Last season, FC Edmonton held two of its NASL “home” matches in the Fort McMurray at the new SMS Equipment Stadium, a 5,500-seat venue that can be expanded to hold 15,000.
The facility was almost overwhelming; set in a wonderful island park, next to a state-of-the-art recreation centre and sporting complex, it would arguably the nicest stadium in NASL if it was used regularly. In fact, there were more than a few on social media who championed the idea of using Fort Mac as a venue for a Canadian national-team home match.
Now, less than a year later, it’s difficult to comprehend that much of Fort McMurray has been destroyed by out-of-control wildfires. A city of more than 80,000 that hosted NASL and Canadian Football League games last year has seen its population scattered throughout Alberta. Many don’t know if their homes are still standing. What they do know is that the fire continues to grow.
Sitting in a window seat on a flight into Fort McMurray, you will see nothing but forest on approach. It is incredibly lush. And, in the distance, you’ll see a city that’s basically carved out of the bush. And, I have to admit, quite cynically, that the thought of “what if this place was hit by a forest fire?’ did cross my mind as the plane made its approach. I quickly put that out of my mind.
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