Friday, 30 September 2016

Stadia Novus

This decade has been a period of time unlike any other in the long history of Canadian Football. No fewer than five new stadiums have been built for the lucky franchises and fans since 2010 (as well as a sixth temporary new stadium that was used during renovations in Vancouver). Getting a new facility is something that typically only happens in generational cycles and short of a championship is the next best thing that can happen for a team. Naturally an event as important as a new home to play in usually generates associated collectibles and this post will examine some of these items for each team.

Empire Stadium was built in 1954 for the British Empire games which happened to correspond with the birth of the Lions franchise. Somewhat crude 1st year Lions pennants featuring the stadium were available as well as a number of different postcards. 
After 29 years in their original stadium B.C. Place was constructed and opened in 1983. It has remained the Lion's home for more than 31 seasons, with almost two whole seasons spent at a temporary stadium called Empire Field constructed on the site of the old stadium while B.C. Place was renovated for over 500 Million dollars.  

Souvenir program for the opening of the new stadium in 1983 as well as a cropped image of a football themed pennant. Other pennants just featuring the stadium are available as well as numerous postcards.

This previous blog post Pride of the Lions Quenches Thirsty Fans showcases some collectibles that partially feature the newly renovated stadium.

Of course when moving to a new home nostalgia and appreciation for the old stadium can also result in fine keepsakes as shown below.
Farewell to Clarke Stadium in Edmonton in 1978 as the team moved to the enormous Commonwealth Stadium where they remain today. Postcard at right shows an interesting perspective with both stadiums right next to each other. 

The Eskimos played at Clarke stadium for 41 years and have been playing at Commonwealth Stadium for 39 years. Commonwealth Stadium has been one of the nicest and largest capacity stadiums in the country for decades and around 200 Million dollars has been spent on upgrades since original construction. Thanks to Stadan Collectibles for the program image above left.

In Saskatchewan New Mosaic Stadium (the most recent of all the new facilities) is scheduled to begin operations for the Roughriders in 2017 but it will host CIS university football starting in just a few days from now on Oct. 1, 2016.

At left is an architectural model of the new Mosaic Stadium in Regina and at right a souvenir pin from a set made for the farewell season at old Mosaic Stadium at Taylor Field

 The Riders have played on Taylor Field at old Mosaic Stadium since even before the first grandstands were built there in 1936 (81 years) so the sentimental attachment to the site is significant and memorabilia commemorating the facility is available. However the stadium itself is a patchwork amalgam of various components added over the decades and it is probably the worst existing facility in the league, at least for a couple of more months. No doubt there will be plenty of opportunity for Roughrider fans to buy up memorabilia for the new stadium next year. The stadium cost nearly 300 Million dollars to construct.

In Winnipeg the Blue Bombers originally played at Osborne Stadium but surging attendance spurred the construction of Winnipeg Stadium in 1953. The Bombers occupied this facility for 61 seasons before they recently moved into their own brand new digs at Investors Group Field in 2013.

Souvenir program from the first football game at brand new Winnipeg Stadium in 1953 and the same from brand new Investors Group Field in 2013. 

The new stadium was plagued with cost overruns and construction delays so that even though official closure ceremonies (and no doubt some associated memorabilia!) were held to send off the old stadium in 2011, the team was forced to remain there for all of 2012 as well. The new facility cost over 200 Million dollars to complete.

A specific commemorative pin was available for every different game at Investors Field in 2013

In Hamilton the Tiger-Cats played at Civic Stadium (later renamed Ivor Wynne Stadium) since the merger of the Tigers and the Wildcats formed the modern team in 1950. The stadium was something of an embarrassment in the sixties when U.S. networks broadcasting CFL games (see blog post Canadian Football for Americans) complained about its dilapidated appearance and it was substantially upgraded in 1971. Fast forward to the start of this decade and after 60 seasons the Ti-Cats were sorely in need of a new home.

Hamilton fans were able to say goodbye to the old stadium and hello to the new stadium in 2014 with ephemera to match 

A series of proposals,plans and potential sites were acrimoniously disputed to the point where the funding portion being made available from the Pan-Am games was just about squandered. Finally it was decided to build the new stadium on the existing site, now called Tim Hortons Field for about 150 Million dollars. The construction also ran over schedule but since late 2014 Tiger-Cat fans have enjoyed the brand new facility.

Pins commemorating the team's tenure at Guelph Stadium during construction of Tim Horton's field were also produced. The mother lode of Canadian Football memorabilia - the Canadian Football Hall of Fame will also be relocated to the new stadium. At right is an artists rendering of the planned open air player busts display.

