Commonwealth Stadium may have just taken centre stage as the city’s new No. 1 priority when it comes to sporting venues.
Over the weekend, officials from the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) and FIFA — the world’s governing body for soccer — visited Commonwealth as part of a tour of the cities vying to host 2015 Women’s World Cup matches.
At a Monday morning press conference, Peter Montopoli, the CSA’s general secretary, said he and the other delegates were impressed with the “significant additions” made to Commonwealth Stadium in recent years, and the “ones planned,” as well.
So, it’s out there. More work needs to be done on Commonwealth to get it ready to host part of the world’s largest women’s sporting event.
Six other cities — Vancouver, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal, Moncton and Halifax — are also bidding to host matches in 2015. The CSA needs a minimum of six and can take all seven. So, this visit wasn’t about whether or not Edmonton makes the cut — it’s really about trying to impress the officials enough to give this city the high-profile games: the tournament opener, semifinals or even the final match.
“I think all the cities want to host the final game,” said Mayor Stephen Mandel.
The Mayor said Edmonton would be fine with whatever the CSA decides, “as long as it’s a fair and transparent process.”
And what could be key to the process is a legacy project — a stadium built for the WWC that can be used long after the tournament leaves town. Mandel hinted that a new 10,000- to 15,000-seat soccer stadium, which could host FC Edmonton of the North American soccer league, is needed. The stadium could be used to house other soccer events, as well.
“FC Edmonton is a fine team,” said Mandel. “And I don’t think there’s any question that they need a 10, 12 or 15,000-seat stadium to play in.”
With a city already involved in a great arena debate, it looks like more sporting facility discussions are coming. Except these ones involve a major international commitment made by the city and the federal government to host the WWC.
And Tatjana Haenni, FIFA’s head of women’s competitions, said Edmonton’s bid has been very impressive. “Really, there are no big, open questions [about Edmonton]. It’s about fine tuning.”