Esks' boss says new field will turf a lot of problems

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:27 AM ET

HALIFAX -- A proposal to put artificial turf in Commonwealth Stadium in time for this year's Grey Cup has been tabled in front of Edmonton city council.

Eskimos CEO Rick LeLacheur said the team and the city have been working on the plan for some time.

"The funding would be 50-50," he said of the split between the team and the city.

The cost is listed at $2.6 million.

"There would be no tax money involved. The city would take their share out of the Commonwealth Stadium reserve fund of revenue made at past events."

The biggest hang-up in the past about artificial turf in the stadium has been the number of events -- from the Commonwealth Games to a number of major soccer games -- held because of the natural surface.

"Soccer is totally on-side," said LeLacheur. "The artificial turf involved is the one FIFA has approved. You can hold all the World Cup qualifying games and the like on this field.

"The only thing you can't hold is the World Cup itself. And if you get the World Cup, it would be worth the expense to take the turf out for that event," said LeLacheur, who headed up the organizing committee for the 2001 IAAF world track event in Edmonton and was a board member for the 1978 Commonwealth Games.

LeLacheur said the current turf is becoming a problem because of the concert load in the stadium.

"U2 needs a seven day set-up and a five-day teardown on June 23. Bon Jovi is in on July 15. The concerts result in major damage to the field and we've been concerned about what kind of field we'd have for the Grey Cup game as a result of the concerts, especially if there's weather.

"But there are other factors which have come into play," said the CEO of the team which has been accused of having a huge advantage having the only grass field in the league in the past.

"We now don't have a grass practice field.

"The only time we play on grass is in our games. And it's got to the point where we have a lot of football players who haven't played on grass until they get to Edmonton."


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