State of the Stadiums

Published on April 14, 2009 9:11 PM by dbo.

Note: This article examined the situation at a point in time. The Stadium Status page is a regularly updated review of stadium news for CFL cities and potential sites.

Of the current eight stadiums hosting CFL teams, four are currently undergoing expansion or discussion is underway about replacement or major refurbishment.  Of the remaining four cities, three have stadium refurbishment plans or wish lists.  The remaining franchise, Toronto, has had stadium discussions in the past five years but does not have any active plans from their current situation leasing Rogers Centre.  Three more communities, Ottawa, Quebec City and Moncton also have stadium plans in order to attract CFL franchises.  Understanding the age and condition of current stadiums, the proposals for improving or building facilities and the funding requirements allows one to see the big picture over the life of these buildings.

Hamilton - Ivor Wynne Stadium

Hamilton’s Ivor Wynne Stadium is badly in need of replacement.  Originally built in 1933, the current South stands were constructed in 1959 and the North stands in 1970-71.  Contrary to the belief that CFL franchises do not contribute to stadium infrastructure, the Ti-Cats have spent $6,000,000 on stadium improvements over the last five years.  The opportunity today for Hamilton lies with the Toronto bid for the 2015 Pan-American Games which calls for events to be held across the Golden Horseshoe in Southern Ontario, with Hamilton playing a large role.

The games call for a 15,000-seat stadium and velodrome to be constructed, funded by $60 million from the City of Hamilton and $54 million from the provincial and federal governments.  To increase the stadium size to 27,000 and make it suitable to host the Ti-Cats requires an additional $50 million that the city is seeking from the private sector.  Compared to the $18 to $20 million in maintenance required to Ivor Wynne Stadium in the next 5 to 10 years or $94 million to redevelop the existing stadium, which does not eliminate other issues with Ivor Wynne like location, an opportunity to split costs on a new stadium seems logical.  Ti-Cats owner Bob Young has yet to commit any private money to the project, instead explaining on his blog in February the reasons Hamilton needs a new facility.  He believes that private funding commitments cannot be made until more facts about the project are available, such as location and other development opportunities are known.

In addition to the Pan-Am games, a newly designed stadium would allow for temporary seating to expand to a capacity to host a Grey Cup.  The Ti-Cats and City of Hamilton have not bid on hosting a Grey Cup since 1996 due to the constraints of expanding the current stadium while keeping ticket prices affordable in the blue-collar Hamilton market.  In addition to opportunities to host a Grey Cup approximately every 10 years, concerts and other international sporting events could be attracted to Hamilton with a new outdoor stadium.

To provide another long term tenant for a new stadium, Ti-Cats owner Bob Young announced he would apply for a USL franchise on condition of the new stadium being built.  A decision on the Pan-Am bid is expected in November 2009 and the team could play out of Ivor Wynne stadium until the new stadium is ready.  Without the new stadium, Mr. Young is not interested in making a franchise work in Ivor Wynne stadium.  Others have questioned whether soccer will work in Hamilton at all with its previous record.

Montreal - Molson Stadium

Montreal’s Percival Molson Memorial Stadium had expansion plans finalized and cost sharing determined recently after being initially proposed in 2005.  Plans are to expand the downtown stadium on the campus of McGill University to about 25,000 seats from the current capacity of 20,202.  Molson Stadium was opened in 1919 with a construction cost of approximately $100,000.  The stadium has changed little since its construction, serving as home for the Alouettes from 1947 to 1967 and 1997 to today.  Without the return of the Alouettes to play at Molson stadium and the initial $55,000 in renovations to make the stadium safe and capable of hosting a professional game it is likely McGill University would have demolished parts of the stadium rather than pay for its upkeep.  Phase 1 of the renovation project was finished in 2004 with Ottawa, the Province of Quebec and the City of Montreal each contributing $4 million with $500,000 coming from Alouettes owner Bob Wetenhall.  Phase 2 of the project, the current expansion, calls for the Province of Quebec to foot $19.3 million of the $29.355 million cost.  The City of Montreal will contribute $4 million while Mr Wetenhall will contribute the remaining $6 million.  The Government of Canada is making no contribution to the second phase, causing the delays in the project and requiring Mr. Wetenhall to cover the shortfall in order for the project to proceed.

The project is not without opposition, with groups opposed due to the economic situation and local residents opposed to expansion adding an additional 5,000 fans in the neighbourhood ten times per year.  Yet this project has been one of the most economical for providing a stadium that sells out consistently.  Not only are they reusing an existing public stadium, $42 million to renovate a 90-year old stadium over a dozen years is very fiscally responsible compared to the cost of a new stadium.

