posted by dbailey62

I'm a Voyageur and I am not an Evil Bert supporter. I didn't even know he existed until that abominable tv appearance with Bobby L.

What is an Evil Bert supporter?? I don't know who supports other fans. I'll I'm trying to say is why do people on here insist on ripping another Voyageur?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

quote:Originally posted by tmcmurph

Like Ottawa, Calgary and any other decent sized (700k+) city in Canada I think Edmonton would be better off in the USL-1. Build a base of supporters and a team much less expensive than MLS, get into the Voyageur's Cup and get things going. The MLS or nothing will leave us with the latter.

I can see them drawing 20 000k a game if expansion is done right.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

is the will really there on the governments part?

alberta is the 5th wealthiest jurisdiction in north america with a population of roughly 3 million

and not one outdoor stadium in the 1500-7000 seat range.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Alberta has some of the poorest soccer facilities in Canada. From the lack of suitable surfaces, few private clubs with good fields, next-to-no soccer-specific stadia, it is almost a wasteland.

Don't even get me started on the complete lack of an 11 v 11 field turf indoor facility.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

they did average 3000 the soccer support in edmonton is above average,just a lack of facilities.i beleive edmonton drew around 8000 at commonwealth for their home opener.but due to scheduling conflicts ie eskimos,churchill cup the team did not have enough revenue to bridge gaps between home and away dates.the scoreboard at commonwealth was 25.000 dollars per game,actually the scoreboard is what killed the aviators.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

quote:Originally posted by snake

they did average 3000 the soccer support in edmonton is above average,just a lack of facilities.i beleive edmonton drew around 8000 at commonwealth for their home opener.but due to scheduling conflicts ie eskimos,churchill cup the team did not have enough revenue to bridge gaps between home and away dates.the scoreboard at commonwealth was 25.000 dollars per game,actually the scoreboard is what killed the aviators.

No, presuming that it would be easy to convert selling tickets to youth soccer groups for a one-off event into a regular ticket base is what killed the Aviators.

I'll agree with what most people out there are saying. Edmonton suffers from the same problem most of Canada does: lack of an appropriately sized, spectator friendly, modern and professional looking faciltiy. Presentation of the game has been a HUGE factor in TFC's success so far. I could see Edmonton succeeding at USL level if someone is willing to take the gamble and build a nice 6,000 to 10,000 seat stadium designed to watch soccer in. That takes a hell of a lot of guts though.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

quote:Originally posted by Jarrek

I guess someone is forgetting the fact that the Greater Toronto area is about six times larger than the Edmonton CMA.

But Filling up 20,000 seats a night is definitely possible for Edmonton.

Yeah, especially when you consider that a home game occurs once every two weeks.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

quote:Originally posted by Jarrek

I guess someone is forgetting the fact that the Greater Toronto area is about six times larger than the Edmonton CMA.

That can be offset by the fact that there is less competition for the entertainment dollar. Whereas one market has 6 Mill but five major league sports teams, the other with two or three can make up for the population difference. So, it can work... If its done right.

Regarding the point about the Aviators actual attendance. Some have been throwing around the 3K figure in this thread. That may have been the reported numbers but anecdotally (from what we have read here at that time)things were quite different. I find it hard to believe that you cannot make a go of it in the USL and not even last one season with a 3K average. What are teams like Minnesota getting?

From what i recall at the time ( here and through media reports), I got a strong sence that the ownerships group had no clue what they were getting themselves into. We even saw evidence of that at the very beginning when they declared that they were going to stock the roster with local players. A noble aim for sure but a real indication that they had no clue about professional soccer and soccer in North American. I dont think that they understood that the USL is professional league and professional league are not operated that way. If others have a harding time finding Canadian born "professionals" what could possibly have made them think that local amateur talent would have done the trick. The signs of the Mom and pop kind of thinking were very much in evidence in that example.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

×
×
  • Create New...