Home NASL & USL FC Edmonton NASL Commissioner talks Edmonton stadium, new expansion team, Minnesota situation

NASL Commissioner talks Edmonton stadium, new expansion team, Minnesota situation

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A new soccer stadium for Edmonton. The fate of the Minnesota Stars. More expansion teams. These were all hot topics as NASL Commissioner David Downs sat down with The 11 in Edmonton Thursday afternoon.

Downs was in town, where he and members of the FC Edmonton front office met with Mayor Stephen Mandel and City Manager Simon Farbrother. They also met a potential media partner and then had meeting with representatives from the Province of Alberta.

“The stadium issue came up in all of our meetings,” said Downs. “But the reception we received was very positive. Everyone agreed there is a need for a mid-size stadium that can specifically used for soccer, but could also be used for other appropriate events for a mid-sized facility.”

According to and FCE relase issued after the meetings, “The biggest news to come out of the day-long conversations was the Mayor’s inquiry into building a soccer-specific stadium in the city, which he put to his executive committee to establish the feasibility of a 10,000 seat, soccer-specific stadium along with a full-field indoor facility.”

Club owner Tom Fath and the team’s front office has been lobbying for a soccer-specific stadium for the Eddies. As well, a SSS could also be utilized as part of the city’s pitch to get some of the more important 2015 Women’s World Cup matches within its borders.

And Downs feels that a soccer stadium would send a message to the Edmonton sports community that FCE is not a flash-in-the-pan pro soccer team, like the city has endured in the past. Failed franchises, most notably 2004’s Edmonton Aviators of the USL, have created a lot of soccer cynics in the city.

“The stadium would be the landmark that would scream ‘we are here for a long while,’” said Downs.

The meetings were also attended by members of the Alberta Soccer Association and Canadian Soccer Association board member Derryn Donaghey.

“It really is unique,” said Downs “All of the leaders of the different factions and all pulling in the same direction. Of course, working on the (World Cup 2022) U.S. soccer bid I got to know the game in the country quite well, and I am amazed by the participation levels in Canada. In America, a country of 310, maybe 315 million, there are four to five million registered players. In Canada, a nation of 35 million, there are one million. That’s a lot more per capita. And that strengthens my disappointment in the attendance numbers Edmonton has been getting.”

Of course, those numbers were affected by FCE’s inability to expand Clarke Stadium as had been promised. Clarke’s capacity is 1,200 — which means it has been sold out every home game, despite the poor attendance numbers. Plans had been to place temporary stands, a beer garden and a family zone on the grounds, boosting capacity to 5,000. But, because of issues with the provincial building code, FCE didn’t get the green light to get the renovation done.

That was also discussed with the city on Thursday, and there was talk of finding a way to streamline the process so the Clarke renovation would be ready for next season. Downs stressed that people in other markets, such as New York when the Cosmos come in the league in 2013, see the stadium on webcasts, and it doesn’t look good on Edmonton.

And, he said the stadium offers one of the two worst fan experiences in the league — even though the atmosphere from the supporters has been good. Because of the poor field, San Antonio was the other one on his list. But the Scorpions will soon be moving out of that temporary facility.

“We want to see Edmonton bring its stadium up to the standards of the other clubs in the league, so the Edmonton experience doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb.”

FCE ON-FIELD
Despite having a larger budget than most NASL teams, the Eddies will finish the season in last place. But the commissioner said that he isn’t concerned about the team’s on-field issues. They will have to be sorted out by the coaches and management.

What he did say was that Fath was a “gem” of an owner — an asset to the city of Edmonton.

“As commissioner, I’d want to see all of the teams win 75 per cent of their home games!” joked Downs. “That would leave everyone at just about .500 and we’d have real parity in the league.”

But, from what he’s seen, Downs doesn’t think it would take much to turn last-place Edmonton into a contender in 2013.

“The thing is in our league, there is such an infinitesimal difference between the first-place team and the eighth-place team. I think the ball has bounced badly for FC Edmonton in a lot of games this year. They were able to snatch ties out of the jaws of victories and losses out of the jaws of ties.”

EXPANSION AND MINNESOTA
The New York Cosmos are already confirmed for 2013. And Downs said the paperwork has just been signed — another expansion team will be announced either just before or at the Board of Governors meeting at the end of October.

The question, though, is whether that expansion team — which is located on the U.S. mainland — will begin in 2013 or 2014. That has not been ironed out yet.

As well, Downs said another existing team could be making the move to NASL for 2013. When asked if it was a USL franchise, Downs said that it “wasn’t necessarily so” and that he couldn’t confirm more than that.

Of course, Minnesota is a real wild card here. The Stars are currently funded by the league, as the search for a new owner continues. If an owner isn’t found, it will be up to a vote of the owners on Oct. 27 to determine whether the Stars are funded for 2013 — or are folded.

“They have 40 days to find an owner or have a pending offer,” said Downs. “If not, it will up to the board to decide whether to fund the team — or not, depending on the number of new teams we will have for 2013.”

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2 Comments

  1. Lfred gomezA

    November 23, 2012 at 11:56 am

    Cuantos equipos esperan tener en esa liga y si este es el inicio de la segunda división?

    Reply

  2. José Luis Molna

    September 21, 2012 at 3:32 am

    Very good read! Thank you.

    Reply

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