Will London build a downtown sports stadium? It's a possibility

Some time next year London city hall will publish its 10-year parks and recreation master plan — and one of the possible projects discussed will be a downtown stadium.

Now, that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen in 10 years, or ever for that matter. What it does mean if the item appears in the long-term master plan for the city is that the pros and cons of a stadium will be discussed - writes lfpress.com

But the fact that a small stadium of not-yet-determined size is needed won’t be enough to get one built.

“The master plan is a revision of the 2009 strategic master plan,” said Scott Stafford, managing director of parks and recreation for city hall. “It will go to council in 2019 and it’s trying to figure out the visions and goals for parks and recreation for the next 10 to 20 years.”

The 2009 master plan saw numerous items implemented — “some small and some very big,” Stafford said. The big items included the Bostwick Community Centre and the East Lions Park Recreation Centre.

City hall continues to seek input from the community for what eventually will find its way into the blueprint.

“They can get involved online. We’ve already had several public meetings,” Stafford said. “We’ve met with all stakeholders, partners and those delivering recreation services to all including school boards to university and colleges, Western Fair, Tourism London and all different volunteer community groups.”

After these meetings Stafford said he believes that a stadium of some sort will be under discussion.

“We’re getting some input now so it will be an item that will be addressed as part of community interest,” he said. “We haven’t got to the point of evaluating all the demographics and all of the sub-studies . . . but it’s something that’s coming forward as an interest in the community.”

It is all a concept at this stage.

“Right now there are certainly some sites we are looking at that are proposed by the community,” Stafford said. “It would be looking to see what partners there would be, what the size, what the scope is and what the need would be. It’s something we will be investigating for sure.

“But we haven’t done the math yet. We’re trying to decide is, is it needed for a greater economic vitality picture for tourism or from a sports perspective?”

The Western Mustangs have TD Stadium for football. The Majors have Labatt Park. While soccer has the BMO Centre, it’s an indoor facility.

The one glaring need is an outdoor soccer stadium with a modest seating capacity. No doubt the facility would be used for other sports as well.

Interest seems to have ratcheted up about a potential stadium with the establishment of the Canadian Premier League, a new national soccer league with seven franchises. The CPL is a hard-pushing organization that’s selling itself as the true Canadian league. Several franchises have been established in cities with Canadian Football League teams.

FC London’s founder and chief operating officer, Ian Campbell, says he had discussions with the league last year but the financial numbers didn’t work out.

“There was the franchise fee, which is in the millions. Then there was the expectation that there would be money lost in the first few years,” Campbell said. “I also think that the travel expenses are going to be really steep. It’s expensive going to places like Victoria.”

But a major outstanding issue here is a stadium. Campbell’s wish list for the continued growth of the sport and FC London includes a dedicated soccer stadium. Right now FC London has a women’s and men’s senior team in League1 Ontario.

While the costs to get into the CPL are high, not having a stadium removes any decision — it’s simply not feasible.

“It’s just too much money,” Campbell said. “But if there were a stadium, now that might change things.”

Coincidentally, Campbell recently moved the offices of his company iCONECT to Bathurst Street. It’s directly across the street from the large parking lot near London Hydro.

“Yes, the city does own that parking lot,” Stafford said.

Read more news of London on our site.

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