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Cavalry FC improving ATCO Field and learning from UK clubs

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Cavalry FC fans will see improvements to ATCO Field at Spruce Meadows once the new Canadian Premier League (CPL) season eventually kicks off, according to head coach and general manager Tommy Wheeldon Jr.

The start of the 2020 CPL season has been postponed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic — coronavirus directives from governments and health officials have banned most public gatherings. But while there is no return-date set, Cavalry FC’s head coach and GM believes his club’s impressive 5,000+ seat venue will be even better than it was last season, if and when the new season commences.

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Installing proper floodlighting was a priority for Cavalry FC, that plays its home matches at world famous equestrian venue Spruce Meadows just south of Calgary. Last season night matches suffered greatly from being played under inadequate lighting.

“Speaking to the powers of our ownership group, we’ve recognized improvements where we can have floodlights,” Wheeldon Jr. told Total Soccer News during an interview last week. “We’re investing in proper lighting — fixed structures. No more l power lifts. It will be fixed lighting.”

Wheeldon Jr. also said the much-maligned playing surface at ATCO Field will be improved for the 2020 season. While many praised Spruce Meadows as a venue last season, some visiting players and staff criticized the field itself, suggesting it wasn’t up to professional standard. But Cavalry FC is planning to rectify this by smoothing out the surface for season two.

“Once the (winter) blanket is off the pitch, we’ll be filling in some of the undulation we had over the course of last season,” said Wheeldon Jr.

Cavalry FC management and ownership visits clubs in UK

These improvements and others come after Cavalry FC management and ownership visited clubs in England and Scotland in the off-season.

The trip included visits to Ross County, of the Scottish Premiership, and Barnet, of the English National League. Both clubs’ stadiums and training facilities are similar in size to Cavalry FC’s facilities.

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“I went to a Tottenham game (at the new 60,000+ seat stadium). There’s not much we can do there,” admitted Wheeldon Jr. “We’re not in that league. So, we went to Scotland in the highlands with snow and rain. We’re learning from groups that are similar to us, who are able to adapt and overcome.”

“We looked at best practices. We’re trying to bring what we can back, so we continue each season to improve the product on the pitch as well as off it. Because as I say, Spruce Meadows are a world class organization.”

Cavalry FC finds inspiration at Fulham

The traveling Cavs group also sought inspiration with a visit to Fulham’s historic Craven Cottage stadium. The English Championship club’s ground in west London is admired for its historic and cultural ties. And Wheeldon Jr. and Cavalry FC’s management and ownership see similarities between Fulham’s stadium and Spruce Meadows.


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“Why we did Fulham was because we’re kind of recognized like that,” said Wheeldon Jr. “By taking (Spruce Meadows and Cavalry FC owner) Linda (Southern-Heathcott) and the marketing team, (they saw how) Fulham embrace using Craven Cottage. All the wooden seats can’t be taken up as they are listed as historic pieces.

“We looked at how they hosted and embodied the history of their surroundings and brought it into their culture. We thought,’that’s perfect’.”

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Stuart Gradon

Editor of Total Soccer News | Photographer and Writer | Stuart Gradon is soccer journalist and multimedia professional, having worked at 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil and 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup in Canada. He covers Cavalry FC and Canadian Premier League.

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