CFL open to expansion into Eastern Canada, Cohon says

CFL commissioner Mark Cohon said the league is planning a return to Moncton for another game and is remaining open to expansion into Eastern Canada.

Moncton may need $100M in stadium upgrades for expansion, CFL commissioner says

CFL commissioner Mark Cohon said the league could expand into Eastern Canada in the future. But he said stadium expansion projects would be needed in either, Moncton, Halifax or Quebec City. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The Canadian Football League is planning a return to Moncton for another game and is remaining open to expansion into Eastern Canada, according to the league’s commissioner.

Mark Cohon said in an interview with CBC News on Wednesday the CFL’s focus for the next year is on bringing football back to Ottawa.

But he said adding a game in Moncton is still a viable option the league is considering.

"We’re trying — the schedule will probably be out next week — we are going to try to see if we can do another game in Moncton to test that market," he said.

The CFL has held two regular season games in Moncton, but the league took a pass on its trip to Atlantic Canada in 2012. The CFL was focused on the events surrounding the 100th Grey Cup.

The first CFL game in Moncton was sold out, but the city faced some criticism after only 97 per cent of the University of Moncton stadium’s 21,000 seats were sold for the second game in 2011.

The University of Moncton opened a $20-million stadium in 2010 that hosted the IAAF world junior track championships.

The Moncton stadium will also be one of the Canadian stadiums that will hold games during the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2015.

Cohon said any of the markets that are being considered for future CFL expansion would need a suitable stadium, even Moncton.

"We really want to make sure all of our teams are successful first, including Ottawa, and then if you look at three markets, whether that is Halifax, Moncton or maybe Quebec City, all of them are major stadium projects," he said.

"Moncton has a small stadium that you’d probably have to spend $100 million to retrofit it to CFL standards. So you are talking about a huge undertaking."

Cohon is attending the CFL’s annual winter meetings this week in Regina, which will play host to the 2013 Grey Cup.

The commissioner did have some advice for any groups interested in owning a CFL franchise in Eastern Canada.

Cohon said in 2010 an expansion fee for a franchise in Atlantic Canada would be more than $7 million.

On Wednesday, he said the Saskatchewan Roughriders are an ideal franchise to model future teams after.

"The one thing that I’ve learned in this job, which is interesting and I think the Roughriders are a great example of it, community-owned teams really are successful, they get behind it, they feel a sense of  ownership. If we were going to consider a team in Atlantic Canada, I would like to look at that model as well," he said.