Professional soccer stadium coming to Spruce Meadows next year

7 May 2018

A group from Calgary was approved for professional club membership by Soccer Canada on Saturday, paving the way for them to potentially join the Canadian Premier League. The league is set to debut as a professional men’s soccer league in the spring of 2019, and will serve as a Tier 1 league.

Allison said the stadium renovation would be financed by Spruce Meadows.

“The club will (be) commencing in 2019, be playing out of Spruce Meadows and will be owned by Spruce Meadows Sports and Entertainment,” Allison said. “We have existing facilities that will be modified, I would say. It would be renovations to bring a very unique and distinctive ambiance to the game.”

Allison said an announcement will be made later on this month, when further details about the project will be revealed. He said FIFA regulators have been at Spruce Meadows to inspect the site in advance of the renovations.

Clubs from Halifax, Port City, B.C., and York Region, Ont., also got the seal of approval at Soccer Canada’s annual general meeting this weekend in Yellowknife.

The Canadian Premier League was approved for league membership with Soccer Canada last year, along with clubs in Hamilton and Winnipeg.

“We’re very excited about it. If you were to look back at the Spruce Meadows story in 1975, a lot of the reasons that are compelling for us to do this were the same for our founding sport, show jumping,” said Allison.

“At that time, there was no place for Canadians to find a pathway to the top of the sport. We hadn’t posted very many top results internationally.

“When we look at where we are right now as a soccer culture, well we’re one of the top 10 nations in the world with respect to licensed merchandise and TV viewership and buying tickets. We haven’t done very well in the field of play with respect to the men’s national team. So our hope is we can emulate some of the things that have happened in our other sport, in show jumping, where Canada since Spruce Meadows started has won 25 medals on the world stage including Olympic gold and world championships and World Cup titles.”

The capacity of the Spruce Meadows soccer stadium would initially be 5,000 to 7,000 seats, although that would be subject to change in years to come.

“The nice thing about Spruce Meadows is we are scalable for the future,” Allison said.

He said it’s too early to say what the cost of the modifications would be, as discussions about a number of different elements are still ongoing.

Having professional soccer being played locally could be a huge boost to the game’s popularity in Calgary, according to Susan Cress, executive director of the Calgary Minor Soccer Association.

“I’m looking forward to it. I can hardly wait to line up to get my season tickets,” said Cress, whose organization has 20,000 youth soccer players. “Many hockey kids get to look up and see their hockey heroes playing on a Saturday night. We really think there’s a group of 10-, 11-, 12-, 13-year-old (soccer) kids that would love that opportunity, too.”

She said she was happy to see the Spruce Meadows group step up and make Tier 1 soccer in Calgary a reality, and hoped FC Edmonton would also join the league in order to extend the Battle of Alberta to the soccer pitch.

“What we need in terms of a professional league in Canada is the ability for people not to just see us as a winter country,” said Cress. “I think the Canadian Premier League is absolutely going to grow the game. Soccer is the world’s game, it is the people’s game, so I think people are really going to get behind this. It’s really exciting times for kids in our city.