Saint John wants Canada Games Stadium to be considered for CFL game
With the CFL planning a game in the Maritimes next summer, some are wondering why the list of possible sites for the game doesn't include Saint John, the city where the league played its first East Coast game.
Barry Ogden is tired of the Canada Games Stadium being overlooked when it comes to hosting big events.
“It's not just a games facility,” says Ogden, the UNBSJ Seawolves president. “It's not just a practice facility, it's a major stadium and I believe the nicest in Atlantic Canada.”
The facility frequently hosts track and field competitions, football games, and youth camps, but Ogden says, the stadium is idle too often.
“Here it is, it's a major asset in Saint John,” Ogden said. “It's our outdoor Harbour Station, it's our outdoor Imperial Theatre, that we just don't use, and it's sitting here and never gets into the conversation.”
The most recent conversation is the CFL regular season game scheduled for August. So far, only Halifax, Moncton and St F.X. have been mentioned as possible host sites.
The CFL has touched down here before. That was back in the mid-80s when the Canada Games Stadium hosted two consecutive CFL pre-season games. But since then, Saint John has not been part of the CFL conversation.
Others in the sports community are also wondering, why not.
“You know, sometimes you look at the stadium and you wonder, can it be used for more things for more events,” said Kevin Babin, Canada Senior Games manager. “Because it is a great facility, a great location … there's plenty of parking, it's not hard to get there, and it's close to the university as well.”
In recent years, millions of dollars were spent upgrading the Canada Games Stadium.
“We renovated change rooms, with new lights, new electrical, new everything, and essentially it has the capacity to host just about any event here in Atlantic Canada,” said Athletics Canada Chairman Bill MacMackin. “Now, you obviously have to make some investments in temporary infrastructure depending on the scale of the event, but just about any facility you can point to around the Maritimes has the same situation.”
Ogden says the Canada Games Stadium is of holding 25,000 seats.
That would mean moving in thousands of temporary seats for a CFL game - though as Ogden points out, similar plans would have to be made in either Halifax or St. F.X.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Mike Cameron.