Winnipeg - Canad Inns Stadium

Winnipeg began seriously looking at stadium options over two years ago when the long term viability of the current stadium without major upgrades became apparent.  The current Canad Inns Stadium was opened in 1953 with upgrades in 1967 and 1999 for the Pan-American Games as well as in 1971 and 1978.  The Blue Bomber football club conducted studies regarding the feasibility of stadium renovations and new construction and invited proposals from private partners for development plans.  In the end the club entered into an understanding with David Asper to develop a stadium in return for transferring ownership of the franchise to him.  Mr. Asper then began trying to negotiate the necessary deals with the levels of government to fund the stadium construction.  The location has moved three times during the negotiations with the current location on the site of the University of Manitoba.  Asper is still ready to build the stadium with $35 million in government support despite the financial problems of the Asper-family controlled Canwest media empire.  In early April agreements over the funding of the stadium were announced, leaving only final City and University of Manitoba approval over the old and new stadium land remaining.  The funding agreement calls for $35 million in government funding ($20 million from the provincial government, $15 million from the federal government) which will go towards the construction of amateur and community sports facilities as part of the project.  Asper will contribute $100 million towards construction of a 30,000-seat stadium in return for transferring ownership of the community owned Blue Bomber franchise to him and purchasing the existing stadium site from the city at fair market value for retail redevelopment.

Complicating this project is the transfer of the franchise ownership into private hands.  Not taken lightly by the current Bomber board, conditions have been instituted to protect the franchise in case of private ownership failure or death without a succession plan.  Ownership is set to be transferred in early 2010 and the stadium ready for the 2011 season if all goes to plan.  Asper has plans to grow support and the franchise and pegging the franchise cost at $10 million displays his belief as to the value of the club.  The main part of his plan as a private owner is the new stadium, providing improved comfort for fans with 80% weather coverage, wind blockage and improved atmosphere and facilities.

Regina - Mosaic Stadium at Taylor Field

The City of Regina and the Saskatchewan Roughriders are the latest entries in the new stadium debate process.  Buoyed by recent financial success of the franchise and the local economy, fueled by rumours that Saskatoon was going to build a stadium to host the Roughriders and driven by the need to keep up with their prairie neighbour Winnipeg’s new stadium plans, the future of Mosaic Stadium has become a hot topic for local politicians.

Recently the Regina Leader-Post published a six-part series on the stadium question, starting with the introduction, with the renovate, rebuild or relocate question, the City’s preference for a new stadium, the need for partners, the conflict players feel about a new stadium and the results of a poll showing citizens favour a new stadium following.  Also, a photo gallery is published with historical pictures of stadium construction.

The current Mosaic Stadium was constructed in sections over the years, with the lower west section completed in 1948, the east grandstand in the 1950’s and the upper west section in 1979.  Other renovations have occurred over the years, with the addition of corporate boxes on the east side as the result of the 1995 Grey Cup.

Regina faces a difficult time funding a new stadium without any private funding.  Unlike Winnipeg there is no wealthy private benefactor willing to contribute $100 million for stadium construction or a desire to privatize the team.  This leaves the city and provincial government on the hook for the majority of the cost, as the federal government will not be involved in funding large stadiums for professional use.  Still, the provincial government appears ready to go it alone, commissioning a $70,000 study of the current stadium reports by the city and Saskatchewan Roughriders and has a preference for a multi-use, indoor facility with potential funding coming from the Saskatchewan Gaming Corporation rather than general provincial coffers.

Vancouver - B.C. Place Stadium

B.C. Place Stadium will receive a number of upgrades as the result of the 2010 Winter Olympics.  Suites, washrooms, concessions and seating will be upgraded prior to the Olympics, for which the stadium will be used for opening and closing ceremonies.  After the Olympics the roof is slated to be replaced with a retractable roof at an estimated cost of $150 million.  BC Place is one of three domed stadiums available for use in the CFL, with Toronto and Montreal having the others.

Calgary - McMahon Stadium

Calgary is in a comfortable position with McMahon Stadium, originally built on the University of Calgary campus in 1960.  While the stadium has expanded with the city over the years, with help from events like the 1988 Winter Olympics, the increased seating has put a strain on other areas of the stadium such as the concourse, concessions and washrooms.  A wish list of changes have been made, but formal plans and public and private funding still need to be arranged, further complicated by the stadium being owned by the University.  The cost of changes has been estimated at over $16 million.  With a rebound in the economy it is likely that the private and public funding will be found as the alternative of a new building makes no sense with the existing stadium still in good condition.

