“It’s not crazy to think there can be love for two kinds of professional football here in our province.”
If you build it, they will come — ‘you’ being Saskatoon and ‘they’ being soccer’s Canadian Premier League.
Plans for a multi-purpose, open-air stadium in Saskatoon’s Prairieland Park were unveiled late Tuesday afternoon during a splashy media conference complete with seven guest speakers and a video presentation, which included renderings of what the stadium would look like.
Saskatoon’s soccer enthusiasts— about 300 of them — were also in attendance to show their support and get a sneak peak.
“Our deal with the Canadian Premier League is they’ve awarded Living Sky Sports Entertainment the exclusive rights to launch an expansion team in Saskatchewan, but the stipulation is you have to have a soccer-ready, FIFA-compliant soccer stadium to play in and Saskatoon doesn’t have that,” explained Al Simpson, CEO of Living Sky Sports and Entertainment.
“That’s why we are doing what we are doing so we can have and meet the conditions of the Canadian Premier League. We think the city of Saskatoon deserves it. We think the province of Saskatchewan deserves it.”
The project is estimated to have a price tag of between $24-million and $30-million. Tuesday’s news conference marked the launch of a public campaign to drum up financial support for the project.
“It sort of dove-tails with what the ultimate goal is and that’s to try and get a stadium built here, to try and get the city of Saskatoon to participate in helping Prairieland to do it,” noted Simpson in an interview.
“So this is the start of this process and it’s taken a lot of work to get to this point. It’s somewhat fulfilling that we’ve taken this step forward, but there’s more to do.”
The Saskatchewan group is targeting 2024 for its season debut in the CPL, giving them the balance of 2022 to get their funding put together and, added Simpson, “put the shovel to the ground in early spring of 2023.”
Simpson refuses to call the stadium a stumbling block but merely “a key condition that has to be met.”
“If that was met, I think everything else would come together rather nicely,” he said.
“I think CPL is ready to go now if we’ve got the stadium ready to go. The hold-up won’t be CPL; it’s just the financing and funding.”
Plans are for a multi-purpose, open-air events centre to not only host a CPL team but other community soccer teams, national and international events, cricket and rugby, as well as outdoor concerts.
Steve Chisholm, Prairieland board chair, dubbed it as a “first-class, world-class soccer stadium.”
He added that Prairieland is supporting the project with over $2-million in cash and hundreds of thousands of dollars in staff support now and into the future.
“We are launching a public campaign for community support and also have $2-million pledged from the team owner, Al Simpson of Living Sky Sport and Entertainment, to help build the stadium (in addition to all the franchise and team start-up costs Simpson will incur),” pointed out Chisholm.
“This is going to be an unbelievable facility, but we need to work together to make it happen.”
Lisa Bagonluri, board president for Saskatchewan Soccer Association, said that this stadium will become another place to cheer, dream and connect.
“This stadium, together with this CPL team, is an opportunity to share that passion with our communities,” she said. “It’s not crazy to think there can be love for two kinds of professional football here in our province.
“Soccer is the world’s sport.”
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