Photos by Jim Flannery, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86
Commonwealth Stadium 11000 Stadium Rd Edmonton, AB T5J 2R7 Canada
Year Opened: 1978 Capacity: 56,302
Edmonton's Mighty Elks
The Edmonton Eskimos have won the CFL’s 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 Stadium was in service.
As a building that was constructed in the 1970s, one might expect it to be long in the tooth, worn out, and obsolete. In fact, The Brick Field at Commonwealth Stadium (as it is officially known since naming rights were sold to The Brick furniture stores) has undergone some major upgrades in the last decade. As a result, the place is looking fresh and new in many respects.
There may come a day when this field is ready for retirement, but that day is not today.
Note: In June 2021, the team name changed from the Eskimos to the Elks.
Food & Beverage 4
There are tons of concessions at Commonwealth Stadium. In addition to the typical concession stands lining the outside of the main concourse, one of the key aspects of the recent renovations was adding large concessions 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 concessions choices are available, from hamburgers ($6.50) and foot-long hot dogs ($5.50) to potato chips ($1.50) and fountain drinks ($4 for a small). You can also find some specialty variations on those themes, such as the Green and Gold Hotdog ($7.50), which has mac and cheese, bacon, and jalapeno peppers on it.
Additionally, you’ll find Boston Pizza stands in the side concourses, and Tiny Tim Mini Donuts in the main concourse.
Molson Canadian is readily available on tap ($7 per glass), and there are a number of specialty beverage stands where you can get something more exotic.
If you’re still looking for something more, you can pop into the Quarterback Club on the east side, or Jackie Parker’s on the west side 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 be found on the walls of the main concessions areas as well.
Out front of Commonwealth Stadium is a Fan Fest set-up. There are food trucks, displays, games, live music, 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 lower deck of stands, and there are a lot of them, again echoing the proud football tradition in Edmonton. You’ll also find pictures of Eskimo greats on banners hanging above the main concourse ring.
The brand-new green-and-gold seats are nice and wide, making sitting in the stands quite comfortable. They also all have cup holders, so less fumbling around when trying to sit down or get up, also a good thing.
In the grand scheme of things, the Eskimos tend to have pretty good attendance, compared to the rest of the CFL. In 2016 they drew 30,998 fans per game, second-best in the league behind the Saskatchewan Roughriders. But in a stadium that holds more than 50,000, it still seems fairly empty, which negatively impacts the energy in the stands. The lower bowl is mostly full and has great energy, but the upper bowl is sparsely populated.
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 McDonald’s 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 you a suitable place to grab a bite. Sorrentino’s Bistro-Bar is a solid restaurant chain with tasty food, but they are closed on Sunday, 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. However, poor seasons in 2010, 2012 and 2013 dropped attendance down from over 37,000 per game in 2008 to around 32,000 in 2013, and they’ve stayed at about that number since then.
Putting over 30,000 people in the stands still means the Eskies are one of the best-attended teams in the CFL, so they have a huge core group of fans who will show up rain or shine, win or lose.
As noted above, the crowd seems relatively sparse in a stadium as big as Commonwealth Stadium, but credit where credit is due, the crowd noise can jump to over 90 decibels wherever you sit in the stands when something exciting happens, as the fans are very enthusiastic and engaged.
Many people in the crowd are proudly wearing their green-and-gold attire, and that means that the fans in attendance are true fans who are with their team through thick or thin.
Don’t bother bringing your vehicle to Commonwealth Stadium; you won’t have anywhere to put it – parking at the stadium is extremely limited. You can try to find a neighborhood street that doesn’t require a permit to park, but those are few and far between. If you do need to drive to the area you can park at Northlands Park, a couple kilometres north east of Commonwealth Stadium, for $16 ($10 if you’re a season-ticket holder). From there it’s just a single stop south on the Light Rail Transit system to get where you’re going.
Your best option, far and away, is simply sticking with 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 LRT system – the train has a stop right outside the east side of the stadium. Do be aware that only a few train stops have Park and Ride lots (as noted above, you can use Northlands as well), 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 $3.25 for adults, so your trip there will still have a pretty reasonable price tag.
Bonus props to the stadium for seeming quite spacious once inside. With the offset concessions areas, the concourse never seems 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.
Return on Investment 4
Ticket prices range from $35 to $117, with many seats significantly discounted for youths. You can also grab seats in the south-most sections, known as the Save-On-Foods Family Huddle, for $28.50 (these tickets are available at Edmonton Save-On-Foods 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 Commonwealth Stadium is a good investment.
The Eskimos have their primary team store located adjacent to their offices at the south end of the stadium, but there are also two very well-appointed locations inside the concessions areas off the east and west concourses. There are also a number of other, smaller kiosks around the concourse (and outside as well), so there’s lots of access to all the green-and-gold stuff you could ever want.
There is a massive video screen located on the north end of the stadium providing game info and replays. This is a recent upgrade from an almost-equally massive screen that had been there. 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).
As noted above, there is a great sense of team history around the stadium, with numerous reminders of great teams and great players from the Eskimos 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.
Another feature for families is Brickley’s Knothole Corner. With the purchase of special seat tickets in Knothole Corner area in the south west corner of the stadium, families have access to a variety of kid-friendly activities.
There are recycling bins in a number of locations around Commonwealth Stadium, so fans can make sure their waste is diverted away from landfills whenever possible.
The Edmonton Eskimos are unquestionably one of the class organizations of the CFL, and a class organization deserves a quality home. The Brick Field at Commonwealth Stadium delivers as a great place to take in a football game.