Some improvements to be made to Clarke ahead of FCE’s first CanPL season, but City says added seats will have to wait By Steven Sandor Posted on August 15, 2018 0 0 526 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Tom Fath PHOTO: CANADA SOCCER It may be a race to get some improvements done to Clarke Stadium ahead of FC Edmonton’s first Canadian Premier League home game next April. FC Edmonton co-owner Tom Fath, general manager Jay Ball and several supporters appeared in front of the City of Edmonton’s Community and Public Services Committee to discuss the progress that has been made — and what will be needed from council — in a plan the expand Clarke. The Eddies played home games at Clarke in NASL play from 2012-2017, but did not always get prime choice of dates. Fath reiterated that the new Canadian Premier League, which the team has committed to join, would require FCE be able to draw more revenue from the stadium, have dedicated dressing rooms and that capacity be raised from 4,100 to 7,000. Tom and Dave Fath, FCE’s owners, previously brought in bleachers to raise Clarke’s capacity from 1,200 to 4,100 City administration has recommended that Clarke remain a multi-sport venue, with shared usage between FC Edmonton and other minor sports. Roger Jevne, the city’s director of community facilities, said that some improvements can be made ahead of the kickoff of the 2019 CanPL season, but there’s no way that the City can expand Clarke to 7,000 seats by that time. FC Edmonton, though, could fund a temporary expansion themselves. Jevne said that Edmonton will need a mid-size stadium “down the road.” The immediate question going forward is what kind of seats would be needed — if the budget to expand Clarke is approved by council. Jevne suggested that the seats could be portable, so they could move with FCE if the team moves to a new venue down the road. The city won’t address its budget till November, and debate is expected to take a while. “We may not be able to make some of these decisions till December,” said Coun. Ben Henderson. And that’s why the seats present a long-term, not a short-term, question. Fath warned that the clock is ticking to get other improvements done. “We will have to try and expedite as much as we can,” he said. “We have this funny thing called winter and it can get in the way.” Fath admitted that not all of the CanPL requirements are likely to be met in year one. “You have your realities, and we’re talking with city administration to work with your realities,” said Fath. Fath reiterated that FCE does not want to displace other users from the city-owned facility. “Absolutely not. It’s a community facility that’s used by many.” He simply wants “preferential priorities” when it comes to booking dates. During the team’s time in NASL, the Eddies often had to get in line when it came to blocking off game times, even with television commitments. Fath said that new seats can be added without impacting football. That means that bleachers won’t be placed on the football end zone behind the soccer goal lines. Football Alberta has stated that any extra bleachers would need to be placed 25-30 yards behind the soccer goal lines in order to make room for football’s end zones and a buffer zone — you would want to give a wide receiver sprinting through the end zone time to hit the brakes before he got to the bleachers, after all. Representatives from Metro Athletics, which books fields for high schools, and Football Alberta said Clarke is necessary because there is a shortage of fields in Edmonton, and already kids are forced to play in venues outside of the city limits because there aren’t enough venues to accommodate them. And Mill Woods, a venue in Edmonton’s south side which has a permanent football field, can’t be used because it can’t be secured so admissions can be charged. Admission fees are needed to help pay for the venue rentals and referees. Ball said it was vital to get improved washrooms and concessions ahead of the 2019 season. Jevne said those improvements can be made, such as connecting dressing rooms in the adjoining Commonwealth Stadium Fieldhouse and installing portable washrooms. MacEwan University came to the committe to support the FCE plan. The question, as Henderson said, is what will be the solution for soccer long-term. He wondered out loud if a true soccer-specific stadium would be needed in the future. Councillor Michael Walters asked Jevne if the downtown baseball stadium, Re/Max Field, could be considered as a new soccer stadium. He noted how Portland’s baseball stadium was converted to host the MLS Timbers. “The idea has been floated several times, we haven’t had a serious discussion on it,” said Jevne. “We have a large stadium that’s very under-utilized, and it’s a very beautiful park, said Walters.