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Edmonton gauges level of support for 2026 World Cup

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The City of Edmonton has posted an online survey that asks residents to declare their level of support for the 2026 World Cup.

The survey will be active until Oct. 10. Residents are asked if they support, oppose or are indifferent about the city’s push to host matches at Commonwealth Stadium.

Edmonton is one of three Canadian cities on the final shortlist to host games in 2026. The World Cup is split between the United States, Mexico and Canada for 2026, with Canada getting host rights to 10 of the matches. Montreal and Toronto are the two other Canadian cities left on the shortlist, as Vancouver was eliminated after the British Columbia government refused to sign off on FIFA’s conditions for hosting. As the province administers BC Place, the NDP government’s refusal to sign killed Vancouver’s bid.

In Edmonton, the city government has so far been committed to the hosting process, but the provincial NDP has not committed funds towards the effort. The issue for the province is that it can’t earmark funds for any 2026 sporting event until it knows where Calgary’s Olympic bid for that same year stands.

In the survey, residents are asked if they’re supportive of Edmonton needing to spend $35-$55 million to host a few World Cup matches, but that the economic impact is expected to be $170 million. But, the survey notes that the $35-$55 million estimate does not include infrastructure costs for stadium and training facilities. While Commonwealth Stadium, structurally, is ready for the World Cup, it would need a grass field, and we would need to know what technology will be like eight years from now to know what the stadium will need to provide in terms of amenities and broadcast facilities. As well, costs to expand training grounds are not part of the estimate, either.

The timing of the survey is interesting, to say the least. The City of Edmonton’s council and administration is looking at finances for 2019, and Mayor Don Iveson has already promised that it will likely be an austerity budget. He has warned that this will be “the city’s toughest budget in a decade.” The City is expecting a deficit of more than $14 million for 2018. There has been talk that some projects will need to be cut in order to save funds.

The renovation/expansion of Clarke Stadium is part of the budget deliberations, as well, as FC Edmonton is looking to raise capacity from the current 4,500 to bring it up to the Canadian Premier League standard. The Eddies are part of the seven “original” CanPL teams that will kick off in 2019. City councillors had already told the Eddies that any final decisions on Clarke would need to wait until after the budget process is done.

A proposed capital budget is expected for Oct. 23.

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