October 18, 2011

Looking to spruce up McMahon

By Kristen Odland
Calgary Herald

Consider it Lyle Bauer’s official call to action.

The president and chief operating officer of the Calgary Stampeders held a news conference Monday afternoon to stress McMahon Stadium is in need of a serious facelift and it’s time for interested stakeholders to step up.McMahonaerial.jpg

“I’m sure the people are aware,” he said. “Especially our fans, our sponsors, and everyone else that it’s critical for the Stampeders and this franchise and, I believe, this city, for us to address a 50-year-old facility.”

Also well aware this fact was not breaking news, Bauer said every Canadian Football League team in need either has completed the construction of a new stadium, is planning to build a new venue or is in the process of improving their present home.

Next year, a new stadium in Winnipeg is projected to replace the previous home of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Canad Inns Stadium. Meanwhile, Empire Field was the temporary of the B.C. Lions while significant improvements were made to BC Place Stadium.Bauer_101220.jpg

Hamilton’s Ivor Wynne Stadium will be gutted and rebuilt in time for the 2014 season while Saskatchewan has started pushing for a new downtown stadium. Massive renovations are planned to get Lansdowne Park up to standards in time for Ottawa’s re-entry to the CFL in 2014. The Edmonton Eskimos recently received an update at Commonwealth Stadium that included the addition of an indoor practice facility.

Now, Bauer feels it’s the Stamps’ turn.

“It’s difficult to watch Calgary fall behind the other cities,” he said. “That’s what’s happening. Some may not want to hear that. But it’s also very timely. It’s something our fans deserve.”

Bauer said concessions, washrooms and general concourse amenities need improving for the comfort of the fans.

“It’s important to us,” he said. “The Stampeders, as you well know, are committed to the community. We believe that in order for us to keep going forward, we need to address the concerns of our fans and private partners.”

The facility, which opened in 1960, is well utilized. In addition to four Grey Cup games (1975, 1993, 2000 and 2009), it has hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics, various concerts and the 2011 National Hockey League Heritage Classic between the Calgary Flames and Montreal Canadiens.

The building is owned by the University of Calgary and operated by the McMahon Stadium society. It seats 35,650 for football while temporary stands can add 5,000 seats.

Bauer declined to reveal any budgets or costs — yet. He used Monday’s news conference to spur more discussion.

“You have to understand that this is going to take a multi-party arrangement,” he said. “That is one piece of it. We are waiting to hear from the university as far as that process goes . . . it’s time for many of us to step up.

“Every team in the CFL that has had a need is addressing it in some way, shape or form. The city is vibrant and proactive and progressive as Calgary and southern Alberta needs to step up and get after it.”

Bauer is aware it won’t happen overnight. Prior to joining the Stamps in 2010, he was the president and chief executive of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. He helped revive the franchise by developing a sound internal business plan and restoring the relationship between the fans and the business community. He was involved in Winnipeg’s drive for a new stadium.

“It took many, many years, but it is happening,” Bauer said. “It goes through many twists and turns . . . but it’s also important to let our fans know that we have to be their voice.”