York 9 FC unveils stadiums plans for 2019 and beyond

What can be said, without dispute, is Canadian Premier League matches will be played in an array of unique stadiums, designed or modified to maximize the soccer experience.

Or, in York9 FC’s case, a refurbished stadium to host top tier soccer in a region that finally has a team to rally around.

“Come and experience something you haven’t been able to in York Region,” said Preben Ganzhorn, the President and CEO of York9.

The club’s call to action preceded the introduction of a multi-year venues plan that’s not just intriguing, but could alter the complexion of Canadian soccer within five years.

More on that later.

For now, the focus is on York Lions Stadium, a venue that will be undergoing a conversion to provide York University’s Athletics and Recreation department with a new home for its Varsity programs, as well as an exciting new home for York 9 FC.

A ground that once served as a state-of-the-art athletics venue for the 2015 Pan Am Games will be transformed into an 8,000-seat venue capable of hosting CPL matches in time for York9’s Canadian Championship opener on May 22 against AS Blainville.

“It will be as close to Tier 1 as you can get,” Ganzhorn added. “We’re creating an atmosphere that’s festival-like. We really want this to be an experience.”

With head coach Jimmy Brennan managing the on-field product, Ganzhorn says his team is putting together something special in York Region — with an eye towards the future.

One such highlight, Ganzhorn adds, will be the amenities at York Lions Stadium.

In addition to creating an intimate soccer-viewing experience, the club says its periphery niceties, including a sizeable craft beer and food truck selection, will appeal to its supporters.

“We’re creating a small craft beer festival every game for people to enjoy,” Ganzhorn explained. “We think it will be appealing to the university crowd and all sports enthusiasts within York Region.

“We want to create something that speaks to that millennial but also is relevant to the true soccer fan. It’s about creating the combination of an inviting environment, where there’s something for everybody, and developing something special on the pitch in a way that’s authentic in order to create good football viewing.”

Rendering of York Lions Stadium. (York9 FC)
Rendering of York Lions Stadium. (York9 FC)

Encircled by craft beer tents and a variety of food truck options, the north end at York Lions Stadium will include a multi-tiered safe standing area for the club’s more rambunctious supporter groups. The south end of the stadium will feature a more relaxed beer garden in front of corporate suites.

Both ends are flanked by Corner Kick Executive Suites the club says are a first-of-their-kind in Canada, featuring bar service, tables and 20 pitch-facing seats.

General admission (GA) seating in the east stand will provide local fans with an innovative, soon-to-be-revealed fundraising opportunity that should incentivize local clubs to give back to their community.

“A large part of our focus has been on the youth soccer clubs in York Region and making sure we provide their membership with a youth soccer and family grandstand that they can come and feel proud of being part of this professional team in the region,” Ganzhorn explained.

York9 FC fans interested in feeling part of the proceedings can reserve a very limited supply of field-side race car seats that offer one of the most intimate experiences on offer in the league.

The Club Seats behind each bench are for season seat members who prefer to reserve their own chairs for every fixture.

The west stand’s second deck features premium and corporate partner suites that have access to a private indoor club and washrooms.

And, for those interested in looking down on the action, a second GA seating level rests atop the press box and partner suites.

“We’re super excited to be playing at York Lions Stadium,” Ganzhorn reiterated. “We’re undertaking a massive renovation by transforming a multi-purpose athletic stadium into a soccer stadium on CPL Matchdays.

“York University Athletics and Recreation continues to be extremely proud of our partnership with York Sports and Entertainment and York9 FC,” added Jennifer Myers, Executive Director, Athletics and Recreation.

“It’s been very exciting to participate in the birth of their new professional soccer club and to watch all their hard work and passion as they move closer to becoming an on-field reality. We can’t wait to don our York9 FC gear and be in attendance for their opening home game at York University.”

The club also has ambitious plans to build its own soccer-specific CPL stadium.

“As we go through the next 2-3 years at York University we have our eye on building our own permanent stadium,” said Ben Zayandehroudi, York9 FC’s VP of Ticket Sales and Fan Services.

“We’re looking to build a 12-15,000 seat stadium that will truly bring the best experience to our fans. In the meantime, we have a great accessible option at York University that’s close to transit. The future is bright for York 9 as we move towards our own soccer-specific stadium.”

It’s a vastly different stadium path compared to York9’s competitors.

But it’s a path the club believes will alter the complexion of soccer in their region in due time.

“We want to be honest about what we’re doing and proud of what we’re doing,” Ganzhorn finished.