Edmonton Elks post $3.9 million loss but ownership review process ‘going well’

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The Edmonton Elks had a bleak year off the field in 2023 as the team lost $3.9 million, posting an operating deficit for the fifth consecutive year.

According to the team’s financial report, revenue decreased by 4.7 percent year-over-year to $21.0 million despite CFL distributions, the club’s largest source of income, increasing from $6.4 million to $7.1 million. Gate receipts plummeted by 21.7 percent to $5.2 million despite the team’s reported attendance increasing by 4.1 percent, which likely occurred from the increased distribution of free tickets.

The Elks saw small amounts of growth in sponsorships, concessions, merchandise, and other revenue streams but it wasn’t enough to offset substantial losses in other areas. The club received $500,000 in Grey Cup distributions from the CFL in 2022 but none in 2023, which further impacted the club’s bottom line.

“Despite the losses caused by the extraordinary circumstances, the club has sufficient working capital at this time to meet all of its current and anticipated obligations,” wrote Kara Flynn, the team’s treasurer.

The deficit occurred despite the team cutting expenses by 1.7 percent year-over-year to $25.0 million, limiting their spending slightly on football operations and administration costs. The club’s stabilization fund, which sat at $11.6 million at the start of 2023, was drawn down to $6.4 million by the end of the year to help cover operating expenses.

The community-owned team is currently in the process of pursuing new ownership as Park Lane, the CFL’s investment banking partner, is working with a special committee to review the ownership structure of the team. The committee consists of interim team president Rick LeLacheur, current board members Tom Richards, Brent Hesje, and Darryl Boessenkool, and previous board members Diane Brickner and Bruce Bentley.

“The ownership review process, which commenced in the fall of 2023, is going well. While I was apprehensive about where the process would lead us, and more specifically who would express interest, I have been more than pleased with where we find ourselves today. We received significant interest in being part of our future, with the lengthy list of interested buyers reinforcing the value of our club,” wrote Richards, the chair of the team’s board of directors.

“As a special committee and board of directors, we remain committed to handing off the great traditions of our team to the new owner, who we know will do everything in their power to ensure Edmonton gets a top-performing organization. New ownership, regardless of the structure, will not take away from the fact that the Green and Gold have and always will be our team.”

The Elks are expected to start receiving bids from prospective owners in the coming weeks with the sale of the team expected to be complete sometime this year. It remains unclear how many bids will be made, though the team initially signed non-disclosure agreements with 20 different parties.

Edmonton has endured cumulative losses of over $16 million since 2019, including a $7.1 million loss during the league’s cancelled season in 2020. This figure was in line with the league’s two other community-owned teams, Saskatchewan and Winnipeg, though both have since posted consistent profits.

The Elks have failed to reach the playoffs for three straight seasons, posting a cumulative record of 11-39. The club recently endured a 22-game home losing streak, which set a new North American professional sports record. The streak was snapped on Aug. 27, 2023 when the club defeated the Ottawa Redblacks by a score of 30-20.

Click here to read the team’s full financial report.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.