Moncton’s football dreams can come true

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of speaking at the annual general meeting of Downtown Moncton Centre-ville Inc.

I asked those in attendance to take a walk with me into the football future of Moncton. A walk that went something like this:

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Just prior to kickoff for Touchdown Atlantic 2010, CFL commissioner Mark Cohon announces that four more CFL regular season games will be played in Moncton, one per year through 2014.

Touchdown Atlantic 2011 and 2012 sell out in less than 24 hours respectively.

In 2013, the city of Moncton, together with the provincial government and the feds announce funding to increase the UdeM stadium’s seating capacity to 29,000 permanent seats with the capability of adding 15,000 temporary seats making total potential capacity 44,000.

In 2014 the league announces that an ownership group that includes both public and private sector interests has been awarded a CFL franchise to begin play in Moncton in 2016.

Although the team struggles on the field for the first few years, it demonstrates amazing popularity at the turnstile making a Moncton CFL home game the hottest ticket in the region.

Based on this popularity, the city of Moncton bids for and receives the 2020 Grey Cup Game and all the fanfare and economic spinoff that comes with it.

The four-day festival attracts 130,000 fans, 45,000 pack the stadium to watch the game live.

They spend $61 million in Moncton, stay for an average of 3.6 days and spend more than $28 million on accommodation, hospitality, other retail and transportation.

Wake up!

There’s no need to dream of the future for these numbers because they are current and real.

These are numbers taken from the 2009 Grey Cup game played in Calgary.

The opportunity to have the Grey Cup game played here is also real. Get a CFL team, get the right to host the CFL championship.

If they can play it in Edmonton in November 2010, why not here? All we need – is a team. As the CFL kicks off its 98th season today there’s lots of talk of a franchise for Atlantic Canada.

My old buddy Matt Dunigan talking about, “The passion we have here for football.”

Others identifying the unique “hubness” of our location and its ability to attract the million plus that are within a three-hour drive.

The Saskatchewan model, “We’ll be the Roughriders of the east” they claim.

Well before you start looking for wheat bails to trade for season tickets let’s take a step back shall we.

They’ve been playing football in Regina since 1910. The Regina Roughriders began play in 1924 and became the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 1946.

Now I wasn’t there back then, but I’d be willing to bet the farm that there wasn’t much to do, dare I say perhaps in the entire province, other than to go to the football game, or listen to it on the radio before the advent of TV.

Saskatchewan got its first commercially licensed television station in 1954. You could get one of two channels as long as you could configure the rabbit ears properly.

Want more entertainment competition for your football team? How does Dad reading from the latest National Geographic or Mom from Reader’s Digest sound?

Truth is the Saskatchewan model can’t be applied anymore.

Not in today’s Twittered, Facebooked, YouTubed, Wiki, ouch! I’ve sprained my thumb .com world.

Super fans like those in Saskatchewan take generations to develop with grandfathers taking sons and grand daughters to games. Telling stories of great feats by great players from eras gone by. History and tradition breed relevance.

Those contemplating the creation of a professional era for football in Moncton need look no further west than Quebec for the appropriate model.

In Montreal the resurgence of the Alouette football team is nothing short of miraculous.

On life support and barely able to attract 5,000 fans for games at 60,000-seat Olympic Stadium, the team moved downtown in 1998 to 20,000 seat Percival Molson Stadium and quickly became a place where Montreal sports fans wanted to be seen.

Winning teams help too; just ask the fans of Laval Rouge et Or. Visit their website and note the football program that began in 1995 has won an amazing five Vanier Cups.

Oh, and you’re also likely to notice the 38 corporate sponsors that have paid to have their names tied to the program.

These two organizations are shining examples of how a successful business model can set the foundation for the development of history, tradition and relevance – one that just might work, right here.

* Jan Carinci played 10 seasons in the CFL and was a member of the 1983 Grey Cup Champion Toronto Argonauts. Jan and his family have called Moncton home since 2001.


The Canadian Football League’s regular season begins tonight with the Montreal Alouettes aiming to the first team since the 1996-97 Toronto Argonauts to win back-to-back Grey Cups. The Alouettes visit the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Regina and the Calgary Stampeders host the Argos. Tomorrow night’s lone game sees the Winnipeg Blue Bombers entertain the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The Edmonton Eskimos host the B.C. Lions on Sunday.

Advocating for football prospects one story at a time.

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