Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Friends of Soccer challenge opponents at Heritage Vancouver Panel

Here's the content from the Friends of Soccer flyer circulated at the Heritage Vancouver Forum on Thursday night. The panel featured a very strong presentation and defense of the stadium from Whitecaps President John Rocha and architect Graham McGarva, as well as questions from Friends of Soccer that challenged opponent's vision of of the lands without railway tracks. The panel went very well for the yes side, considering it was supposed to be an ambush by anti-stadium forces..

The Facts about Heritage and the Stadium

Much misinformation has been spread over the last few days regarding the Whitecaps proposed Waterfront Stadium project. No doubt, some of that misinformation will be repeated at tonight's panel. Indeed, the very title of tonight's panel; Gastown up against the wall; brings visions of a gulag being built, as opposed to a gathering place for all citizens and a shrine for soccer.

We are the Friends of Soccer. We're a grassroots community group dedicated to supporting soccer projects as well as the Whitecaps Stadium. As both soccer supporters and responsible citizens, we all want to help create an inclusive, welcoming, vibrant city. That's why we're here to dispel some myths about the proposed stadium.

Is a Stadium Compatible with Heritage?

Stadiums much larger than the one proposed comfortably co-exist with heritage districts across North America and throughout the world.. Two neighbouring stadiums are credited for re-vitalizing Seattle's Pioneer Square, an area that is very similar to Gastown. Petco Park in San Diego, Jacob's Field in Cleveland, and Camden Yards in Baltimore are fine examples of creative use of heritage sites. Pac Bell Park added new life to San Francisco's vibrant waterfront.

In Europe, compact stadiums like the one proposed routinely exist in heritage and residential areas. London alone has 14 stadiums that hold 15,000 spectators or more. In Edniburgh, Scotland, a large football stadium lies less than a block from a castle. There are also examples in Italy, Germany, Czech Republic, Ireland, Turkey, Greece, Spain, and many other nations.

The Stadium as Heritage

When properly designed, the stadium itself becomes a heritage site over time. Stadiums often become places of pilgrimage for fans and are recognized around the world as shrines for their sport. For example, citizens of Chicago and Boston couldn't imagine a city without Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. The Olympic Stadiums in Helsinki, Berlin and Munich are regarded throughout the world as architectural marvels. Stadiums such as Old Trafford in Manchester and Anfield in Liverpool have an aura that attracts fans even when there's no event scheduled.

The type of stadium the Whitecaps are proposing is closer to the compact, European style of soccer stadium rather than the “big-box” monolith opponents would have you believe. In fact, the concept hearkens back to a bygone era when stadiums were designed to fit to the parcel of land the owner had purchased. It was creative solutions such as this that resulted in the asymmetrical genius behind stadiums such as Boston's Fenway Park.

If the artist's conceptual design holds true, Whitecaps Waterfront Stadium will be instantly recognized as the palace of soccer for North Americans. As a gathering place for citizens, it will connect thousands of Vancouverites to a piece of the Waterfront none of us have ever had access to.

Tomorrow's Heritage

As mentioned in the Stadium Consultant's Technical Report: “The past is a guidepost...Not a hitching post.” Local history has proved that today's creative design is always tomorrow's heritage. In the 1980s, many believed that a Trade & Convention centre could never fit in on the downtown waterfront. Could anyone imagine the Vancouver skyline without the distinctive sails of Canada Place now? Arthur Erickson buildings, which were ridiculed and controversial in their time, are now targeted for heritage protection. Years from now, after the Whitecaps stadium is built, this debate will be seen as one of the silliest we've ever engaged in as a city.

Myths Dispelled

The small number of opponents of the stadium have managed to grab their share of the headlines over the last two weeks. We'd like to take a moment to respond to some of the questions that have risen regarding the new stadium.

Myth: Area residents and businesses are united against the stadium.

Fact: Nothing could be further from the truth. The recent consultant's report showed that 52% of area residents were either strongly in favour, or in favour of the downtown stadium but had concerns. Only 40% of Gastown / Downtown Eastside residents were opposed. In fact, a growing number of Gastown residents and merchants are rising up to challenge this false notion through the Stadium Now! group.

Myth: There are no economic benefits to having a stadium in Gastown.

Fact: Try finding a table in a downtown restaurant when the Canucks or the Lions are playing! When the Canucks failed to make the playoffs this year, a local business group pegged the loss at $5 million per missed playoff game. During the NHL lockout in 2005, several merchants close to GM Place nearly went bankrupt. Anyone who says that “People just arrive, buy the $75 hamburger at the stadium and goes home,” has a poor sense of business reality.

Myth: The Stadium will build a “Berlin Wall” between Gastown & the Waterfront.

Fact: The Stadium will actually link Gastown to the waterfront for the first time in a century.

Myth: The Whitecaps Stadium will cause the destruction of Gastown's heritage and further displace residents of the Downtown Eastside.

Fact: Not one heritage building will be destroyed because of the stadium. Not one person will lose their home. Not one Single Room Occupancy space will be lost.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

good stuff bill, keep it coming! You've put a lot of thought into this, demonstrating a grasp of the bigger issues at play here.