CFL Looks To Reinvent Itself; Hopes To Lure Fans With Stadium Upgrades, New TV Deal
The CFL is "anxious to send a signal to sports fans across the country that it’s ready to move on from decades of stagnation and reinvent itself for a new generation of fans," according to Steve Ladurantaye of the GLOBE & MAIL. Many Canadians still perceive the CFL as "a tired franchise whose better days have passed." But the league is "making progress in changing that image." Coming off its 100th Grey Cup game, in which "most of the focus was on looking to the past," CFL President & COO Michael Copeland said that the league is "finally comfortable looking forward to its future." He said, "Having a new building in Winnipeg is really a symbol of everything we’ve worked to do over the last while." Copeland added that there are "new buildings planned in Ottawa, Hamilton and Regina in the next few years." He said, "We truly are in a period of Renaissance right now. This building really demonstrates the renewal, and signals that we’re ready for a period of true growth rather than a prolonged period of crisis management." The season opener Thursday night is the "first since TSN and the CFL signed a five year extension to their broadcast deal." For TSN, the league "provides steady audiences through the summer months when its main competitor is on the air almost every night with" Blue Jays broadcasts. The league, for "its part, didn’t bother shopping its rights to other networks because it’s so comfortable with TSN and the audience it can deliver." The broadcaster was "consulted through construction" of Investors Group Field, but was "often left out as new issues arose." It remains to be seen "whether the league can use its new broadcast deal and sparkly stadiums to convert new fans to the game" (GLOBE & MAIL, 6/28).
CONSTRUCTION SEASON: The CP's Scott Edmonds noted CFL stadiums are "being replaced or refurbished at a pace probably unmatched in league history, starting this season with the opening of a new home" for the Blue Bombers. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats in '14 will "move into a new facility while the expansion Ottawa Redblacks are projected to call a revamped Frank Clair Stadium home." Meanwhile, the Saskatchewan Roughriders in '17 are "scheduled to move into a new open-air venue to replace Mosaic Stadium." Existing facilities in Calgary and Edmonton "get upgrades this season to make the game-day experience nicer for their fans." A lot about the new Winnipeg facility "drew rave reviews: the player areas, sightlines, comfortable seats and fancy suites and concessions." But there are "kinks to be worked out." Cracks in the concrete are "being repaired and then there’s the small matter of getting 33,400 people on and off the campus of the University of Manitoba in time to actually watch football games." The Tiger-Cats this season will "play their home games at Alumni Stadium in Guelph, Ont., as a new" C$145.7M facility is built where Ivor Wynne Stadium used to stand. When the new stadium "is complete, it will initially seat 22,500 with standing room for another 1,500." But it also will "have 700 club seats and 30 VIP suites and the potential expanded capacity of 40,000 for special events like the Grey Cup." Meanwhile, Roughriders officials have "visited the Winnipeg stadium and taken notes" with their C$278M project in Regina "following a similar pattern of covered seating over an open field." Calgary’s McMahon Stadium will boast "new seats in corner end zones with plans for new concessions, washrooms and VIP areas." Edmonton Eskimos fans are "getting more comfortable in the upper bowl at Commonwealth Stadium, as it enters the final phase" of a C$12M plan to replace all seats (CP, 6/25).