FC Edmonton seeks new stadium

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:47 PM ET

Tom Fath has had an education in his first season as an owner of a professional soccer club.

Usually that means get out and run away as fast as you can, as far as you can. But that's not the case.

While the man who made his money in paving and construction may have lost something approaching $2 million on a startup season prior to FC Edmonton joining the North American Soccer League next year, he's gung-ho going forward.

But he's not going forward wearing a blindfold.

Fath has figured out that Commonwealth Stadium is too damn big and Foote Field is too damn small and that there's nowhere else to play.

"We have to have a new stadium," he said.

"Once the season is finished we're going to begin to do a lot of work toward making that happen."

Meanwhile, as will be the case Saturday evening when FC Edmonton ends the experimental season against an actual NASL team, albeit last place Miami, the games will likely all be at Foote Field.

The Edmonton Eskimos won't likely have to worry about his soccer club playing an Everton, Colo Colo or Portsmouth in international games or Toronto FC, Vancouver Whitecaps or Montreal Impact in Nutrilite Cup games in Commonweath Stadium.

Too small is better than too big, Fath has decided, even if Foote Field has football markings on the second-rate and too-narrow turf, the parking can be a problem, the area is confusing to many fans and there are only 3,500 seats.

"We're probably going to play all our games at Foote Field. We're going to find a way to put in more seating for next year. It's not the facility we need but it has a nice environment and I think we can improve that environment. We're better off to be there.

"But we need a soccer specific stadium. We knew that when we started this but we were thinking three to five years. I thought three to five years would be no big deal. But now I know that sooner is far better than later.

"The city needs a stadium between the size of Commonwealth and Foote Field and Clarke Park. We've got a lot of things to figure out. But we're starting to look at different options.

"For the long run we can't continue playing at any one of those locations."

And Fath says he's determined that this is for the long run.

He refuses to talk about the money he lost this year.

"Talking about money takes away from where we are headed," he said.

"I've looked at it the same way all year. It's an investment in the future. Finding out the quality of coaches we had available this spring was too good an opportunity to pass up. They worked out just great," he said of head coach Dwight Lodeweges and Hans Schjver from Holland.

"It's exciting to see what kind of team we're developing, especially with so many Alberta players. We know we're going to go into league play next year and even go into those Nutrilite Cup games against Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal and be competitive. We're not going to get pasted."

FC Edmonton held their own in the internationals, losing 4-3 to Colo Colo of Chile before 5,573 and losing 2-1 to FA Cup finalist Portsmouth before 8,792, with both games in Commonwealth Stadium.

The club scored a 3-0 win over the Montreal Impact reserves before 2,106 and defeated lesser league opponents Ottawa Fury 1-0 before 2,903, Victoria Highlanders 7-1 in front of 2,356 and crushed the Spokane Spiders 14-0 with 1,201 witnesses.

"It's going to be so different next year having maybe 20 games at home and maybe 16 on the road," he said of scheduled league play and affordable international games for Foote Field.

"It's going to be so much fun to have the ebb and flow of a real season. I'm looking forward to it."

So is Lodewages. And he promises Fath that his investment this year will pay off.

"I look on it from the technical side. I am a coach. In this situation this year our finish line is the first game next year. The owner decided to prepare this team the right way.

"We're going to have such an advantage.

"I know it cost money. But we have progressed so far.

"When you look at teams like Toronto FC, Vancouver Whitecaps and Montreal Impact, we're not in bad shape compared to them."

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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