FC Edmonton plays its home games at the city-owned Clarke Stadium … so, does that make Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson the team’s landlord?
Well, if that’s the case, the mayor — who has played a bit of goal in the past – is pumped about the Canadian Premier League, and that it offers more sustainability for the sport in a city that’s seen its fair share of professional soccer start-ups, and failures.
Edmonton has played host to both outdoor and indoor versions of Drillers teams that played in leagues that were doomed to fail. The Edmonton Brick Men were part of the Canadian Soccer League. The USL Aviators went bankrupt halfway through their only season. FC Edmonton were stalwarts of NASL 2.0, but had to go on hiatus, as did the league itself.
However, the Eddies have been reborn in the Canadian Premier League.
Iveson, who spent time with FC Edmonton this past weekend as he helped with the grand opening of the $5-million Edmonton Soccer Dome, thinks this iteration of pro soccer in Edmonton is far different than what came before. The city chipped in $2 million to fund the facility, which has already been home to FCE’s training sessions through winter and spring.
“I think having only Canadian teams bodes well for the sustainability of the league,” Iveson told CanPL.ca. “I think it being a Canadian league will not only stir civic pride, but national pride. And I’m just grateful that Tom Fath (who owns FC Edmonton with his brother, Dave) are committed to keep Edmonton in the mix with soccer. We will continue to work with them to ensure it thrives and becomes successful.”
One of the major changes coming is that Edmonton will finally get a home-field feel at Clarke, with dedicated dressing rooms that the team didn’t have during its NASL years. The team used to have to pack up most of its stuff and truck it out of the stadium when games or training sessions were done.
Iveson said that the fact that half of the club’s roster is made up of Edmonton is a big deal.
“I think it adds to the connection for Edmontonians. There will be those families and those concentric circles of people who know each other who will come out and cheer, and that not only helps support the team, but really connect it back to more and more Edmontonians.”
And, well, he expects to have a bit of fun with his fellow mayors of CPL communities as this season goes by — and, possibly in seasons to come, depending on who is in office, of course.
“I’m sure we will. Friendly sports rivalries and not-so-friendly sports rivalries are important for cities. Mayors are at the centre of that. I’m looking forward to FC Edmonton going the distance and I’ll have the opportunity to humiliate some of my colleagues in the process!”