Home NASL & USL FC Edmonton Incoming Edmonton mayor non-committal on turf change on Clarke

Incoming Edmonton mayor non-committal on turf change on Clarke


Edmonton Mayor Elect Don Iveson will be sworn into the new job Tuesday. His election win was the biggest blowout the city has seen since the Oilers were winning Stanley Cups.

And, on Monday, in one of his first official duties as the city’s head, he stood at City Hall, alongside Canadian Soccer Association President Victor Montagliani and Canadian women’s national team players Carmelina Moscato, Erin McLeod and Christine Sinclair to kick off ticket sales for the 2014 U-20 World Cup. Seven of the games will be played in Edmonton.

Iveson spoke of how the previous city council decided to spend millions to upgrade Commonwealth Stadium ahead of the 2014 U-20 World Cup and the 2015 Women’s World Cup. Edmonton will host more games in the 2015 WWC than any other city, including Canada’s first two matches.

But, for Edmonton soccer fans, there is more interest in hearing what Iveson has to say about the facility next door to Commonwealth Stadium. Clarke Stadium could be a practice facility for the women’s teams that come through Edmonton in the next two years. It’s adjacent to the Commonwealth Stadium fitness centre.

FC Edmonton owner Tom Fath has put new stands in Clarke to up capacity to a little more than 4,000. But the turf is at the end of its 10-year lifespan, and it has football lines sewn in. The turf has contributed to non-contact injuries to players, including FCE’s Carlyle Mitchell and Daryl Fordyce this season. Earlier this year, NASL commissioner Bill Peterson met with outgoing mayor Stephen Mandel to discuss the turf.

Oh, and it also looks brutal to the television audience.

But will it be changed? Will it be replaced with new turf that has erasable lines which can accommodate both football and soccer but not have the sports infringe on each other? That will be up to the new council.

Iveson said it will be a budget decision. And, for the new council, it’s too early to say yea or nay to changing the turf.

“We can’t say yet what will happen over there (Clarke) one way or the other. Will it be changed in time for next year? I can’t say at this point. People have to be aware that our resources are limited and potholes need to be addressed. Though, I do understand the turf at Clarke has potholes as well.”

What Iveson would want to see is a report on the turf. Did it meet its expected lifespan?

“Did it last as long as it was supposed to?” said the incoming mayor.

FCE General Manager Rod Proudfoot said that the club will be patient. It understands a new council is coming in, and that it needs to do its research on Clarke Stadium.

Iveson played men’s league soccer in Edmonton. He was 47,784 in attendance for the 2002 U-19 Women’s Championship final at Commonwealth Stadium, still the high-water mark for attendance in a FIFA junior women’s tourney.

As is always the case when Edmonton is named the host city for any soccer event, the 2002 nostalgia was evident.

“It springboarded women’s soccer in this country,” said Sinclair. “We hope that can continue with the under 20s and build towards the World Cup in 2015.”

Sinclair, Moscato and McLeod are training with the Canadian team as it prepares to face South Korea at Commonwealth Stadium Wednesday night.

Tickets for the U-20 World Cup go on sale Nov. 28. Group discounts of up to 20 to 0 per cent will be offered.

The prices: Edmonton’s venue pack (all seven games) will go from $40-$90.
Toronto’s venue pack will be available for $50-$120.
Montreal, including all games, will go between $65-$165.
And the Moncton, N.B. venue pack will go from $50-$125.

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  1. Dave

    October 29, 2013 at 1:25 am

    Your points are well taken, Steve, but there is more than just two junior football teams and a soccer team vying for Clark park.
    The scheduling issue between the NASL and PFC is simple enough, but you need to factor in practice time for the visiting CFL teams on any given weekend as well. I don’t now about last season, but I do know in the past both the esks and whoever was visting both used Clark for game prep. That being the case, the CFL teams would want lines too.

  2. Dave

    October 28, 2013 at 11:54 pm

    Clearly, the turnover time of 24 to 48 hours from soccer to football and vice versa is just not viable for Clarke, even under ideal weather conditions. It simply can not and will not happen unless FCE and the NASL agree to schedule weeknight games.
    The two junior football teams can not play weeknight games because many of the players are students and those from other teams such as Winnipeg, Regina and Saskatoon will not be able to take travel time away from their studies.The two Edmonton junior teams have been using Clarke since 1947 and that’s not going to change.
    The fact is an SSS is the only solution for FCE.

    • Steven Sandor

      October 29, 2013 at 12:11 am

      I hear you, Dave, but it’s not that simple. NASL likes to have its games on weekends, so each team has roughly the same schedule. In fact, save for July 4, there were no weekday or weeknight matches. And you need buy-in from the road teams and the television partners. The TV broadcasters have a lot of say in how and when games in a pro league are scheduled.

      A SSS is what FCE’s front office would love to see happen, but even if one was OK’ed tomorrow, it would take time to build. It wouldn’t be ready for the 2014 season. And the turf is treacherous for everyone. I wouldn’t take my dog for a walk on it (if I had a dog). I understand there’s a football concern about having to switch over a new surface from soccer lines to football lines and vice versa, but I know that the TV producers want nothing more but to ensure that the broadcasts don’t have football lines on the soccer pitch. It’s the biggest complaint we get from our viewers.

      I would think the best way for a long-term solution — and this would be me as an arbitrator — would be to see if NASL and football could be scheduled on weekends away from each other. When the Edmonton football teams are on the road, the Eddies play at home, and vice versa. It would take some creative scheduling between partners, but it’s nothing that isn’t done in arenas where there is NBA, NHL and concerts. If they can do it at a venue with two pro teams and other uses, there’s no reason amateur football and FCE can co-exist, at least for now, at Clarke Stadium.

