‘Saskatoon deserves it’: City council hears passionate pitch to build soccer stadium

Saskatoon city councilors heard a passionate pitch from a group of companies looking to build a soccer stadium during its planning, development and community services meeting Monday morning.

Representatives from Prairieland Park and Living Sky Sports and Entertainment asked council to contribute $8 million over the course of eight years as part of a $28 million budget to build a soccer stadium on the south end of the Prairieland Park grounds currently occupied by Marquis Downs.

Rather than talk about the economic benefits, jobs created or merchandising opportunities, Al Simpson, CEO of Living Sky Sports and Entertainment, decided to talk about the surging popularity of soccer in Canada as the men’s national team qualified for its first World Cup appearance since 1986 this past spring.

“The point in all of this is that the game is growing, we’re a nation of immigrants, diversity is our strength, soccer brings us all together for a common purpose and Saskatoon deserves it,” Simpson said.

The multi-use facility which could be used for outdoor concerts, cricket, field lacrosse and rugby, is expected to seat 5,500 people with room to expand, according to Steve Chisholm, board chair of Prairieland.

Living Sky Sports and Entertainment, which has secured a Canadian Premier League team should the stadium be built, has promised $2 million of its own money. Prairieland Park has also said it will commit $2 million.

“City investment is required to secure the investment from the province of Saskatchewan and the federal government,” Chisholm said. “We have it on good authority and have been advised the province and the federal government would look favorably upon our request, depending on the city’s involvement.”

Prairieland Park would be the sole owner of the stadium with Living Sky as its anchor tenant.

LSSE and Prairieland Park envision the stadium lasting for at least 25 years with a tourism impact of more than $150 million expected in that time, according to the Saskatoon Regional Economic Development Authority’s Canadian Premier League soccer stadium economic impact study from 2021.

Prairieland Park CEO Mark Regier didn’t hold back when talking about his excitement about the possibility of the Canadian Premier League landing in Saskatoon.

This league will be huge someday – big. I think it will rival the CFL in attendance within 10 years,” he said.

Questions from councilors included making the stadium available for a variety of uses like youth programming in multiple sports. Regier said around 800 hours per year would be available to soccer associations and the stadium is available for other uses roughly 85 per cent of the time.

Coun. Cynthia Block encouraged other councilors and administration to think big about the proposed project.

“In a big picture way, we have to look at Saskatoon about where we’re going to be and not where we have been,” she said, mentioning she knows Saskatoon is a “hockey city.”

“I think that we’re really missing out on understanding what is going on in a very fast-changing community if we don’t look at this as an amazing opportunity for our city.”

Chisholm also mentioned a $24,000 subsidy per year to “lessen the burden” for community groups like soccer and lacrosse.

LLSE also has plans to launch a capital funding campaign this summer due to the expected escalating costs of construction and rising interest rates.

Prairieland hopes to break ground on construction next spring with hopes of welcoming a professional soccer team to the stadium for the start of the 2024 season.

No decision from council is expected until at least fall when Prairieland will return with a more thorough business plan.

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