Edmonton - Commonwealth Stadium

Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium is the jewel outdoor stadium in Canada, the only stadium in the CFL with a natural grass field.  Designed properly, the 32-year old stadium should last another 40 to 60 years if not more with the proper maintenance and investment.  Edmonton has been awarded the 2010 Grey Cup and there have been calls to use that opportunity to upgrade the stadium seats, rectifying some design issues (odd number of seats in every row), improving comfort and performing maintenance that is needed.  The estimated cost of $6 million is a wise investment when you see it spread out over the 30-40 year life of the seats.  Using a major event as a catalyst for the seat replacement provides a nice legacy for the project, and potential cost sharing.  Waiting may only force the full cost to be carried by the taxpayer.

Toronto - Rogers Centre

The Toronto Argonauts seem satisfied with their current situation at Rogers Centre.  After stadium deals with the University of Toronto fell through in 2004 and York University in 2005, the Argos signed three 5-year lease agreements with Rogers Centre with the option to leave after any of the five year terms.  While they have investigated moving to BMO Field, the necessary renovations and MLSE control of the stadium has effectively limited that possibility.  It appears with average attendance near the 30,000 mark, the Argo owners are willing to be patient with their existing situation.

Ottawa

The Ottawa stadium saga has been dragging on for over a year.  From the condemnation of the lower south side stands of Frank Clair Stadium at Lansdowne Park in 2007, the awarding of a conditional CFL franchise to an Ottawa group in April 2008, the demolition of the stands in July 2008, to the stadium competition being decided by council this month, the process has not moved as quickly as some hoped.

The lower south side stands of Frank Clair Stadium were constructed in 1961, the upper south stands in 1975 and the north side stands in 1967.  The demolition of the lower south side stands still saved more than three quarters of the stadium, leaving a seating capacity of 26,559 out of an original 30,927 seats.

There are currently two stadium proposals in front of the City Council.  The conditional CFL franchise owners have a Lansdowne Park development plan that requires $80 to $100 million from the city (and other levels of government) for stadium renovations.  Eugene Melnyk, as part of his MLS franchise bid proposes a $110 million, 20,000 to 30,000-seat stadium be built in Kanata.

The Lansdowne Live! redevelopment proposal provides a plan for all 37 acres of Lansdowne Park, with minor league soccer pitches, a hotel, retail and restaurant space, residential development and other park features.  The cost of the commercial development, estimated at $120 million, will be incurred by the developers.  Additional features such as an aquarium, amphitheater, and the minor league sports fields would be the responsibility of the city.  The cost of the stadium redevelopment would be the responsibility of the city and other levels of government.  The cost of the stadium/arena project has been estimated from $25 to $125 million, with the developers estimating $97 million and guaranteeing any cost overruns over that figure.  The developers would take over management of the new facility, saving the city and estimated $4 million a year in management costs.  To eliminate this project competing with other projects for city funds and money from other levels of government, the developers have suggested the $97 million cost be amortized over 30 years, resulting in an annual payment of approximately $4 million, the same as the current operating loss of the Park absorbed by the city.  The stadium site plan allows for the stadium to accommodate CFL football and soccer configurations, serving as a dual purpose facility.  The city needs to commit to this location before starting to work out additional details, while it appears to want an exact plan to commit to.

The Kanata stadium proposal calls for $110 million in pubic money to construct a 20,000 to 30,0000 seat soccer specific stadium.  Melnyk will contribute the $50 million franchise fee but asks for the majority of the $110 million cost of the stadium and surrounding five soccer pitches be picked up by various levels of government, with a minor private contribution from Melnyk.  In the long term, the plan calls for additional development in the area, with a hotel and other commercial development, pushing the project cost up to $500 million.  Few specific details of the plan are public, but management of the stadium is expected to be performed by Melnyk’s Senators Sports & Entertainment.  Initially, the Melnyk plan seemed open to the stadium hosting CFL football despite a soccer-specific stadium requirement by MLS.  Then they seemed to backtrack on that stand, wanting to focus on soccer, before stating before committee that accommodating the CFL would not be a problem.

Both proposals call on major public funding.  The City of Ottawa has stated they cannot afford the total public cost themselves and would require help from other levels of government.  Some were surprised to find there was no federal government infrastructure fund that would contribute to new stadium projects, potentially leaving the city with the whole bill.  Yet the Lansdowne developers have put a very reasonable amortization proposal on the table that allows the city to get the stadium and not affect funding of any other projects.  The Lansdowne site has received the highest score in the city’s comparison criteria, but funding will be the topic of debate before a final decision is made.  Currently, there is an effort underway to get both groups to combine efforts on a single proposal.

A decision from Ottawa City Council is expected April 22.  The council could back one proposal to enter into more serious design and funding discussions or decide to re-open the design competition for Lansdowne Park.  A staff report on the condition of the Park structures lays out a number of options that council will take into account.  Among the options are demolishing the stadium/arena now, in 2013 or in 2037 after spending $31 million to keep the structures functional.  Due to the delays the CFL has extended the conditional franchise granted to the Ottawa group until September to provide time for a stadium decision to be made and the group to work out a lease agreement.  It remains to be seen if the conditional Ottawa franchise owners will be willing to enter into a lease arrangement for a Kanata stadium as a large part of their franchise plan includes the development of Lansdowne Park.

