A professional soccer team in Saskatchewan may soon be a reality if the visions of Joe Belan, Grant McGlaughlin and Lee Genier come to fruition.
The group has the rights to a Saskatchewan franchise in the newly-formed Canadian Premier League. The league was ratified by the Canadian Soccer Association on May 6, and hopes to hit the field in 2018.
Belan is a former soccer player who once played for the Canadian U-20 and U-23 national teams. He became an investment banker and is now Chairman and Founder of Novatrek Capital.
McGlaughlin is a Regina native and lawyer in Toronto, while Genier is known in Saskatchewan as the former president of the Saskatchewan Rush.
“I was approached by (CPL President) Paul Beirne about plans for a new league and it seemed more off the ground than any other ideas before,” Belan said.
“I reached out to my partner Grant McLaughlin … then an opportunity came to get in touch with Lee after he left the Rush.”
The Saskatchewan franchise is planned for either Regina or Saskatoon, expected to be treated as a provincial team like the Roughriders and Rush.
A centerpiece of the plans includes the construction of a small, soccer-specific stadium which could be used for outdoor concerts or amateur sports, including rugby and field lacrosse.
“I think there is an opportunity for another pro team in Saskatchewan and I think it will be well received,” McGlaughlin said.
“In addition to the pro team, it would be interesting for the revitalization of downtown Regina or Saskatoon if we could build a stadium closer to the downtown core.”
Over 30,000 people play the sport across the province, and Lee Genier hopes the interest will draw fans in.
“Only 1,500 played lacrosse when the Rush moved in,” he said.
“We had fans coming every week from Estevan, La Ronge, Lloydminster. It speaks to fans across the province and we hope to unite that in soccer.”
Winnipeg and Hamilton are the only confirmed members of the Canadian Premier League, both owned by the respective city’s CFL teams. The affiliation allowed them to get off the ground quickly by already having staff and facilities in place.
A Saskatchewan team would likely need a temporary home to meet a 2018 launch, but the group says their plans for a home field could be built in nine months.
“Our stadium is modular, which is temporary with a permanent look,” Belan said.
“It will bring direct economic benefit through direct tax revenue, sales tax from tickets and revenue from other entertainment events.”
He said the stadium would likely cost between $15-$20 million.
The location of the soccer team will depend on where Belan, McGlaughlin and Genier decide is most suitable for the construction of a stadium.
But wherever the team ends up, expect some Saskatchewan green in the uniform.
“The team will follow the colours of the Saskatchewan flag and have everyone try to wrap themselves around that banner,” McGlaughlin said. “I think it would be spectacular.”
The ownership group will be holding a public information session at O’Hanlon’s Irish Pub in Regina on July 21, ahead of an exhibition match between the New York Cosmos and spanish club Valencia CF on July 22.