The Community Services Committee has recommended that $1.25 million be spent to put new turf into Clarke Stadium in time for NASL fall 2014 season. If approved, it would mean FCE would play just four more spring season home games on the old, dangerous turf — which has permanent football lines sewn in.
The recommendation reads: “That the artificial turf replacement at Clarke Field include permanent yellow soccer lines and painted football and other sport lines as required to support the needs of both professional soccer and all other rectangular sport field users.”
The Eddies moved into Clarke in 2012, and have since installed stands that can hold 3,500 fans, moving the capacity of the stadium from 1,500 to 5,000. (That’s the city’s count — anyone who has sat in the old stand at Clarke will tell you there’s no way that could hold 1,500 people, unless you only allowed infants into the stadium).
The Eddies and NASL have been lobbying city council for new turf that would have permanent soccer lines. Football lines would be able to be painted on and then removed from the turf as needed. But the key is that when the Eddies play at home, all fans would see are the green pitch and the soccer lines. In fact, FCE general manager Rod Proudfoot confirmed that the team has lost its national television deal with Sportsnet because the football lines are such a distraction to the TV viewer.
“It’s been a year of public consultations and strategy and we hope that we get a positive result when this goes in front of council on Monday,” he said. “The turf is such an important cog for the success of this club. We’ve already lost a major sponsor because of the football lines; Sportsnet has told us it will no longer show our games because of the lines. And they told us not to to contact them again about broadcasting games until the new turf is in the ground.”
FCE is looking for a new broadcast partner.
Last year, Atlanta keeper Joe Nasco got sent off when he got confused by the football lines and handled outside the area. As well, the turf is coming up in areas and several Eddies, including Daryl Fordyce and Carlyle Mitchell, missed significant time due to non-contact injuries.
The report states:
“Artificial turf fields require replacement every eight to ten years. The artificial turf field at Clarke Field was installed in 2005 and is nearing the end of its life cycle. The current field has permanent football lines.
“To ensure FC Edmonton’s continued growth and reputation as a high calibre sports team, the club needs to present its sport in a way that appeals to soccer patrons and television audiences, as well as, meeting North American Soccer League standards including:
• a minimum seating capacity of 5,000 seats
• a field of play with soccer-only lines for games
“In 2013, FC Edmonton installed 3,500 temporary seats at Clarke Field, at their ?own expense, to supplement the 1,500 permanent seats already installed, ?bringing the total to 5,000 seats.
“The replacement of the artificial turf with permanent yellow soccer lines, painted ?white football lines, and other sport lines painted as required can address all ?sports field users needs through a shared-use model.
“An operational plan has been developed that will ensure timely transitions to ?football lines after FC Edmonton games. It is anticipated that a total of 15 changeovers will occur each year. Lines will be removed on Sunday morning for FC Edmonton soccer games and football lines will be repainted on Monday mornings. The changeover costs will be charged to the group requesting the change (FC Edmonton). Alternative measures also include the use of Commonwealth Stadium if severe weather prevents the lines at Clarke Field to be painted in time for scheduled football games.
“It is important that this project proceed in 2014, ensuring North American Soccer League standards are met and ultimately supporting the long-term sustainability of professional soccer in Edmonton.”
City council must still approve the plan.
And, if the operational plan is passed, it would lock the Eddies into Sunday home games, as it clearly states that the changeovers will take place Sunday mornings and Monday mornings.