Published on May 29, 2010 1:10 PM by dbo.
May, 2010 will be a pivotal one in the history of the CFL, even if the official record books don’t remember it. First, Winnipeg broke ground on their new football stadium, the first stadium being built for football in Canada in 50 years. The month has also been filled with news on stadiums in Hamilton and Ottawa. Finally, the announcement of a tentative collective bargaining agreement between the league and players association came somewhat unexpectedly after much media talk regarding the hard line stance of the league and the possibility of a lockout. While more pieces need to fall into place, these events are part of the continued evolution of the league that sat stalled through the 1980’s and ‘90’s.
Winnipeg’s ground breaking ceremony for the replacement of Canad Inns Stadium is another step in a revitalization of Canada’s stadium infrastructure. Expected to open in 2012, the Blue Bombers follow upgrades in Montreal (to be completed this spring) and Vancouver (to be completed in 2011) with a new stadium built primarily for football tenants. Pending decisions in other centres, additional stadium upgrades and new construction will be opening by mid-decade.
In Hamilton, the focus is on a July 8th deadline to specify the site for the Pan-Am Games stadium or risk having the stadium project moved from Hamilton. While continued media speculation that the solution will be a shared stadium for Toronto Argonauts and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, all indications from the Argos and David Braley negate that possibility.
Negotiations are underway and with a known deadline and money to the community on the table, it is silly to think that the parties would not be able to compromise and specify a location when the alternative is the stadium is relocated from the community. The real question, I believe, is whether the private money can be found, even with compromises, to allow the stadium size to be expanded to CFL proportions. One suggestion on the naming rights issue I’ve heard is that a large sign on site be made that would be visible from the 403 Chedoke Expressway. Whether possible or not, these are the kind of compromises that are needed as I do not expect the city to budge from the West Harbour location.
There are those that don’t have confidence in Hamilton politicians to not lose the stadium. Though written before the new deadline was known, it expresses some doubts over the city’s insistence on the West Harbour site when the stadium’s only major tenant, if the stadium is expanded to CFL size with private money, feels the site will not only make raising the expansion capital difficult, but will result in continued losses for the football team.
Then there is this post from a CFL analyst who apparently has read the coverage of the debate and admittedly claims to not know the area, the people involved or the pros and cons of the proposed locations, but still weighs in with a suggestion he states he knows won’t be acceptable. Thanks for wasting your readers’ time.
The design components of the Lansdowne Park stadium and commercial and front-lawn portions of the project have been released in the past week generating a lot of press. The Lansdowne Project portal for Ottawa Citizen coverage is a great place to start. I wish to highlight certain aspects of the coverage here.
There is still plenty to debate here; the nature of the space and the number of organizations with a stake in it require every detail be reviewed and analyzed. The combination of front lawn development along with the stadium and retail redevelopment will provide a jewel of a stadium and location that will attract events and people, I can’t see it not being enjoyed by all who visit. Hopefully council won’t be stuck on points of the design enough to reject the complete project. There is some flexibility in the details as long as the economics to operate the site remain intact and the site provides an attraction to visitors.
Here is what the home stadiums of CFL clubs could look like by 2015.
Montreal - Percival Molson Memorial Stadium expanded to 25,000 seats in 2010 serves as the primary stadium for the Als. Its age is offset by the recent renovation and the fact that the fans love the location and atmosphere. The club also has access to Olympic Stadium for special events (playoffs) and hosting the Grey Cup.
Ottawa - After rejoining the league in 2013, the Ottawa club plays in one of the most architecturally unique stadiums in Canada if not beyond, making Lansdowne Park a draw for fans and players alike.
Hamilton - Hamilton fans flock to the new home of the Ti-Cats, finished in 2014, which provides ample parking and access at its West Harbour location. (A stretch, but I’m predicting the future here).
Winnipeg - Blue Bomber fans enjoy the game from their new stadium on the University of Manitoba campus, in another unique design that sheds the concrete braces look.
Regina - Work is being completed on a new outdoor stadium which provides weather shelter and comfort for its fans. (A preference of mine coming through in my predictions).
Vancouver - BC Place’s new retractable roof has been in place for four years, and after the outdoor experience in 2010, Lions fans flock to the building’s new atmosphere.
Meanwhile, annual Touchdown Atlantic games in Moncton have been successful to the point where serious talks over permanent expansion of Stade Moncton 2010 Stadium to CFL capacity is being discussed with local politicians and potential owners to bring a franchise to the Maritimes by 2018.
Check back in five years to see how well I did.
The change of note in all this is a long overdue infrastructure upgrade across Canada for professional football. Gone will be the last of the 50+ year old concrete structures that provided no architectural appeal or fan amenities. These new stadiums will jump the CFL into a new era of growth and prosperity. It will remove weights that have been holding the CFL back in both perception and revenue streams for the past 20-30 years. It is hard not to be excited about seeing those weights removed.
As I linked to May 26th, the CFL announced a tentative deal on a new CBA had been reached and was being sent to the membership of the Players’ Association and League Board of Governors for ratification before July 1.
Few details were released and both sides agreed to not release any more details other that what was in the press release until ratification. Only one report that I’ve seen has been able to report on additional details of the agreement via anonymous sources. My commentary on some of the details that are known:
If these facts are correct, it would appear from my perspective the league used all the ratio and work hours issues as leverage for the financial deal they wanted. I look forward to the deal being ratified and the details being known. There are a number of items that I would like to know about the new agreement:
June and July expect to continue with reports on stadiums in Ottawa and Hamilton as well as the CBA ratification and details. The season could kick-off with another new stadium set in Hamilton and Ottawa confirmed to return to the fold while the new CBA is ratified by the league and players.
Now let’s look forward to the upcoming season, great on-field stories and the emergence of new stars.