Home Canadian Premier League CanPL News and Notes For FCE, Clarke is home (for now), and the goal is to make a stadium deal that’s “good for everyone”

For FCE, Clarke is home (for now), and the goal is to make a stadium deal that’s “good for everyone”

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If it were up to Jay Ball, FC Edmonton would begin its rebirth as a Canadian Premier League club in a mid-size stadium that was easy for fans to access, was visible to the community and was filled with amenities to make the game-day experience more memorable.

That’s not going to happen. Clarke Stadium was FC Edmonton’s home for NASL matches from 2012-17, and Ball says that it’s “99.9 per cent sure” that’s where the Eddies will kick off in 2019, By Ball’s own admission, Clarke “is not visible, it’s not inspiring, but it’s our home for now and we’re working with the city and the other parties to come to an agreement that’s good for everyone.”

Next week, City of Edmonton administration will present a report to City Council on the progress made in Clarke Stadium negotiations. In April, the City tasked administration to look into FCE’s request to increase Clarke’s capacity to 7,000 and give Edmonton more opportunities to realize advertising and sponsorship revenue from the facility. As well, FC Edmonton was looking to be the primary soccer tenant, with control over game times that it didn’t have for most of its time in NASL.

Clarke is a shared city facility that, as FCE moved in, held just over 1,200 people. FCE owners Tom and Dave Fath brought in new grandstands to push capacity to 4,100, then later added Titan, a large mobile scoreboard/video screen.

The field is also used by minor and high-school football teams, other soccer clubs and the Edmonton Eskimos use it as a practice facility. When FCE made its request to raise Clarke’s capacity, the Eskimos raised some concerns, noting that they have a long-term agreement in place where they pay for the right to use the artificial-turf field.

The City report, released today, will update council on some of the discussions that have taken place between April and the present.

“It sets the stage for a request that will be made in the future, but we’re not sure of that timeline right now,” said Ball.

The report states that the field dimensions won’t be touched, so it will be able to accommodate both soccer and Canadian football. As well, FCE’s wish to have offices, dressing rooms and storage space onsite could be handled by Commonwealth Stadium Fieldhouse, the recreation centre next door.

“Adjustments to FC Edmonton’s request related to Clarke Stadium have been made to maintain football field dimensions for the Edmonton Eskimos, as well as to accommodate ongoing amateur football and other multi-sport users in the short-term,” reads the report. “These interim adjustments to Clarke Stadium do not address FC Edmonton’s long-term desire to play in a “soccer-specific” stadium. FC Edmonton has agreed that any additional seating at Clarke Stadium will be located a safe distance from the end zone boundary on the north and south ends of the stadium that are used during football games. Discussions regarding a permanent locker room for FC Edmonton at Clarke Stadium have progressed to consider use of Commonwealth Community Recreation Centre. This option would require facility modifications to existing field house locker rooms and storage areas.”

The stadium will continue as a shared-use facility, and “The Edmonton Eskimos and FC Edmonton would receive priority bookings at Clarke Stadium as part of their license agreement with the City.”

As for the revenue streams, including raising the capacity of Clarke:

“FC Edmonton is requesting a new license agreement as the prime professional soccer tenant of Clarke Stadium that would include priority field booking and access for all events at Clarke Stadium, access to a trainer’s room, coaches’ office and storage, use of the press box and public address system, ability to engage in sponsorship agreements and use of signage inside the stadium, and to retain 100 per cent of merchandise sales. While Administration has been informed of these requests, any business or revenue considerations that will have implications for the City should be incorporated into the business case being developed by Fath Group which will be reviewed by Administration. If Clarke Stadium is expanded and enhanced, operating costs will increase. These costs include: utility costs, site and facility maintenance, site servicing, and custodial services. The business case will include a clear strategy that outlines how these costs will be recovered and the impacts of those costs on all users.”

Ball said the report signals that FCE has made some compromises and wants to be a “good neighbour” to the other users of Clarke.

“Look, no matter how much money you put into Clarke, it’s not a professional stadium. But with additional seating, more washrooms, well those benefit all the stakeholders… We have to look at it that this is our home for now, and we can dream about what may come in the future.”

Earlier this year, CanPL Commissioner David Clanachan went public with his desire to see FCE explore the possibility of transforming Re/Max Field, the downtown baseball facility that was once home to the AAA Edmonton Trappers, into a soccer stadium. But no formal discussions have been had about that.

THE DOCUMENT

CITY REPORT

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