Green & Gold in black

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:10 AM ET

Despite several financial pitfalls scattered throughout the 2005 season, the Edmonton Eskimos escaped unscathed.

Although the club signed quarterback Ricky Ray to a mammoth $450,000 contract and had to swallow significant expenses for winning the Grey Cup, the Eskimos still cleared a $163,839 profit last year.

It's a rare accomplishment for a team that usually bleeds red ink after paying Grey Cup bills.

"I think it's very impressive, to be honest," CEO Hugh Campbell said of the 2005 balance sheet, which was revealed at last night's Eskimo general meeting.

The small profit means the Green and Gold now has $12.1 million in net assets, including the $7.9 million stabilization fund.

GREY CUP COST $365,000

In total, the Grey Cup cost the club about $365,000.

"That's Grey Cup rings, the extra travel (for the team) and the subsidization of the players' families to go to Vancouver," said COO and new president Rick LeLacheur.

"The better you do in the CFL, the more it costs you; that tradition continues."

By failing to host a playoff game for the first time in five years, the Eskimos also cost the team coffers another $200,000 in revenue.

However, it's a black bottom line because sponsorship sales jumped 33%, attendance jumped nearly 10%, and the club cut almost $250,000 from the marketing/communication budget.

"We have done a great job of bundling sponsorship deals," continued LeLacheur, referring to advertisers being able to receive field-level signs, scoreboard signs and other perks in one package. "And the CFL is a lot better brand than it was five or 10 years ago ... "

With nine regular-season games and one preseason tilt, the Eskimos attracted 414,644 fans - the highest in the league and the highest mark for the club in three years.

FAN-FRIENDLY SCHEDULE

A fan-friendly schedule of weekend dates and the return of Ricky Ray helped the attendance. And it was Ray's salary that prompted the team to cut part of its budget.

Ray's paycheque, plus the addition of an extra assistant coach (Dennis Winston) and a few injuries, also pushed the overall players/coaches cost to $5.65 million - a $750,000 increase from 2004.

LeLacheur estimates $4.1 million of that total was direct player cost, meaning the team has to drop $300,000 to abide by the new CFL salary cap.

Off the field, the Eskimos will spend the year examining the financial viability of three enhancement projects: a new indoor practice facility, new offices and seat replacement.

LATE HITS: Bruce Bentley will be the only new member to take a seat around the board of director's table for the Eskimos. Bentley replaces Bruce Saville, who's left the club after nine years ... Although there will be no change this year, LeLacheur admits the sacred grass field at Commonwealth Stadium could be replaced with innovated field turf similar to Clarke Stadium's surface in the future.

FINISH LINES: The city has allocated money to move the north fence of Commonwealth Stadium to 111th Avenue, which will ease the pedestrian traffic jam inside the facility.

"Sixty-five percent of our traffic comes in the northeast corner," said LeLacheur, who would like to add more gates.


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