Busy days beckon Esks

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:42 AM ET

In a market dominated by hockey in the middle of winter, the Edmonton Eskimos are quietly dealing with some intriguing new ideas.

From potentially taking a portion of training camp on the road to getting ready to launch a new anniversary-themed logo, the club is busy on several fronts.

Eskimos president and CEO Rick LeLacheur expands on that and more in the following candid interview with Sun Media.

Q: Do you fear the CFL's collapse if the Buffalo Bills eventually relocate to Toronto on a full-time basis?

A: "I would think we are a long way from that. As I understand this, it's a five-year deal for one (regular) season game a year.

"That is a long way from a team moving to Toronto."

Q: Have the Eskimos considered moving training camp or even rookie camp to an Alberta community - like the Oilers have - to generate more fan interest in the club?

A: "We have considered it. We are actually looking at some capital region locations for maybe one day a week (of training camp)."

Q: Considering the disappointing 2007 season on the field, how much of a profit will the Eskimos show at the AGM?

A: "We will make money in operating income. It will be better than the year before ($35,000 in football operations). It looks like our operating income will be a couple of hundred thousand dollars."

Q: What are the team's plans for attracting a younger fan base?

A: "We have a younger fan base than most people think. It has been going down for a number of years.

"We are doing a lot more promotion in that younger demographic. You want the younger demographic, but you don't want to lose the older demographic because a lot of those people have been with us for a lot of years."

Q: What is the average age in your fan base?

A: "It would be 35 to 40. Five years ago it probably was 45 to 50."

Q: Will the club create more a fan-festival atmosphere outside the stadium before the games, like the B.C. Lions do in Vancouver?

A: "We would love to have a tailgate area, we just are not blessed with a large parking lot. So, we are very limited in what we can do. But we are looking at a couple of pre-game events - a big celebration (because) it is going to be our 60th season.

"We really can't plan anything definite until we see the schedule."

Q: Can you provide an update on any potential plans to have a fieldhouse or indoor practice facility adjacent to Commonwealth Stadium?

A: "The city currently has a project going on looking at a master plan for the whole Joe Clarke Park, of it being a north-end recreational (centre).

"That plan is supposed to be finalized sometime this month and then it will probably go to the council's community service committee. In realistic terms, (the project) probably has to be phased in over a number of years.

(The Eskimos have committed $5 million toward the project, along with $15 million the province has committed to Commonwealth Stadium upgrades.)

Q: How much longer will Commonwealth Stadium be home to a grass field?

A: "There is no burning desire from an Eskimos perspective to have (artificial) turf. It certainly is a psychological advantage to us (to have a grass field)."

Q: What are the Eskimos plans to celebrate the 60th anniversary season?

A: "We have developed a 60th season logo that we will be introducing and likely the players will be wearing it."

Q: Do you see the players wearing the logo for the whole season?

A: "I think so. It could go on either the jerseys or the helmets."

Q: A new TV deal starts this year with TSN. Will this add extra money to the club's bottom line? If so, can you estimate how much?

A: "Yes, it does (add money). Our budget this year is projecting an increase in CFL distribution (of funds).

"It probably amounts to between $300,000 and -$400,000 (extra)."

Q: What is your opinion on Daryl Katz owning the Edmonton Oilers?

A: "I think the timing is right. (But) I'm glad the EIG held in for a location agreement."


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