Quebec City

Federal funding for expansion of the football stadium at Laval University was turned down last year, disappointing an anonymous group wishing to bring a CFL franchise to the city.  With the federal government out of the picture, funding will have to come from the province, city, University and private sectors, which will take additional time to arrange in the current economic situation.  The current PEPS stadium seats approximately 18,500 fans and would need to be expanded by 10,000 seats among other improvements to provide for a CFL franchise.  It was the site of a 2003 exhibition game between Ottawa and Montreal in front of 10,358 fans.

Moncton

The CFL is investigating holding a regular-season game in Moncton in 2010.  The game would be held at the new track and field facility on campus of the Université de Moncton with stadium capacity of 20,000 seats which may be temporarily expanded.  Exhibition games have been held in the Maritimes before with Canada Games Stadium in Saint John, New Brunswick hosting Hamilton and Montreal in front of an over-capacity crowd of approximately 8,000 fans in 1987 and Huskies Stadium in Halifax hosting Hamilton and Toronto in 2005 in front of a capacity crowd of 11,148 people.  A game scheduled for 2006 in Halifax between Ottawa and Montreal was canceled when the Ottawa franchise was revoked prior to the season.

For the Maritimes to be awarded a franchise, private ownership with the resources to provide the franchise fee, operating capital and at least partial funding of a stadium will be needed.  Moncton certainly provides the best opportunity with the construction of a 20,000 seat stadium for the 2010 IAAF World Junior Championships in Athletics.  Hosting regular season games in the region should help gauge local interest and other stadium projects will provide lessons to the private and public sectors wishing to bring a CFL franchise to the Atlantic shores.

Finally

The revival of the CFL and franchise survival has spurred stadium construction talk across the country.  Except in Canada’s largest cities, stadium infrastructure has been ignored and neglected for a long time.  This has left most of these 50+ year old stadiums in a position where replacing them makes more sense today than pouring money into them to extend their life another 10 or 20 years.  Does that mean the government should fund seven new stadium or refurbishment projects?  Can anyone come up with a Taj Mahal stadium plan and the government foot the bill?  I address the criteria for buildings and funding in the next article, Funding Stadium Projects.

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State of the Stadiums was published on April 14, 2009 9:11 PM by dbo.

3,928 words.

This article is categorized under Stadiums and tagged with bc-place-stadium, canad-inns-stadium, commonwealth-stadium, ivor-wynne-stadium, mcmahon-stadium, molson-stadium, moncton, mosaic-stadium, ottawa, quebec-city and rogers-centre.

Four Responses to “State of the Stadiums”

  1. In developing news, the conditional CFL group has stated they will look at bringing a USL franchise to Ottawa to share Lansdowne Park with their football team.

    The economics seem to make more sense and another tenant certainly can't hurt the bid process. We'll find out next week if council has warmed to a revitalized Lansdowne or not.

    By dbo on April 15, 2009 12:59 PM

  2. New developments in the Ottawa situation daily, with reports today on councillor support for the Lansdowne location but combining both sports into one open-air stadium may result in the Kanata location being selected so something unique and green can be done with Lansdowne.

    However, support still seems strong for a central location, if not Lansdowne, then one of the other central locations, not Kanata. New reports on the the repairs needed to the stadium and arena still show it to be more cost effective to repair the existing.

    It seems that forcing a CFL franchise on Eugene Melnyk and building a stadium in Kanata to make this work is a poor compromise. A central location is the consensus it appears, so if not Lansdowne, then another central area and a new stadium/arena with additional costs. Having that with the Hunt group as CFL and USL franchise owners seems much better than Melnyk with a pro sports monopoly in Ottawa and a disinterested CFL owner.

    By dbo on April 15, 2009 4:59 PM

  3. Today's update has Lansdowne developers upset over the leaking of the stadium engineering report while Sun columnist Susan Sherring doesn't believe Mayor O'Brien is showing leadership on the stadium issue.

    By dbo on April 16, 2009 4:34 PM

  4. With the decision day coming up next week, the stadium story continues to get much coverage by Ottawa media. Today both papers covered meetings by Lansdowne developer Roger Greenberg with their editorial boards.

    The Ottawa Citizen took the opportunity to stress comments the group would walk away if council did not make a decision. The Ottawa Sun focused on Greenberg's confidence that council will support their plan. Listening to the audio of Citizen editorial meeting reveals a lot more detail of the Lansdowne plan.

    By dbo on April 17, 2009 6:01 PM