FIFA 2026 in Edmonton could generate millions in economic spinoff

The province could reap economic benefits for years if Edmonton wins its bid to co-host the FIFA World Cup soccer tournament in 2026, the city says. 

Explore Edmonton estimates $750M financial boon to the province

Team Canada's Alistair Johnston parades the flag to celebrate the win over Mexico during World Cup Qualifiers in Edmonton on Nov. 16, 2021. Edmonton is hoping the large crowds that night will help the city's bid to host FIFA World Cup games. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

The province could reap economic benefits for years if Edmonton wins its bid to co-host the FIFA World Cup soccer tournament in 2026, Explore Edmonton says. 

The city corporation, mandated with attracting visitors and events to the city, estimates the bid could translate to $750 million in economic impact.

"Our projections are conservative," Daniel St. Pierre, director of strategic communications with Explore Edmonton, told CBC News Wednesday. "We estimate that this will bring about $750 million, give or take, into Alberta in economic impact."

The analysis includes revenue from hotel, hospitality and retail industries, St. Pierre said.

"It's 2026 but it's also four years of being a host city," he said. "Promoting, leveraging, being a host city to actually bring visitation over the next four years."

Soccer fever in Canada is running high this week after the national men's soccer team qualified Sunday for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar this November.

St. Pierre said upgrades to Commonwealth Stadium, part of the deal for Edmonton to be a host city for the 2026 World Cup, would attract more international events in future.

The city plans to replace the artificial turf at Commonwealth with real grass, renovate the washroom and concession areas, replace the video screen and upgrade the field lighting, the city says. 

Mayor confident

The Alberta government committed $110 million to the bid on Tuesday.

Toronto and Vancouver have also bid to host games, along with cities in the United States and Mexico.

 Mayor Amarjeet Sohi is confident Edmonton has a fighting chance to be one of the Canadian host cities, having a proven track record of hosting international events. 

"We have demonstrated to supporting agencies that we can do it and we do it with absolute dedication," Sohi said in a news conference Wednesday. "We have the amenities and the facilities to meet the high standards of FIFA." 

Edmonton hosted part of the FIFA Women's World Cup in 2015, the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada in 2007 and the FIFA U-19 Women's World Championship Canada in 2002.

Getting financial commitment from the three levels is key to advancing the city's chances, St. Pierre noted. 

"It strengthens the bid," he said. "It strengthens our position going into the selection process." 

Canada vs. Mexico

Edmonton soccer fans have done their share too.

Officials from FIFA and Canada Soccer visited the city during the qualifying game between Canada and Mexico on Nov. 16 to see Commonwealth Stadium packed on a cold and snowy night. 

"I don't think I can actually overstate what an impact seeing that actually had on the FIFA representatives in Canada soccer," St.Pierre said. 

"Edmonton showed up at a really critical moment when we were trying to demonstrate the city is enthusiastic, beyond enthusiastic about the opportunity." 

Commitment with conditions

The provincial is predicated on federal and municipal governments coming through with their portion of the funding, which is to be split three ways. 

Sohi said he is confident Ottawa will come through.

The province is also looking for assurances that Edmonton will host at least five games, with at least two at the round of 32 or round of 16 knockout stages.

FIFA is expected to announce the successful host cities by the end of April or beginning of May, Sohi said. 

St. Pierre said between now and then, the submission will be fine-tuned.


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