When the final whistle blew on Saturday, November 21st, 2023 at IG Field in Winnipeg, Manitoba, it was the official ending of the 2023 Edmonton Elks season. They would fall to defeat to one of the premiere models in the Canadian Football League of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers by a score of 45 – 25. While the Blue Bombers were heading back into the locker room completing the 2023 CFL season with a 14 – 4 record, the Elks would depart with another losing season with the exact opposite record than the Blue Bombers with a 4 – 14 record.
For Edmonton fans, entering 2023 was a pretty optimistic one in which there was a good turnaround in the final six to seven remaining games of the 2022 CFL season. The Elks were still losing games, but the offense and the overall team displayed in their remaining games was a result of a lot more confidence and execution on the field. Edmonton fans thought that this team was finally heading in the right direction and would quite possibly resonate for the 2023 CFL season. In the end, it was another non-playoff year for the city of Edmonton making it three seasons in a row of not fielding a team for a playoff year.
To put this into perspective, the Edmonton Elks past season results have not been close to making a push in the West Division in the last three seasons with the following team records:
2021: 3 – 11
2022: 4 – 14
2023: 4 – 14
With an 11 – 39 record, it’s only inevitable that the Elks will be a team that will have a direct result in not only a deep financial loss but also a decline in attendance figures across the board.
Can they bounce back and flip the script in what is without a doubt their darkest days in franchise history?
But it’s going to take time, and more importantly, winning. Winning cures most of your financial issues with ticket sales, and merchandise as the CFL is a more gate-driven league.
Recent Estimated Finacial Loses
2020: 7.2 million dollars (Cancelled season due to COVID-19)
2021: 1.83 million dollars
2022: 3.3 million dollars
2023: To be determined.
One of the biggest challenges that the Elks front office will face for the 2024 CFL season is that it was reported that the Edmonton Elks reserve fund is estimated at 7 million dollars. If the 2024 Edmonton Elks becomes another disaster, this will evaporate and for the most part, put the team in complete financial disarray.
Upper Bowl to be Closed at Commonwealth Stadium in 2024
On October 11th, 2023, Elks President and CEO Rick LeLacheur announced that the upper bowl will be closed for the 2024 CFL season.
“Closing the upper bowl is key to enhancing the game day atmosphere and rebuilding our home field advantage by bringing our fans closer to the action. With a capacity of over 31,000 in the lower bowl next season, Commonwealth Stadium will still have one of the largest capacities in the CFL. We’re confident that the combination of improved play on the field and a better atmosphere will create one of the most enjoyable game day experiences in the league,”
Elks President and CEO Rick LeLacheur via goelks.com
Downsizing will not be a great deal for the time being. With the Elks’ attendance figures not being strong and or respectable since 2018, and the 2019 season when they last made the playoffs, the Edmonton Elks’ average attendance since 2018 is as follows:
2020: Cancelled season.
in 1998, the Montreal Alouettes made the move from Montreal’s Olympic Stadium back to Percival Molson Stadium. Here are estimated attendance figures from the 1996 and 1997 seasons at Olympic Stadium, and the 1998 return to Molson Stadium:
The 1997 Montreal season was a significant drop in attendance with games being played at the Big O in Montreal despite the success of the Alouettes in 1997 when they finished with a 13-5 record. A lot of Montrealers did not like attending the Big O for various reasons. This was also prevalent with the now-defunct Montreal Expos of Major League Baseball, who eventually moved to Washington and were rebranded as the Washington Nationals. However, the Big O would be eventually sold out when it was used for the East Final in 2002 when they defeated Toronto. The estimated attendance that day was that of 57,125. Nonetheless, the Alouettes elected to stay at Molson Stadium the smaller venue to experience that of a more comfortable and intimate feeling for the fans and players alike.
With the Edmonton Elks not having the benefit like Montreal as an example in moving to another venue in their respected city, having the lower bowl only as the option won’t be bad for the time being.
As of now, the upper bowl will only be available on opening day and hopefully, if they host a playoff game during the 2024 season.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders had a massive financial battle in 1987 in which a telethon donation on live TV was conducted to receive a financial jolt to the community-owned team.
Video courtesy of Joe Blow via YouTube
Edmonton Elks Begin to Explorer Private Ownership
On November 23rd, 2023, Elks President and CEO Rick LeLacheur announced that due to the accumulative loss in revenue in the past few seasons, the Elks will look to private ownership investors to help out with the financial burden as reported on CTV News Edmonton.
In regards to what and how many private investors will and or would be involved remains unknown at the moment. For a community-owned team, the financial resources are necessary for the day-to-day operations of the Edmonton Elks Football Club to move forward. It would be interesting on what that percentage would be.
Would it be 60% community-owned and 40% private investors? What would the breakdown be if and when this comes to fruition? Only time will tell for the time being.
Moving forward, this might be the best option. The Edmonton Elks can still retain community ownership, along with obtaining a more financial umbrella of a safety net when it comes to adopting private ownership.
On a positive note, there are local investors in either Edmonton or Alberta that have shown interest in this merger with the Edmonton Elks as also reported on CTV Edmonton.
It All Starts With Winning on the Field
The 2024 Grey Cup will be held in Vancouver, BC, while the 2025 Grey Cup will be held in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Sooner rather than later, the Edmonton Elks should pitch the idea to the CFL to host a Grey Cup. Hosting a Grey Cup does have a lucrative financial reward. It would be wise to pitch the idea for either 2026 or in 2027.
Given the fact that the core of the Edmonton Elks is relatively young, the sky is the limit on when this team begins to blossom to its full potential. It will take time for both the growth of the team to become a relevant winning team in the CFL, and to evade massive financial losses in the short past. These two will go hand in hand moving forward.
In 2024, the Edmonton Elks will have to begin on a good note to start the season. No football fan thought the team would be 0 – 9 out of the gate in 2023. They cannot afford to be behind the eight ball and hope for the best. There are core players that will have to be resigned this season for the better direction of this team. The Elks front office will be working a lot of overtime hours to move this team in the right direction on and off the field in 2024 and onward.
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