Regina could be a 'dark horse' in 2026 World Cup bid: Sask. Soccer Association

Regina is bidding on being one of the host cities for the 2026 FIFA World Cup — but how realistic is that?

Training facilities for athletes, grass fields would need to be built if city were to host, director says

If a joint U.S-Canada-Mexico proposal to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup is successful and Regina is picked as one of the host cities by an organizing committee, fans could watch international soccer at Mosaic Stadium. (CBC)

The head of the Saskatchewan Soccer Association says Regina may be a "dark horse" in a bid to be one of the Canadian cities that could host the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

"The reality is from an outsider's point of view, would they say Regina, a city of a couple hundred thousand is going to be the first choice for a FIFA bid for a world class event? Probably no," Doug Pederson said Wednesday.

"I think everybody would understand that potentially we're a dark horse in this race."

The United Bid Committee of Canada, Mexico and the United States recently released a list of 49 potential venues in 44 cities, including the Queen City's Mosaic Stadium.  It is one of two proposals being put forward for the 2026 World Cup, the other being from Morocco. 

The soccer association is now working with a number of partners, including The City of Regina, Evraz Place and Economic Development Regina to respond to a request for information from Canada Soccer, which is required if a city is interested in hosting the games.

Kirk Morrison with Economic Development Regina says they are putting Regina's name forward as one of the potential venues to host the 2026 World Cup even though the chances of becoming a host city might be slim. (CBC)

Start of a long process

The deadline for the bid is Sept.5.

"Maybe we have a unique proposition for them, but only time will tell," Pederson said, acknowledging the effort may be a long shot. 

Kirk Morrison, director of events, conventions and trade shows with Economic Development Regina, said they are at the preliminary stage of the bidding process.

He said the committee will assess the city's feasibility to host the games sometime between September and June 2018, which is when questions around infrastructure needs will emerge. 

"It's an exciting notion that an event like this could come to Regina and we could be on that world stage," Morrison said. 

Millions for training facilities, new fields

Pederson acknowledged it would cost millions to make the city and its facilities ready to host the 2026 World Cup, but it would also rake in an "unprecedented" amount of tourism dollars. 

"FIFA World Cup event is like no other in sport in the world. We're talking hundreds of millions of interested athletes across the world let alone the passionate soccer fans across the world."

"It's probably one of the most significant events the city could ever have an opportunity to bid for."

He said money would need to be spent on building new training facilities for athletes and new grass fields, as well as on hotels, transportation. 

There are also requirements around how much seating a venue must offer. 

"It's a big ask for sure, but this is something we see a number of parties in the city are very excited about seeking out and determining if we actually are a realistic candidate."

"The challenge is to give ourselves a chance to be considered," he explained. 

Pederson believes chances might be good considering Winnipeg is not interested in hosting the event and Calgary could be involved in bidding for the Olympics, meaning Regina could serve as a bridge between bigger cities, such as Vancouver and Toronto, serving fans in the prairies and from northern U.S. states.

With files from CBC's Adam Hunter