Clarke Stadium – FC Edmonton
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FC Edmonton Football at Clarke Stadium
Clarke Stadium has been around in northeast Edmonton, in one form or another, since 1938. Built on land previously occupied by the Alberta Penitentiary, and dedicated to former Edmonton mayor Joseph Clarke, it was constructed to accommodate usage for football, field lacrosse, rugby, and other outdoor sports.
It played host to the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL for almost three decades before the Eskies eventually moved to the much-larger Commonwealth Stadium, situated right next door.
Since then, Clarke Stadium has been used for a number of different purposes, been torn down, rebuilt, and repurposed again.
These days, it plays host to the North American Soccer League’s FC Edmonton. While the main grandstand on the west side of the pitch seats just 1,200 people, additional seating was added in the spring of 2013 on the east side and to the south east and south west of the field. Seating capacity is now just over 4,000, with room to continue to grow the stands in future years as the need arises.
Food & Beverage 3
Food at Clarke Stadium is provided at three concession stands, two located in the concourse behind the main grandstand and one in a tent to the south end of the pitch. The selection is relatively limited, with burgers, hot dogs, chips, and candy bars being the majority of the choices on the menu. There is also a small selection of pop by the bottle and some choices of alcoholic beverages as well.
If there is a big crowd, these concessions simply aren’t up to the task of providing food in a timely fashion, so plan to be in line for a while.
There are a couple of specialty adult beverage stands around the facility as well, offering a slightly better selection of beer and coolers than you can otherwise find at the main concessions. Typically there is also at least one food truck on site to give you some unique food options, such as BeaverTails pastries, which is a tasty and truly Canadian treat.
Since the new stands were added, crowds have gotten significantly larger; average attendance in 2017 has been more than 3,600 fans, tripling the previous maximum capacity of the stadium.
In a city of a million people, that’s still a relatively modest total, but it means that the fans here are dedicated soccer fans and not just hangers-on. As a result, the crowd seemed very engaged in the action on the pitch, which made it easy to enjoy the event.
Generally speaking, things were fairly relaxed at the game, with most fans in the stands focused on the action, some wandering down to head over to the fan zone south of the field for a bite or to let the kids play in the bouncy castle. But it appeared to be a fun time for all in attendance.
Considering that the main grandstand is only as wide as about a third of the field’s length and that the east stands only go from roughly the top of one penalty area to the other, the majority of seats are in what would otherwise be considered prime locations and, with most of the seats filled, the crowd energy remains very good throughout the game—plunking the same crowd of a couple thousand into Commonwealth Stadium next door, with over 56,000 seats, would seem like playing in an empty venue.
When FC Edmonton began playing at Clarke Stadium, there were multiple field markings for football and soccer, making it difficult at times to see what field was in play. This has since been addressed and the pitch only features soccer lines now.
One quick comment on the east stands: technically, they’re temporary stands, made of aluminum, with comfortable seats in the reserve seating areas on the east side and less comfortable aluminum benches in the bleachers. If it’s a sunny day and you enjoy heat, they’re great, as the sun reflecting off the metal cooks you from above and below. If there’s a limit to how much heat you can take, this can get unpleasant after a while and you’ll find yourself making frequent visits to the concessions for more fluids. Consider yourselves forewarned.
As for the stands in the south end of the pitch, the angled stands on the south east and south west corners have some issues. The stands and cabanas set up right behind the south goal completely block the view of that net for about half of the corner stands on both sides. This is a severe obstructed view. If you can avoid sitting in these locations, do so.
The neighborhood surrounding Clarke Stadium is not great. Across the street to the immediate south is a concrete plant and most of the rest of the area is older residential. A couple blocks north east of the Clarke/Commonwealth complex, you’ll find a Mcdonalds and a Subway, but aside from the odd little donair place, that’s about all you’ll find in the immediate vicinity.
Heading west a few blocks, you’ll find yourself in Edmonton’s Little Italy. A bit of wandering up and down 95th St. should get you to you a suitable place to grab a bite.
Sorrentino’s Bistro-Bar is a solid restaurant chain in the Edmonton area, but they are closed on Sundays, so if that’s when your game is, you’re out of luck there. You can also try Santo’s Restaurant and Lounge or, if you’re in the mood for a deli sandwich, the Italian Centre Shop.
Generally speaking though, if you’re looking for some pre- or post-game entertainment or dining, you’ll be much better off heading elsewhere.
Who doesn’t enjoy being in a noisy, boisterous crowd that expresses their emotions all the way through the game. If that’s the kind of fans you’re looking for, go find the FC Edmonton Supporters Group. Armed with drums and endless exuberance, they have a cheer for every situation and keep the energy up from start to finish.
Most of the rest of the stands are a little more subdued, but, FC Edmonton fans are dedicated, well-informed soccer fans who know their game, know when to cheer and when to boo. And they all seem to be out there having a good time, which is always a good thing.
Getting to Clarke Stadium is fairly easy.
Road access from all over the city is good, with Clarke Stadium just a couple minutes west of Wayne Gretzky Drive, to the northeast of the downtown core.
There is a small parking lot to the south of the venue ($10), and a bit more parking for Commonwealth Stadium to the north but it is sufficient for the size of the crowd.
The light rail transit system also has a stop right next to Commonwealth Stadium, about a block east of Clarke’s front gate, so getting to games using public transit is also an easy option.
The front gates are on the back side of the main grandstand, with the two main concession stands located just inside those gates. This area can get badly congested when people are lined up at the concessions, making just getting into the facility a chore. The concourse then leads around to the stands themselves and the rest of the field, where you’ll find lots and lots of room, so you quickly go from dense crowds to wide spaces and ease of movement. The new stands on the east side can be reached by way of a huge pathway that surrounds the pitch which means getting around is not bad.
Return On Investment 4
Reserve seating in the grandstand as well as on the east side in the new stands will run you $28 a seat, while general admission seating is only $22 and children under 16 can get in for just $15. That’s a pretty reasonable price to see any professional sport.
Groups of 20 can also rent a hospitality tent at field level for $1,500 per game, giving people a similar VIP experience to luxury boxes in larger venues.
The NASL is still a relatively new organization, having opened up shop in 2011. Although it is the second tier of pro soccer in North America, you are still going to be seeing professional caliber athletes capable of making big plays throughout the game. Consequently, the action is entertaining and you really can’t go wrong for the price.
The FC Edmonton store is found in a tent to the west of the pitch. You can take care of all your “Eddies” apparel needs there, whether it be caps, jerseys or sweatshirts.
The usual assortment of contests and giveaways during stoppages in play are done at FC Edmonton games, providing the fans with thanks for their support
A slick new hi-def screen is located on the north end of the pitch, with all stands getting a good look at it. The screen provides the game score, replays, contest info, and a live action feed during the game.
As of this writing, FC Edmonton, and the NASL as a whole, have suspended operations and face an uncertain future. However, if the league gets back underway, this is an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon. If you’re a fan of professional soccer and in the Edmonton area, it’s definitely something to check out.
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