Ottawa's Frank Clair Stadium had degenerated to the point where part of the structure was condemned as unsafe to occupy during the period that the city went without a team. A new stadium was a prerequisite to even field the new RedBlacks franchise and the process was delayed by all sorts of community opposition, legal challenges and logistical hurdles as well.

A commemorative token (with bilingual paper insert) was handed out at the inaugural game at TD Place in Ottawa in 2014. The RedBlacks logo is on the other side of the coin.

The RedBlacks inaugural game was played at their new stadium although that fact wasn't noted on the souvenir pin. A four card set was given to season ticket holders in 2014 with one card featuring the stadium on the front,

Its hard to pin a cost on TD Place Stadium as it is part of a larger area revitalization project but around 200 Million seems likely, cost overruns and lawsuits inflated the final figure.

Toronto is the most recent CFL franchise to have moved to a new facility this year beginning play at BMO Field. A new facility but an old location as the new stadium is where Exhibition Stadium used to be where the Argos played for 31 seasons. Prior to that they occupied Varsity Stadium at the University of Toronto for over 40 years.

Top left is a segment of actual Varsity Stadium bench seating as well as three as yet uncatalogued limited edition prints of historic football moments at the stadium, both from the 2002 auction that disposed of the stadium contents when the original facility was torn down. At right is the opening day program from the SkyDome where the Argos began play in 1989. 

Sometimes when a team's old historic stadium is being destroyed a number of collectibles are spawned as well, such as those pictured above left. The Argos played at the particularly unsuited for football SkyDome (now Rogers Centre) for 28 years before their most recent relocation.

 In a city whose urban sprawl and congested traffic have contributed to attendance decline, the team is hoping that this new location in an open air stadium will bring back some of the football atmosphere so sorely lacking in their previous home. Pictured above is a canvas picture keepsake of the occasion.

 Almost 200 Million dollars went into BMO Field's original construction and subsequent upgrades.

The Montreal Alouettes occupy by far the oldest stadium in the CFL with Percival Molson Memorial Stadium having been originally constructed in 1914 although 30 Million dollars of upgrades were completed in 2010 (a pretty reasonable sum compared to those expended in each of the other cities). The Als have bounced around from Delormier, Molson, Autostade, Olympic and back to Molson Stadiums over their long history. Some information on their move back to Molson is contained in this blog post (Resurrection in Monochrome).

Front cover and Third Phase of a pamphlet detailing a proposed custom built stadium for the Alouettes, year unknown.

The rare publication above would seem to indicate that at some point fairly detailed plans were being made for the Alouettes to built their own grand stadium, an idea which never came to fruition.

So that brings us finally to Calgary, where at the end of this season the Stampeders will have the dubious honor of playing in the second oldest (57 years) and most dilapidated facility in the entire league. This situation is of course not new for the city, in the fifties Mewata Stadium was nicknamed the Black Hole of the CFL for its rundown condition. Eventually a couple of local oilmen had to initiate the construction of McMahon Stadium in 1960 to drag the team and the city into the modern age at the time.

Rare aerial photo of Mewata Stadium at left in the 1950's and opening day of brand spanking new McMahon stadium in 1960 at right by noted Calgary Photographer Walter Petrigo.

Now almost six decades have passed and the city once again seems content to go on indefinitely as the laughing stock of North American centers when it comes to sports facilities for its professional teams to occupy (the Saddledome being equally obsolete in hockey arena terms). Unfortunately the modern corporations that until recently generated billions in revenue annually from their Calgary based operations did not share the civic spirit of the McMahon brothers and offer to significantly contribute to the construction of new facilities here. Initially built for the equivalent of 8 Million of today's dollars and with 15 Million in recent upgrades the Stadium is the poorest funded facility in the CFL.

The ownership group of the Flames and Stampeders have proposed a new ambitious project for a combined facility called Calgary Next with a significant price tag of over 800 Million dollars. Some public money would be involved, as it has been for all of the other cities that have new or upgraded facilities across Canada. Opposition to the plan was swift and strident and I have no doubt that years will pass before any new plans can be approved and acted upon. Many Calgarians don't seem to understand that sports and entertainment facilities are infrastructure that should be supported by government so that the citizens that live here can enjoy the use of them. The alternative is decades old and eventually crumbling unsuitable buildings.

Opening day souvenir program from McMahon Stadium in 1960 and artist rendering of proposed new combined Hockey/Event/Football/Fieldhouse Calgary Next project

In an age where new, modern, attractive, functional and wonderful new buildings are being constructed all across North America for many different sports, and small agrarian countries like Portugal can construct multiple new facilities to host important sporting competitions that reflect their national pride to the world, and where organizations and people in Hamilton, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Regina can take the necessary steps to make sure that their franchises have places to play that reflect the team's cherished standing in their communities ... Calgary apparently doesn't measure up to any of that.