If nothing happens to Caledonia Park in the next 10 months, this Saturday could be the last B.C. Football Conference Championship that Nanaimo hosts.
The Vancouver Island Raiders host the Langley Rams in a rematch of last seasons Cullen Cup at the 60-year-old dilapidated facility at 1 p.m. The Raiders have been working with the city on getting a better place to play since they moved to Nanaimo in 2005, but progress has been slow.
Away teams are still changing in a tent and have no shower available after the games. The bleachers are also old and a potential liability, while the field turns to mud in the rain.
The conditions of the facility have been an issue for a long time and during the off-season the Canadian Junior Football League said it was unfit to host future Jostens Cups -the national semifinal - and Canadian Bowls.
Earlier this season the stadium became a lightning rod issue, touched off by a poor setup for their home opener.
BCFC president Gord Johnson said at that point that the league is considering taking similar actions as the CJFL for their own playoffs, and is still on the table.
"If we start the year and there's been no changes, then we'll get together and discuss it," he said. "Right now it's let's get through this season and we'll see what happens in the off season."
Johnson previously called Caledonia the worst stadium in junior football in Canada. A statement he reiterated on Wednesday.
"When you look at the other facilities we have in our league, (we're) not overly happy for (the Cullen Cup) to be there," said Johnson. "But the Raiders did end up playing good enough for it to be there this year."
Earlier this summer, now retired senior manager of parks and civic facilities for the City of Nanaimo Jeff Ritchie said they were looking at bringing a plan before city council during the fall for a stadium renovation that would cost between $3.5 and $5 million. The difference in cost comes down to how much they do, if they put in an artificial turf, the plan would hit the high range, but they would be able to better maximize the facility's use.
No plan has been brought forward to council yet.
Director of Parks, Recreation and Culture for the City of Nanaimo Richard Harding did not return phone calls on Wednesday.
However, Raiders president Chris Cross says discussions with the city have been ongoing.
One potential short-term fix is to bring in mobile dressing rooms next year, like what the CFL's B.C. Lions did at Empire Stadium when BC Place underwent its renovation. But what is key is that there is a permanent fix made, and soon.
"This is ludicrous what has been going on all these years," said Cross.
"The city has told me there's going to be changes for next year, they are going to let me know in the next few months. .. and there has to be."
There is now talk of going into a combined venture between the city, the Nanaimo Ladysmith School District and Vancouver Island University on a facility, but no timeline on that project has been given or if it is feasible.
"It would be beautiful, but that's going to take years. .. but we can't wait that long," said Cross.
"Either we are going to do something at the Rotary Bowl, or not, or we're going to have to revamp and spend the money at Caledonia, but something has got to be done."
The safety of the bleachers is one of the more concerning issues. They have large gaps between the risers and the steps, big enough for someone to slip through and hurt themselves. "That's the liability of the city, which is us," said Cross. "I don't know why they would let it go on this long, it's crazy. They are very blessed nothing has happened to date."
The Raiders and Rams experienced Caledonia at its worst in last year's Cullen Cup, as the rain turned the playing surface into mud, making for sloppy football on both sides. Langley went on to win the game and to host the Canadian Bowl, ending V.I.'s six-year strangle hold on the BCFC.
This year's champion advances to the Josten's Cup, hosted by the Ontario Football Conference champion, which will also be decided between the Windsor AKO Fratmen and the Hamilton Hurricanes.
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