75 years of community ownership could end; Edmonton Elks plan to sell privately

by | Apr 26, 2024 | Opinion

Edmonton football has been a part of the CFL since 1949, and throughout that time, the green and gold have built a long-lasting legacy, winning 14 Grey Cups, the second most in league history.

To celebrate 75 years of existence, the Double E has many amazing things planned for the upcoming season.

“Our annual dinner … on June 6 is going to be a huge event for us,” the Edmonton Elks’ Vice President of Marketing & Fan Engagement, Evan Duam, told the Nugget.

“[It will be] the largest gathering of alumni in club history which is going to be incredible to get all of those legends back in the same room.”

The team will also unveil their new jerseys for their season kickoff on June 8.

However, before the celebrations begin, the franchise aims to sell to private owners. The team has been run by local shareholders throughout its existence and is currently under the control of ten board directors.

For more insight into the situation, I sat down with Dave Jamieson, former Vice President and current Director of Edmonton Elks Alumni.

“I think it’s a great point of pride knowing that this is a community-run team … It means you have to conduct yourself in a way that’s a little more deeply rooted in the town you play in,” said Jamieson.

Fans see this with tailgate parties, player meetings and other events surrounding the team. Fortunately, I’ve been able to experience the enjoyment of Elks games firsthand and can see how much the team values community connections. As opposed to other sports events I’ve attended, the Elks have by far made me feel the most welcomed, which is a big reason why I’ve grown fond of the sport.

Jamieson thinks having fans feel this way is a huge part of the club’s success. 

“Leaving a positive impression of who we are, who the Elks are and leaving people with great memories of both attending the games and great interactions with the club. That’s what I think are the deeper issues.”

After being ingrained in the city under community ownership for so many years, I wondered how moving into private hands may affect the team.

“The times clearly have changed … I think it’s less important to [fans] what the ownership model is … They just want to know the franchise is financially viable, sustainable and is in good hands,” Jamieson shared.

Cost is a huge part of running a business, and the team ran four straight years of financial losses from 2018 to 2022. The 2020 season was canceled and the 2021 season was shortened due to COVID-19, adding to the team’s 18-million-dollar deficit. They finished 2022 with another 3.3 million dollar loss.

Shareholders losing money can trickle down to create budget cuts in and around the team. Less money earned means less money spent, making it difficult to provide fans with a consistent and enjoyable experience.

For next season, the Elks have already announced the closure of the upper bowl, which should help reduce costs, but it is a sure sign of poor attendance and perhaps needed relief. Fans I spoke with were upset about the move. But for now, they’re forced to find new seats elsewhere. From an ownership standpoint, the decision may be budget-friendly but ultimately takes away from fans.

Selling the team to an ownership group willing to invest can help bring more to the organization overall. Having different brains behind the franchise can change the vision, allowing new profit opportunities.

Unfortunately, a new plan may come with a price increase. This is a realistic possibility, but a higher cost doesn’t always have to be negative. If a new owner steps in and spends more, they’d understandably need to get more back. On top of that, each dollar earned could be redistributed throughout the organization to spark additional growth.

With these points, It’s clear to me that selling is the best option overall. The current ownership group has struggled to earn money back, so stepping away from the team can offer a rebirth in outlook.

Putting the Elks in the right hands will help football continue to thrive in this community. Elks football is a vital part of the city and needs the proper funding to stay successful. Whatever happens, I hope the current owners are patient with the sale to ensure they make the right decision for themselves and the future of the Double E.

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