The Edmonton Eskimos have won the CFL’s (Canadian Football League) Grey Cup 13 times, the second highest total in league history. Nine of those wins have come while the Eskimos have called Commonwealth Stadium their home, including an unprecedented five in a row from 1978-1982, the first five years that Commonwealth was in service.
Following $112 million dollars in upgrades over the last couple years, Commonwealth Stadium is looking fresh and new in many respects. With the shiny new green-and-gold seats installed prior to the 2013 season, the facility looks like it’s ready for another 35 years of football.
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There are tons of concessions at Commonwealth Stadium. In addition to the typical concession stands lining the outside of the main concourse, there are also large concession areas off the east and west concourse areas creating lots of extra space and providing the fans with more options than they might otherwise have.
All the standard concession choices are available, from hamburgers ($5.75) and foot-long hot dogs ($5.50) to popcorn ($4.50 for a small) and fountain drinks ($3.75 for a small). You can also find some specialty variations on those themes, such as the BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger ($7.75), which was quite tasty.
Additionally, you'll find Boston Pizza stands where you can pick up pizza for $6.50 a slice and Tiny Tim Mini Donuts ($5.00 for a dozen).
Molson Canadian is readily available on tap ($6.50 per glass) and there are a number of specialty beverage stands where you can get something more exotic, like Corona ($7.00), the always-excellent Strongbow Cider ($7.50) or a variety of hi-balls ($6.75).
If you're still looking for something more, you can pop into the Quarterback Club in the east concession or Jackie Parker's in the west concession for more of a lounge atmosphere.
Finally, there is a "tailgate" area at the north end of the stands, at field level, for folks who want to enjoy an adult beverage right next to the action.
With a team that has won as many Grey Cups as the Eskimos have, it should come as no surprise that there are numerous nods to the glory years. The south exterior wall is decorated with the list of championships, along with huge pictures of three of the most famous Eskimos of all time: Warren Moon, Norm Kwong, and Willie Pless. The Grey Cup list can also be found on the walls of the main concession areas as well.
Out front of Commonwealth Stadium at the game I attended in fall, 2013 was a Fan Fest set-up with a DJ and a fenced-off party area for fans wanting to get pumped up before entering the facility.
The names of the Eskimos Hall of Fame players are proudly displayed along the leading edge of the upper deck of stands and there are a lot of them, again echoing the proud football tradition in Edmonton.
The brand-new green-and-gold seats are wider than the old seats which has reduced the seating capacity of the stadium by a few thousand, but it makes sitting in the stands much more comfortable. They also all have cup holders, so less fumbling around when trying to sit down or get up, also a good thing.
I found myself at a late-season game in the midst of a rebuilding season for the Eskimos. As a result, the stands were only about half full and, when the hometown squad got behind early, it really deflated the enthusiasm of the crowd. But the noise returned late in the game when the Eskies started to make a run, which brought the energy level right back up. This was a downside to the games' atmosphere but will no doubt improve as the team matures again and gets better.
The neighborhood around Commonwealth Stadium is pretty low on interesting places to spend your money. Most of the area is older residential with some industrial stuff mixed in. You'll find the End Zone Pub & Grill across the street to the north, and a McDonalds and a Subway a little further east along 112 Ave. but that's about it in the immediate vicinity.
Heading west a few blocks, you'll find yourself in Edmonton's Little Italy. A bit of wandering up and down 95th St. should get you to a suitable place to grab a bite. Sorrentino's Bistro-Bar is a solid restaurant chain with tasty food but they are closed on Sundays, so don't plan for that place unless you're going to a weeknight or Saturday game. Other options include Santo's Restaurant and Lounge or the Italian Centre Shop.
Generally speaking though, if you're looking for some pre- or post-game entertainment or dining, you'll be much better off heading elsewhere.
Eskimos fans are used to success. A steady string of superstars and championships has made this franchise one of the crown jewels of the CFL. A few not-so-good years recently seem to have dampened the enthusiasm of Edmontonians somewhat, reducing crowd sizes.
Historically however, Eskimos crowds are bigger and more excited. At the game I attended, while the stands were only about half full and things were pretty quiet through much of the contest, when the Eskies scored three touchdowns late, the fans really got back into it. That tells me the fans are engaged and they truly do care about their team, which is a good thing.
Seeing so many people proudly wearing their green-and-gold attire also told me that the fans in attendance are true fans who are with their team through thick or thin and I appreciate that as well.
Don't bother bringing your vehicle to Commonwealth Stadium; you won't have anywhere to put it. Parking at the stadium is virtually non-existent. You can try to find a neighborhood street that doesn't require a permit to park, but those are few and far between. I have to take off a couple marks for that.
Instead your best option, far and away, is taking public transit.
The Eskimos have a long-standing agreement with the Edmonton Transit System (ETS). Anyone with a game ticket gets to ride for free before and after the game. There are a number of express buses from several malls around town but your best bet remains the Light Rail Transit system. The train has a stop right outside the east side of the building. Do be aware that only a few train stops have Park And Ride lots, so if your plan is to do just that, you'll want to be sure to hit one of the locations where you can actually drop off your wheels.
For people who are planning to buy their tickets at the stadium, ETS fares are only $3.20 for adults, so your trip there will still have a pretty reasonable price tag.
I will also give some bonus props to the stadium for seeming quite spacious inside. With the offset concession areas, the concourse never seemed particularly crowded, even at half time and at the end of the game as the fans were filing out en masse. Definitely a plus, especially if big crowds make you a little antsy.
Ticket prices range from $45 to $89.50, with many seats significantly discounted for youths. You can also grab seats in the south-most sections, known as the Sobeys Family Huddle, for $26 (these tickets are available at Edmonton Sobeys and IGA stores).
This is by no means the cheapest place to see a CFL game, but still quite reasonable to watch a professional sports team. Odds are that you will see an entertaining game in a comfortable, energetic place, so I consider a visit to Commonwealth to be a good investment.
The Eskimos have their primary team store located adjacent to their offices at the south of the stadium but there are also two very well-appointed locations inside the concession areas off the east and west concourse, so there's lots of access to all the green-and-gold stuff you could ever want.
There is a massive Sony Jumbotron located on the north end of the stadium providing game info and replays. Unfortunately, the screen is almost impossible to see from the north-most upper deck sections, so if you want a view of the screen, stay away from sections EE, FF, NN and OO (to be fair, these sections are generally not open for regular season games, so it shouldn't be a problem most of the time). Also of note, Edmonton city council has approved the replacement of this aging Jumbotron with a newer, higher resolution system in the near future.
There is a great sense of team history around the stadium, with numerous reminders of great teams and great players in the Eskimo past. This is a definite bonus to see as you look around the facility.
During breaks in the action, the Eskimos Cheer Team and mascots Punter and Nanook keep people entertained. The Cheer Team dance, cheer and perform acrobatics between plays and also have a couple full-blown routines per game out on the field during longer stoppages. Punter and Nanook make their way around the field and visit in the stands, entertaining the kids and helping out with giveaways and contests during the game.
The Edmonton Eskimos are unquestionably one of the class organizations of the CFL. While the team has not been reeling off Grey Cup wins like they used to, it would be foolish to think they won't get right back into the thick of things in the near future. That should also bring the crowd sizes back to more typical norms, and bigger crowds will mean a better, livelier experience.
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 stadium is to big for CFL action though, great expansions planned and in the process, gem for the city of Edmonton.
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