Edmonton

Edmonton mayor looks to province to secure 2026 FIFA games

A $4.3-million federal pledge to help Canadian cities host FIFA World Cup games in 2026 is prompting Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson to call on the province to pony up. 

Iveson hopeful UCP government will come through with funding

Mayor Don Iveson said the federal money advances Edmonton's bid to host several games in 2026 but the city needs commitment from the province as well. (CBC)

A $4.3-million federal pledge to help Canadian cities host FIFA World Cup games in 2026 is prompting Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson to call on the province to pony up. 

The federal department of science and sport announced Thursday funding for the Canadian Soccer Association to help Montreal, Toronto and Edmonton prepare their bids.

The three Canadian cities are among 23 potential sites in the North American consortium preparing to host the 2026 FIFA tournament. 

FIFA will choose 16 final cities. 

Iveson said the city is looking for a $15-million investment from the province to help host a handful of games at Commonwealth Stadium. 

The city was having "productive" conversations with the previous government but hasn't had the chance to meet with Premier Jason Kenney's government, he said. 

"With their focus on projecting Alberta's brand around the world and attracting talent from around the world here, I think it aligns with their labour strategy and talent strategy."

Rob Smythe, manager of community and recreation facilities, said his team is working on a detailed business case over the next four to six months. 

"Basically this is a month-long festival and really what does that look like?" Smythe said.

"Our stadium is obviously a flagship stadium in our nation, but it's going to need some modifications and changes, so we're just understanding what those requirements of FIFA are," Smythe said. 

Commonwealth Stadium's artificial turf will have to be replaced with grass, the dressing rooms upgraded and off-site practice facilities added. 

Commonwealth Stadium's artificial turf will have to be replaced with grass, the dressing rooms upgraded and off-site practice facilities added in order to host World Cup games in 2026. (stagingconcepts.com)

The business case will help sum up a more precise request for provincial funding, he said. 

The positive feedback the city received from hosting the women's tournament in 2015 should help secure the hosting rights for 2026, Iveson said.

"We would relish the opportunity to have a few games — two or three or four games here — and we've got a great facility for it that FIFA loves from our strong track record of hosting previously," Iveson said.  

"We want to make the best case we can to host as many as possible." 

In an email Thursday, a spokesperson for the Alberta Ministry of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women said the minister looks forward to hearing from the city about the request.

@natashariebe

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