The CFL's stadium building boom represents the most significant investment the league has seen in decades, with Ottawa, Hamilton, Winnipeg, Saskatchewan and B.C. all moving into new or significantly refurbished facilities. Montreal's home opener is Thursday night in the refurbished Percival Molson Stadium, while both Calgary and Edmonton have recently invested in upgrades to facilities for players and coaches.
It's about time. While most every pro or minor-pro sports league in North America has revolutionized its playing facilities over the past 25 years - everywhere from junior hockey right up to the NFL - the CFL has mostly been playing in facilities that were grossly outdated.
"There is a renaissance occurring across our league, when it comes to the places where our teams play and train," said CFL commissioner Mark Cohon. "This boom in stadium projects really paves the way for our long-term future, not only for this generation of fans, but for their children and grandchildren."
In many of the cases, the need for stadium investment couldn't wait. The south-side stands at Ottawa's Frank Clair Stadium were condemned late in 2007, while Hamilton's Ivor Wynne Stadium, Winnipeg's Canad Inns Stadium and Saskatchewan's Mosaic Stadium all require millions of dollars in refurbishment just to remain safe and viable.
The stadium boom is not only good news for fans but also teams which hope to broaden their fan bases and drive more revenue out of facilities designed for the modern age.
Here's a roundup of what's going on:
Ottawa - City council recently improved a plan that would see Frank Clair Stadium reconstructed as part of an overall $250-million redevelopment of Lansdowne Park that includes retail, residential and service areas. Construction on the proposed 25,000 stadium is expected to begin in 2011, with a return to the CFL slated for 2013. The CFL awarded a conditional expansion franchise to Ottawa in 2008.
Montreal - The provincial and municipal governments teamed up with Alouettes owner Robert Wetenhall to invest nearly $30-million in Percival Molson Stadium on the campus of McGill University. The renovation adds 19 new luxury boxes and 5,000 additional permanent seats, including an upper deck on the south side of the stadium, bringing capacity to 25,012.
Hamilton - The only debate is where the Tiger-Cats will have their new stadium. Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger wants it close to the downtown, while the Tiger-Cats prefer a location closer to highways to accommodate fans from around the region. Funding for the Pan Am Games facility only accounts for 15,000 seats, meaning there is still much negotiation to come on expanding it to CFL needs.
Winnipeg - Ground was broken in May on a new facility at the University of Manitoba that will replace Canad Inns Stadium as the home of the Bombers for the start of the 2012 season. The 33,000-seat facility will cost $115-million to build, with $90-million in financing coming from a provincial government loan. The stadium will be owned by the university and the province.
Saskatchewan - The province is trying to partner with federal and local governments as well as the Roughriders on a new facility that would serve as a community entertainment, trade show and recreation centre. A feasibility study released earlier this year pegged the cost for a 33,000-seat indoor stadium at $386-million, with an additional $45-million required for a retractable roof. A decision on funding is expected this fall.
B.C. - B.C. Place Stadium is in the midst of a $458-million renovation, which includes a retractable roof and separate configurations for the CFL's Lions and Major League Soccer's Vancouver Whitecaps. The project is expected to be complete in mid to late 2011. The roof will resemble that of the Commerzbank Arena in Frankfurt, Germany.
Edmonton - With financial assistance from the province and city, the Eskimos constructed a new 3,000-square-foot dressing room and a community recreational centre that will open in time for November's Grey Cup game. But the biggest, most noticeable upgrade at Commonwealth Stadium has been the $2.6-million Duraspine Pro field turf. Commonwealth had featured a grass surface since 1978.
Calgary - The Stampeders constructed a new dressing room for their players this season, complete with an updated gymnasium and medical area. An administration-coaches' office was also built near the eastern corner of McMahon Stadium's south end zone. The Stadium Society and the team's owners covered the costs, which have not been made public.
With reports from Allan Maki and Matthew Sekeres