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Cavalry FC to produce ‘most unique’ soccer experience in Canada

A world-renowned equestrian facility will bring one of the most attractive professional soccer experiences to Alberta.

Situated on the southern edge of suburban Calgary, Spruce Meadows quite literally has one foot in cattle country.

Now, Cavalry FC intends to transform this showjumping home into a soccer spectacle that will offer one of the most unique professional soccer experiences in Canada — if not the world.

Sitting side-by-side with the iconic International Ring, Meadows on the Green is just one of several spectacular arenas inside Spruce Meadows, a venue Cavalry FC coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. has referred to as Canada’s equivalent to New York City’s “Central Park.”

Because, as the club frames it, walking into Cavalry’s venue from Spruce Meadows’ “Pre-Game Plaza” will be like walking into hallowed grounds.

Additional stands along the north balustrade at Meadows on the Green will boost capacity to 6,000 on Canadian Premier League match days.

The east grandstand is akin to seating at Fulham’s Craven Cottage, an old-school English stadium with columns and covered seating, the sort befitting the grandeur of Spruce Meadows.

Partially fitted with a safe standing area, the south grandstand sits just five metres from the goal line — perfect for the club’s Foot Soldiers supporters group. Players will walk out to the pitch from the nearby southwest corner, under an archway that previously welcomed horses to the venue.

“It will prove to be an awesome way for opposing players to enter the stadium for the match,” Ian Allison, President of Spruce Meadows Sports & Entertainment, said. “And inspiring for our own players who will have their supporters group literally five metres from the pitch.”

Looking for a more relaxing experience? Members of Cavalry’s FC’s “Officers Club” receive hot food service, the ability to walk down to the pitch during the match, a patio, air conditioning and monitors that will show the match.

“It will be a very unique venue to watch the game, especially with the sightlines, proximity to the pitch and all the amenities you will have,” Allison added.

Spruce Meadows is home to Cavalry FC. (CPL)
Spruce Meadows is home to Cavalry FC. (CPL)

The northern balustrade will feature specially manufactured stepped seating with comfortable and movable chairs, and six large areas on the sloped grass in front where local minor soccer clubs can reserve their own area behind the goal.

Just beyond the Meadows on the Green balustrade sits the Spruce Meadows plaza, which is very much a part of the matchday experience.

The food staff at Spruce Meadows feed upwards of 60,000 people on the busiest days at the grounds, mostly through locations like the Central Plaza.

The plaza, which is located just outside Meadows on the Green, will be outfitted with multiple entertainment options and for those who like to eat, a range of food options to plate any palate — including pies, fish and chips, beef on a bun, hamburgers, bratwurst and rotating “flavour of the world” stands. Allison also said efficiency will be a hallmark of the matchday experience.

“As we know, there’s a real rush in that 15 minutes of halftime, so you need to be able to differentiate what people want,” Allison explained. “We’re going to break things up so we can move people around the grounds effectively and make sure no one is waiting as the second half starts.”

The pitch at Meadows on the Green has already undergone a critical transformation. Staff members had to remove the water and elevated features that were part of the showjumping design. Spruce Meadows also installed a new drainage system and levelled the field, which measures 74 yards-wide by 115 yards long.

The facility’s showjumping schedule revolves around the Summer Series: a four-week-long tour that consists of several major events. Cavalry FC’s surface will be used for two of the four weeks, with space in-between showjumping and soccer that will allow the turf to recover for the rest of Cavalry’s season. Spruce Meadows already tested the field following last year’s event.

Five days removed from the Summer Series, head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. and the technical staff took to the field to laid down a verdict: more than acceptable.

“I’m very confident we’ll be able to stay on top of it. Our horticultural and turf teams here are outstanding,” Allison said.

Cavalry FC is preparing to approach membership to fill the venue ahead of its inaugural season.

Allison says supporter feedback has been “more than encouraging,” saying they could run out of season ticket availability this spring.

Cavalry will also be offering fans a complimentary bus service to the nearby LRT line. The grounds are also situated along the southwest corridor of Calgary’s new ring road, which is currently under construction.

As for the future, Calvary ownership affirmed the stadium’s modular style means expansion options are available.