Orders from the B.C. Football Conference are simple: Fix Caledonia Park or risk not being allowed to host the Cullen Cup.
BCFC President Gord Johnson said Tuesday that the Canadian Junior Football League has already arrived at the point where they will not allow the national semifinal Jostens Cup or the Canadian Bowl to be hosted in the stadium, as it sits, again.
The Vancouver Island Raiders have played out of the dilapidated facility since moving to Nanaimo in 2005, and their home opener on Saturday was another reminder of how bad the conditions are. Crews arrived five hours before the game just to patch the field, the sound system was in and out, the power to the scoreboard was out and the Langley Rams were forced to change in a tent. That doesn't even touch on the state of the original bleachers, which are dangerous.
The City of Nanaimo says long term plans are in the works for a new stadium, with a proposal likely coming before council in the fall, but there is no quick fix and no guarantee it gets passed.
The stadium is not a new issue, and has been brewing for sometime.
The Raiders have been working at solutions since they came to Nanaimo - and have made their own improvements - but they have been stuck in planning mode with the city.
With the juxtaposition of the Rams hosting last year's Canadian Bowl at the MacLeod Athletic Park to past experiences at Caledonia, the CJFL decided to lay down their edict and Johnson says the BCFC may not be far behind with their own ultimatums.
"When the Raiders came in, in 2005, all of these things were supposed to be looked at and worked on and nothing's happened since then," said Johnson, who called the facilities the worst in the country for junior football. "The league is looking at it as promises made, and nobody has kept up their end of the bargain on those."
This off-season they passed a league rule that all facilities must be equal between two teams as far as showers and change rooms go. On Saturday, the Raiders changed in the small locker room and shower at Caledonia, while the Rams changed in a tent.
Johnson said fines are likely coming the Raiders' way.
The overall conditions on Saturday were such that an online petition was started for the city to build a new football stadium.
Senior manager of parks and civic facilities for the City of Nanaimo Jeff Ritchie says he understands the frustrations from the club and the league and they are working on a new facility, but there is no definitive time line.
The cost of the project will likely range between $3 million and $5 million, it all depends on how much they do. Just a rebuild of the stands and proper infrastructure with the new change rooms and showers would hit the low end of the scale. If they installed a turf field, they likely hit the upper end of the spectrum.
The biggest concern for the city is how to maximize dollars, and if it is just a field for the Raiders that play between five and eight home dates a year, it doesn't make sense.
"Whatever we invest - we're talking millions of dollars - we want to make sure it's not just the Raiders as a user group," said Ritchie. "We need to look at other potential funding sources and find out what's possible to come up with."
Raiders chief executive officer Hadi Abassi was a very diplomatic mood on Tuesday, but his frustration with the process was evident.
"There's never been any urgency on it, that 'this is what we're going to do this year or next year,' it's always been in the plans to come later," he said.
Adding to Abassi's anger is the fact they have not been allowed to use the school district-controlled Rotary Bowl, which he views as a much more suitable facility. However, there are questions as to whether the track and field stadium could successfully be converted and still serve both groups. Raiders president Chris Cross echoed those concerns.
"We're at where we are now because it's never been a priority (to the city)," said Cross.
"I think the city needs to get going and we need a football field for national championships. You know how hard we work, and what we do for the community and the money we bring into the community; it's time that we do something."
In the eight seasons the Raiders have been in Nanaimo, they have won three national championships, six provincial championships and have been ambassadors for the community, recruiting from across Canada and in bringing teams to play from across the country.
However, once everyone arrives at Caledonia, much of that goodwill is spoiled.
Teams for national championships have even had to change on their bus before and after games, while one year a fight nearly broke out in the pre-game meeting because over the facilities.
"For Nanaimo and the community to be so great, and then for people from around the country to see that, if I lived in Nanaimo - I don't - I'd be embarrassed," said Johnson, who was with the Raiders when they hosted the Canadian Bowl in 2009.
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