      • Joe Kerr

        October 29, 2013 at 3:32 pm

        Steve, your constant bickering about the state of the turf is embarrassing. Please stop toeing the FCE party line and be honest. Yes, the turf isn’t an ideal surface, but both the coaching staff and the club have used the turf as an excuse for either poor play or injuries the entire year. Don’t you think the poor play and injuries are moreso attributable to the coaching style and how the team is set up to play? I have not seen an FCE squad play worse soccer in their 4 years of existence. I’m sure you remember FCE’s first season when they were first place in the NASL after a few months? They were playing on the extremely poor turf at Foote Field and playing quite well. I didn’t hear anyone complaining at that time. Rather than complain about the obviously poor playing field they just got on with it and let their play do the talking, something the current FCE staff are unable to do.

        Instead, the current coaching staff are papering over their inabilities to put out a winning team on the field by using the pitch as an excuse and it is quite embarrassing. You are a smart guy Steve, I’m sure you see the difference from this years staff to even last years staff. Despite a losing season last year, the coaches operated with class and set up the team to play good soccer, something that can’t be said this year. You are around the team on a weekly basis and I’m sure you can attest to this.

        Until their is a change in philosophy at the club and there is a staff in place who are prepared to look at the product on the field and be accountable for their work I, along with my family and friends will no longer be attending FCE matches.

        It’s not the field that’s “treacherous,” Steve, it’s FCE and it’s staff, and neither myself nor my dog will be going anywhere near them.

        • Steven Sandor

          October 29, 2013 at 4:02 pm

          The turf is an issue, whether you like FCE’s direction or not. The commissioner of the league has been in Edmonton to discuss it with city staff, showing it’s a league concern, not just a team concern. It’s dangerous. It also hurts potential TV audiences. The biggest complaint I hear from our viewers and the people at Sportsnet is that the turf is horrible to see. It’s a FIFA issue if Clarke is to be used as a training facility for the upcoming WWC and U-20 WWC. Guys play in NASL in the hopes of furthering their careers, and I’d feel just as bad if a Carolina or a Tampa Bay player had their dreams derailed because of a non-contact turf injury. The fact is, I would rather have my men’s team play up at Balwin than at Clarke. (And, when we played at Balwin, we’d have to clear used syringes off the field before games. FUN!)

          There are indeed differences between this year’s staff and last year’s staff. At the end of last year, the amount of fans calling for the heads of the previous staff were actually greater than I get calling for Colin to be fired. Judging by comments and e-mails that I get, people were still a lot more unhappy about 2012 than they are/were about 2013. And, of course, last year I got accused of toeing the party line, too. So it’s all fair. And I’m fine with it. I have thick skin and I welcome criticism and differing opinions.

          But, last year, the previous coaches led the team to a dead-last finish, and publicly humiliated two, ahem, LOCAL players (Saiko and Matt Lam) with very public suspensions. I understand that some supporters will not be happy with the “new” FCE, but the “old” FCE was a last-place team with tons of dressing-room problems.

          In 2011, at Foote, the team had a magical start. Players still talk about it. And we all knew why, a bunch of Canadian kids that everyone picked to be horrible got together, they all had chips on their shoulders and something to prove. And then the coaches decided to bring in high-priced European talent and the team fell apart, and was the worst team in the league in the second half of the season. Morale plummeted.

          Last year was difficult. This was a confused team, lacking direction. That was not a happy team.

          I understand fans who are frustrated with this year’s edition of the club. It was difficult for me, personally, to see Hammy and Shaun go. I have spent a lot of time covering them, getting to know them, and I will always have time for them. I keep in touch with them, just like I do with Matt and Paul Craig and other Eddies who are now ex-Eddies. But I can say that the owner and management is deeply committed to Colin. That’s not my opinion, that’s reporting.

          • Joe Kerr

            October 29, 2013 at 4:29 pm

            Thanks for the reply Steve. I agree with you that the turf is a problem and even a hindrance to the progress of the club. It is never ideal to play on a surface that has football lines, especially when considering a TV audience. If FCE is to grow it must address this situation.

            I am worried, however, that the turf is becoming the number one concern for the club and it is ignoring the product on the field. FCE has assembled a great group of players this year but are playing very poor soccer. I would argue that this years group is much stronger than last years considering the amount of seasoned pros with North American experience brought in (Nurse, Laing, Hlavaty, Hertzog, Knight). It is worrying for me as a fan that the state of the turf is discussed more than the lack of success on the field. It seems from the outside that our playing field is being used as a crutch and that if it was changed FCE would start to play better. Having watched our road games online, FCE underperforms on the road as well – most of the time on very good grass fields. This is clearly not the major problem.

            If high priced Europeans who aren’t as motivated as local players are the problem why does FCE continue to bring them in at the expense of local talent?

  3. Soccerpro

    October 28, 2013 at 10:12 pm

    IMHO new turf is vital to the Eddies remaining viable past next year. I don’t think a SSS will ever be viable here. I like Clarke just fine, just please do something about the turf.

    • Seathanaich

      October 29, 2013 at 2:31 am

      The 4,000+ crowd Edmonton got last game is the most important factor: if fans keep that up, the team will remain viable.

      Number two after that for long term viability is the facility. An SSS is obvious best, but isn’t coming for several years at least. Until then, Clarke is it. The solution is for the NASL to prioritise Edmonton’s schedule as soon as the CFL releases theirs, so that Clarke has turnaround time between sports. Its not impossible, it just requires cooperation and a bit of work.

      The CSA should also recognise the value of NASL teams, and contribute financially to a new surface in Edmonton. Presumably the CFL/Eskimos should also be a contributor to such a surface.

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