Built in 1978 for the Commonwealth Games, Commonwealth Stadium has been home to the CFL's most dominant team in history -- the Edmonton Eskimos. Having won more Grey Cups at thirteen, than any other team and an unprecedented five cups in a row, the 63,317 fans that once packed Commonwealth Stadium have seen a fair share of winning tradition.
Major renovations have taken place and continue forward in the last couple years with a new full width practice field, on site executive offices, a players lounge and if you ask the staff and many of the players, by far the best locker room in the CFL. In fact, the Esks locker room rivals and surpasses the player accommodations in a number of NFL stadiums.
Commonwealth has meeting rooms on the second level for game day events and meetings, has a hot tub and cold tub in the training area and after the 2002 Grey Cup was ruined by natural grass, the stadium recently undertook a 2.7 million renovation to the field turf even spending fifty thousand on SOD and maintenance alone. After all that, the stadium then added major lighting upgrades unique to any stadium in the CFL.
While Rexal Place, which holds the Edmonton Oilers, is outdated and among the worst in NHL buildings, Commonwealth is a stark contrast being among the tops in the CFL.
But it isn't just football that Commonwealth has become known for. With the lack of a downtown arena in Edmonton and a stadium that seats enough fans for major concerts, Commonwealth has become a host for shows like Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, Tim McGraw and U2.
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".
Like most stadiums, you can get all the expected regulars: hamburgers, hot dogs, fries, pop, beer, pizza, mini donuts and more.
There are some nice areas inside the stadium where you can warm up, chill out and grab some good food. There is also a major outdoor area at the north end of the stadium that holds a bar for fans that aren't exactly the biggest football watchers. It's not recommended for kids, but it can be a lot of fun for the party type.
Like any arena, food and drinks aren't cheap, but that shouldn't be a surprise to anyone attending a sporting event anymore.
With all the new upgrades, Commonwealth looks much different than it was even just a few years ago. New outside lights, new field and soon to be new seats keep this building in pretty good shape.
Unlike some stadiums that have a big jumbotron in the middle of the field, this one is at the far end which can be tough depending on where your seats are, but still pretty big.
Esks fans are knowledgeable and loyal and for the most part don't cause problems or linger around the stadium after games. It's a place where anyone can go without fear that you're in an uninviting environment.
High school football is a big part of the landscape at Esks games and kids have been a part of the corporate marketing strategy for years.
Commonwealth Stadium is undergoing a massive $110 million redevelopment that will be home to the new North Central Community Recreation Centre and Field House (NCCRC). This renovation is meant to not only give new life to one of the nicest stadiums in the CFL, but also give a needed boost to the surrounding community which over the years has become one of Edmonton's older and more dated areas.
Outside of some fast food joints a few blocks away, you won't find a lot of food or restaurant options in the general vicinity of the stadium; but because most people take transit and the LRT, it doesn't matter a whole lot.
Esks fans are everywhere. Second maybe only to hockey as a staple of the city, Edmonton Eskimo fans attend games in the cold weather by the thousands. Holding the record for most fans in a regular season game at 62,517, there is no shortage of support for the Green and Gold. It helps that Calgary and Saskatchewan fans are never too far away to make a trip to support their side, which in the end makes for some great rivalries on the field and in the stands.
The games are an affordable option for Edmontonians, so families and fans looking for a not too expensive form of entertainment have found CFL football that outlet. The return of the Kids Club or as the organization likes to call it, the Knothole Gang, creates seating for a warm family form of entertainment.
Like most sporting events, you will still find the rowdy fans that will drink too much and get a little crazy, but they are well outnumbered by good natured Edmonton fans that just love good football, have a knowledge for the team and have spent generations growing up with the club.
Being just minutes from the LRT, Commonwealth is a central location in Edmonton for fans. That said, parking is extremely limited if you don't take the LRT or the ETS (Edmonton Transit Service) which is included as part of your ticket purchase two hours before and after the game. ETS Bus Park and Ride service with free parking is available at six locations including Burns City Lot, Calder City Lot, Davies City Lot, Kingsway Mall, Mill Woods Town Centre Mall and West Edmonton Mall. Service starts 90 minutes before game time. Show your Eskimo game day ticket and ride for free. Regular ETS fares apply for those without a ticket.
If you drive and can find neighbourhood areas that allow for parking, nothing is too far a walk for the loyal fan, but your best bet is to find another alternative. They tag and tow anything around the area and where streets are blocked off. Public transit has made it easy so don't take the chance.
It is recommended that one gives themselves plenty of time. At least 90 minutes prior to kick-off is best.
Tickets for Esks games can cost the average fan $25-$35 and even less for kids. There are higher end tickets available, but overall an Eskimos game is one of Edmonton's best entertainment values. If you are attending a concert here however, expect ticket prices to be much higher as only the cream of the entertainment crop play Commonwealth and you'll be shelling out good money to see these acts in person. If it's football you seek, this is money well spent.
Commonwealth will be renovating a number of seats, and will be losing some 1600 places to seat fans, but it should make for an overall more comfortable experience.
The Esks cheer team and the mascots, Nanook and Punter, are regarded as a staple of all Eskimo games and are well-known members of the community.
Dress warm in the second half of the season. With cold winters in Edmonton and a stadium that has spots where the wind catches the seating areas, it can get cold.
If you're looking for value in Edmonton, the Eskimos and a trip to Commonwealth Stadium might just be it. This organization is steep in tradition, always a contender (with the exception of a few recent years) and prices are right for families and others looking to pinch pennies.
The area isn't Edmonton's high end, but the massive renovations going on with and around the stadium should really help.
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