Edmonton not building a $120m soccer stadium just yet

Finally, somebody who isn’t jumping into building an MLS-ready soccer stadium! Hello, Edmonton!

City councillors agreed Wednesday to install new artificial turf at Clarke Park, but dropped plans to one day consider building a $120-million soccer stadium.

That’s a reasonable decision, even if MLS does seem committed to offering up a franchise to just about anyone who asks for one (and builds a stadium, and finds someone to come up with the expansion fee). So what made the city decide to reject plans for a new home for FC Edmonton?

Councillors accepted a $20-million plan to expand Clarke to 10,000 seats from the current 5,000 once a team can average 4,500 fans a game for three years.

FC Edmonton, which now draws almost 2,500 people a game, says it needs average attendance of about 8,000 to break even.

But council deleted a proposal to start planning a 20,000-seat stadium at a new location once an average of 9,500 spectators start showing up.

“I just don’t think it’s appropriate to make decisions in 2014 about something that might not come up as an issue until the 2020s,” Coun. Bryan Anderson said.

Okay, so that’s not so much “rejecting” a 20,000-seat stadium as “putting one off,” though it is nice to see that they’re considering the idea of having the soccer team share with the Eskimos CFL team if it should come to that.

What I’m still a bit unclear on, though, is why Edmonton is talking about putting up the money for the soccer team’s stadium, or what the city would be getting in return. (Okay, I’m also confused as to whether it’s Clarke Park, Clarke Field, or Clarke Stadium — the Interweb can’t seem to agree on a name.) It makes sense to wait until the team is showing it can draw more fans before expanding the place, but would FC Edmonton pay more in rent to compensate the city for the expansion? Does the pro team really just pay the hourly rental fee? Canada truly remains a strange, inscrutable land.

4 comments on “Edmonton not building a $120m soccer stadium just yet

  1. Given the unnamed paper’s generally hard push for spending like this… Damn it, Neil, the rich want their toys and they’re not going to pay for them! I highly doubt the average fan here is any more knowledgeable regarding opportunity cost than that poor Florida fan. Even the city keeps trying to deny opportunity costs exist with the arena. Ugh.

  2. $20m for expansion of Clarke stadium seems a little foolhardy (it used to be called Clarke Stadium when the Eskimos played there in the 60’s/70’s) given what it is actually used for.

    I do think FC Edm will continue to struggle at the gate absent a dedicated (grass pitch) soccer facility, but that is not the city’s problem frankly. I appreciate the fact that the Fath bros brought an NASL team to the city and that they cannot ever hope to break even absent a proper facility. But that has no bearing on what the taxpayers should spend their money on.

    NASL clubs do not need 10k facilities (most of them have avg attendances of less than 5k) at this point. I wonder if the Fath’s put up $3m and the CSA (hah!) helped sell sponsorships and could raise another $3m, the city might match that as well? That would provide $9m for a 4-5k dedicate soccer stadium… which I believe is doable if you watch the extras and focus on a single stand.

    $20m for an expansion of Clarke stadium (which used to seat 15k in the Eskimo days, but the city demolished at least half of it because it determined there was “no need” for a 15k facility anymore) seems like a bad use of money, honestly. It will create a better stadium, albeit one designed for “our” football as well as the other one… and that seems likely to mean continued compromises on the experience.