With all kinds of encouraging signs that soccer in Canada — and specifically in Edmonton — is on the upswing, the owner of FC Edmonton doesn’t see any thing new that he’s hyped about in efforts to get a mid-sized stadium built in our city.
Edmonton, along with Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto, are Soccer Canada’s four host cities for Canada-USA-Mexico World Cup soccer bid confirmed Wednesday.
Meanwhile Major League Soccer (MLS) earlier this week appointed Diego A. Moratorio to the new position of general manager for MLS Canada, in a bid to help grow interest north of the border with sponsorship increases at the league and club level.
Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto are in the MLS, while Edmonton is in the struggling North American Soccer League.
FC Edmonton owner Tom Fath realizes the ball is still in city council’s court. The city continues to follow the medium-sized stadium strategy that council approved in 2012.
The council strategy would consider expanding the 5,000 seat stadium, if the Eddies sold out every game. Fath said attendance is improving, but they’ve only had a couple of sell outs so far.
Since Clarke is not running at capacity, that has not changed.
It’s a contrast to the success they’ve enjoyed on the field, where Fath said they’re competitive with the MLS teams they play against in the Canadian championship series.
“We’ve always performed well in that, but we’ve struggled getting enough fans in to the stadium.”
What does it take?
“I wish I knew.”
Talk of a mid-sized stadium halted when Edmonton’s bid for the Commonwealth Games ended. A stadium was considered for rugby-7s.
Since then, other potential reasons to have city council look at a facility have cropped up, including the area restructure plan for Northlands, Edmonton Oilers boss Bob Nicholson’s concept of a sports academy for the city, and the MLS review of the league in Canada.
Nothing there, however, appears to have moved the needle.
“I don’t know how much these different things will tie back to a new mid-sized stadium,” Fath said.
He feels he’s caught in a chicken-and-egg situation.
“Our target is ‘we need to become sustainable,’ and in order to become sustainable we have to be filling out a bigger stadium than we have now.”
In any discussions Fath has had with the city, he said they’ve been preliminary, and a price tag hasn’t even come up yet.
There is no timeline to have the strategy return to the new city council after the Oct. 16 election.
— With files from The Canadian Press