Attendance down in Edmonton

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:52 AM ET

The final numbers still haven't been tabulated, but the Edmonton Eskimos will likely be walking a very fine financial line at the end of this year.

With a projected crowd between 35,000 and 40,000 for Friday's final game, the club's overall attendance will likely be down close to 10% this year. After averaging more than 41,000 in 2005, that number will probably be near 37,000 this year.

Coupled with the obvious drop in concession sales, that will take its toll on the bottom line.

"We will be close to a break-even, I would suspect," said team president Rick LeLacheur of the 2006 finances.

The Esks showed a $163,839 profit last year, but it would have been over $500,000 if the club hadn't been forced to swallow close to $400,000 in Grey Cup expenses. If attendance and concessions had held strong this year, it could have been a banner financial season.

Clearly the team's poor showing on the field hurt the gate, but LeLacheur believes Mother Nature did more damage.

"Weather has been more of a factor than the team," he said. "We have had two good (days) out of nine." Three home dates in July didn't help matters.

"Just look at the history of attendance - it climbs through the year," he said. "Our strongest attendance (games) is always from Labour Day on."

The only wild card still remaining in the financial picture is player costs. While the overall salary picture is up just slightly this year, it could continue to climb if the club gives upfront signing bonuses before Dec. 31 for smaller 2007 contracts.

With the salary cap being enforced next year, that scenario is a possibility. Regardless, the club's financial health is not in question, as there is $7.9 million in the stabilization fund.

Quarterback carousel

Ricky Ray will start Friday night against Saskatchewan, even though the game means nothing in the standings.

Not worried about his star pivot suffering a freak injury, head coach Danny Maciocia said Ray could play two quarters.

Maciocia will not tip his hand on who else will play quarterback this week, but third-stringer Steven Jyles and regular backup Jason Johnson both took reps with the first team at yesterday's practice.

It's possible the backups could each receive a quarter with Ray handling the first and fourth stanzas.

Ray, the CFL's highest-paid pivot, is 187 yards from becoming the only quarterback to throw for 5,000 yards in the CFL this season.

McClendon again

Regular starting running back Troy Davis has confirmed he will not play Friday, giving Ron McClendon his second consecutive game at tailback.

"He did an outstanding job (in Montreal)," said Davis.

Local product Jarred Winkel could also receive some carries this week.

Special teams starter Mike Bradley is finished for the year and will need knee surgery in the off-season.

"I finally tore a little bit more of that meniscus (last weekend)," he said ... Defensive back Roosevelt Williams will have rotator cuff surgery tomorrow.


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