Rick's grand plan
By TERRY JONES, EDMONTON SUN
Sixty-thousand green and gold seats?
Eskimo offices attached to the stadium?
An indoor field-house practice field?
An NFL regular season game?
The 2011 Grey Cup game?
Those are just some of the visions Rick LeLacheur has for Edmonton and the Eskimos.
LeLacheur was officially press-conferenced as Eskimo president and CEO on the first day of "next season" yesterday.
Chairman Bob MacLean offered no clear details on contracts for either LeLacheur or Campbell.
He did say Campbell would be "a paid elder statesman consultant for what we hope will be a long, long time."
He added LeLacheur's deal "was substantially completed" but offered no details.
As expected, LeLacheur offered no clear picture of the organizational restructuring on the football side, other than Danny Maciocia would be back as head coach.
An entirely new organizational structure, he said, will be worked out in the coming weeks.
LeLacheur said he sees the Eskimos taking their next turn at playing host to the Grey Cup in 2011. Originally, the hope was to have it here in 2012 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the national classic at the home of the long-time flagship franchise and recent Grey Cup host with the most.
"It's going to go to Toronto," he said.
That'll go over like a lead balloon in the West, where the Grey Cup has been kept alive all these years with Toronto a CFL dead zone. "We're pencilled in for 2011."
An NFL game regular season game here? "We'll certainly take a look at that."
New seats in Commonwealth Stadium?
"Those seats in there now are close to 30 years old. We can't even find parts anymore," said LeLacheur, who says to replace the seats will cost about $6-7 million.
"The success of the stadium is to keep upgrading it. This stadium is 30 years old. Most major cities in the U.S. take their 30-year-old stadiums and blow them up and build new ones at half a billion dollars."
The Eskimos have a lot of money from the Trappers sale but not enough to write a cheque for $6-7 million for seats. But he suggested they'd be able to contribute some money. Especially if they get to pick the colour, he laughs.
Offices attached to the stadium are possibly at the top of LeLacheur's agenda on the business side because they are tied into becoming a bigger, better business.
He envisions a larger organization than under Campbell, one being more willing to spend money to make money.
The current offices a block from the stadium have been outdated for years. He envisions the new offices attached to the stadium on the south side.
Unlike Hugh Campbell, who was big on keeping grass in the stadium, there's no question LeLacheur leans to the new, improved variety of artificial turf, which many players now prefer to grass.
Having Canada's only big- time stadium with grass has won Edmonton a lot of international events. It would effectively boot rugby out of the joint. Soccer and future big -event hostings would also be put in jeopardy.
Is this the Eskimos' stadium or Edmonton's stadium? New seats make sense. Not artificial turf. That one will be a political football. Put me down in the "against" column.
As for a proposed field house next to the stadium for practices, LeLacheur said he's going to be taking a tour of NFL sites, some with field houses and some with bubble structures.
"We're going to look at a few facilities. A number of NFL teams have them. It would be great for us and enhance the Clarke Park area."
Grand plans. But first the football team, huh? Packaging a product is one thing. Having the product to package is another.
What LeLacheur does next, in terms of reorganizing what has become a dysfunctional organization, is going to have more to do with his ability to see his grand plans through than anything.