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Official Review by Jim Flannery, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Clarke Stadium opened up in northeast Edmonton at the tail end of the depression and became the host facility for the Canadian Football League’s Eskimos from the mid-50s to the mid-70s when the Eskies moved next door into Commonwealth Stadium.
Since then, Clarke Stadium has been used for a number of different purposes, been torn down, rebuilt, and repurposed again.
This year (2012) it is the residence of the NASL’s FC Edmonton, who played their inaugural season at the University of Alberta’s Foote Stadium. With a cozy grandstand that seats just 1,200 fans, Clarke Stadium brings an interesting and fresh perspective to a pro sports world that more typically demands 10 times that many fans just to be considered a viable product.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Food at Clarke Stadium is provided by a handful of food trucks situated in the fan area south of the field. The prices are reasonable and the Barbecue Bacon Explosion sandwich I bought at the Smokehouse Barbecue stand ($6.75) was quite tasty.
The Drift food truck also comes highly recommended, with an Urbanspoon approval rating of 91 percent.
I do have to deduct a mark for the lack of adult beverages, however. The Stadium apparently has not yet secured a liquor license, and so games remain dry events. As they continue to market games as family friendly, this may not be too much of a factor for most visitors, however.
Overall, the food options are pretty good here and appear to be quite sufficient for the size of crowd.
With a crowd just north of a thousand people, you're getting only the hard-core soccer fans in the stands. 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. But it appeared to be a fun time for all in attendance.
With the single set of stands on the west side of the field, every seat is a good seat, situated somewhere near midfield. With the smallish capacity of the stadium, putting over 1,000 people in the bleachers almost made the place seem crowded and as a result, the energy was much better than it might otherwise be having a similar crowd in a venue with more seats.
The neighborhood surrounding Clarke Stadium is not great. Across the street is a cement 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 and such, that's about all you'll find in the immediate vicinity.
Heading east a few blocks, you'll find yourself in Edmonton's Little Italy and a bit of searching will find you a place to grab a bite. Sorrentino's Bistro-Bar on 95th St. is one option for a little Italian fare.
Generally speaking though, if you're looking for some pre- or post-game entertainment or dining, you'll be much better off heading elsewhere.
If you're like me and enjoy being around the fans who cheer their heads off, aim for the top of the south side of the bleachers. There is a group of guys with drums, cheers and jeers that keep the energy up throughout the game.
Most of the rest of the stands are a little more subdued, but, as they all seem to be soccer enthusiasts, the energy is good, the cheers, oohs and ahs happen at the right moments and everyone seems to be out having a good time watching their team.
Getting to Clarke Stadium is fairly easy.
Road access from all over the city is good. There is a small parking lot to the south of the venue, but it is sufficient for the size of the crowd and a bargain at $5 a car.
The light rail transit system also has a stop right next to Commonwealth Stadium, just a stone's throw from Clarke's front gate, so getting to games using public transit is also an easy option.
Once you're inside the front gates, getting to and fro is also quite easy. There is a single section of bleacher-style seats and a wide-open path to the south where the food trucks are situated. Very easy to navigate.
The "expensive" seats in the lower central section of the stands are $28 each. The remainder of the stands are an even bigger bargain at $20 apiece. So whichever you choose, you're getting a great value for your sports dollar.
The NASL has only been around since 2011 and as a fledgling organization and the second tier of pro soccer in North America, you aren't going to be seeing the superstars of the game. However, the competition is solid and entertaining and, as with most young leagues, the competition can only get better and better.
There are two nicely appointed FC Edmonton stores; one just inside the main gates at the back of the stands and another setup on the south end adjacent to the food trucks. You can take care of all your "Eddies" apparel needs there, whether it be caps, jerseys, or sweatshirts.
In addition to the food and apparel, there are a couple other distractions to the south of the stands for the kids. There's a net set up for kids to see how hard they can kick a ball and you'll see the mascot making the rounds as well, giving out high fives and amusing the youngsters.
FC Edmonton has plans to expand the seating capacity by more than double in the near future by adding a second set of stands on the east side of the pitch. The goal is to be over 3,000 in capacity in fairly short order. As the team's reputation and success grows in this market, which is favorable to soccer, it should bring in some new fans and a fresh and evolving vibe.
This is an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon. If you're a fan of professional soccer and in the Edmonton area, this is definitely something to check out.
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