Wednesday, July 12, 2006

"We're not done yet!" - What the Stadium Vote Means

It would be nice if the unanimous Council vote on July 11 meant that the stadium issue was solved and we could all look forward to bringing our families to a Whitecaps game in Gastown in a few years.

However, it's not that simple.

What Council decided to do on Tuesday was to make the Whitecaps Stadium a City priority and to give the Whitecaps a chance to address the key requirements laid out in the City Hall staff report to make the site work. These are:

• Provision of an adequate street network;

• Resolution of risks and liability associated with dangerous goods in the rail lands;

• Reconfiguration of the stadium structure to ensure a better ‘fit’ with Gastown;

• Resolution of impacts on the livability of residential areas south of the rail lands and impacts on future Port Lands development

Although we still could be up to 2 years away from the start of construction, the decision is a huge endorsement of the stadium by City Hall. The massive support for the stadium shown by the Citizens of Vancouver was a major factor in getting the unanimous vote.

But there's still going to be at least another public process, and possibly more. So, we're not done yet. We still need your help.

One thing we learned from this public process is that your letters, e-mails and phone calls to council are extremely powerful. Councillors don't often hear from people who aren't regularly involved in politics, so when thousands of ordinary citizens take the time to contact them on an issue, they pay close attention. We'll need more of these in the near future.

One thing we knew all long is that we should never engage in the negativity or misinformation tactics used by some (but not all) of our stadium opponents. Throughout the process, those of you who wrote and spoke to Council countered these arguments with calm, rational responses backed by facts. I've always believed that it's this type of conduct that carries the day, and it was rewarded on Tuesday when Council were unanimous in backing the stadium.

The City's work on the stadium will continue within the framework of a larger Waterfront Hub study. That means you don't only have a say on the stadium, but you can also contribute the type of downtown waterfront we would all like to have. It's also good opportunity to build more bridges with our Gastown neighbours, including those who were in opposition to the stadium. No doubt, there will be some who are implacable and will try to put up obstacles along the way. But we need to see beyond this to the bigger picture, where the stadium will become a prized community asset and a revitalized Gastown will become a point of pride for our great city. I urge you to take that next step today by visiting and supporting Gastown.

Yours in Sport,

Bill Currie

Friends of Soccer

Unanimous Decision! Thank You!

The unanimous decision of Council on Tuesday, July 11 came through the efforts of literally thousands of people. There are a lot of people to thank, and I hope you'll join me in thanking some of them.

First off, Mayor Sullivan and every member of City Council deserves our thanks. Being a Councillor is often a thankless job. Some of them faced intense pressure from our opponents, and have their own personal doubts about the stadium. But when it came time to make a decision, they showed courage and leadership and did what was right for Vancouver. I'm sure they would appreciate your thanks and support as well. Please take a moment to write to them at .

Councillors Suzanne Anton and Peter Ladner deserve special thanks. They have been champions for the stadium from day one, and they worked hard to convince council that it was important and that it can be done! They are outstanding public servants who are truly in touch with the Citizens of Vancouver. Please give them your thanks and support.

The thousands of you who wrote or phoned City Council or signed the "Build the Stadium Now!" banner truly made the difference. Councillors don't often hear from people who aren't regularly involved in politics, so when thousands of ordinary citizens take the time to contact them on an issue, they pay close attention. There is no "Friends of Soccer" movement without you. Thank you...and don't go away! We'll need you again soon!

A special thank you to those of you who spoke at council in favour of the stadium. Public speaking isn't easy, and many of you faced tough questioning after your presentations. My real job prevented me from being at Council every night. But my wife, Monique, was there for me and she was always struck by how the positivity and eloquence of your arguments stood head and shoulders above the rash judgements and fear-mongering by some of our opponents. You were all superb, and you gave a human face to the overwhelming support.

Thank you to the numerous Community groups and business organizations that openly supported and spoke in favour of the stadium. Despite Councillor Louie's claims that speakers in the Council chambers were divided 50-50, we were all in fact asked by City Hall (through the Whitecaps) to limit our speakers to representatives from our groups. Many of these organizations alone could have brought out hundreds of speakers, but we respected Council's request and the several groups that spoke in favour of the stadium actually represented thousands of people. From our opponents, all but 3 of their speakers were members of the same group. Even today, our opponents still number a few dozen...not the overwhelming majority that the stadium support enjoys.

Thank you to John Knox, whose work exposed the financing and true intentions behind the anti-stadium campaign. Without your help, we would not have known that we had to defeat a high-priced, well connected PR firm...but we did.

Thank you to John Kostiuk, founder of Gastown's Stadium Now! group and the growing number of businesses and residents who have risen above the unacceptable bullying and intimidation tactics from our opponents. We share your vision of a lively, vibrant, revitalized Gastown and we're ready to support you every step of the way!

Most important personally, I'd like to thank my wife, Monique, for her love, support, tolerance, understanding, and ultimately, great gusto for the cause. When she decided to jump in with me, it was with both feet and she really made a huge impact in the run-up to the council meetings. She inspires and drives me daily, and I certainly could not undertaken this movement without her blessing.

One cannot thank the Whitecaps organization enough. Their vision for what soccer can be in this city and country is remarkable, and they have never lost sight of how they can be a positive influence on the community along the way. John Rocha, Bob Lennarduzzi and Rachel Lewis have always been open to to our ideas, and they're willing to listen to anyone in the community who has issues and concerns. They're the type of neighbour everyone should hope for.

Finally, and most important to us all, friends of our city and our sport owe Mr. Kerfoot our enormous gratitude. I have never spoken with him, nor does he say much publicly. But you can always tell a man's true intentions through his actions. Through the fields of SFU and the National Training Centre in Surrey, and his generous gift to the Women's National Soccer team, Mr. Kerfoot has made it clear through his actions that his selfless commitment to soccer is for the right reasons. His commitment to overcome any hurdle to create an inclusive community asset in our city also speaks volumes about the man.

Thank you, sir.

Bill Currie
Friends of Soccer

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Friends of Soccer Open Letter to Council on Whitecaps Stadium Hearings

Dear Mayor and Council,

As the founder of the Friends of Soccer movement, which represents thousands of Citizens who support the Whitecaps stadium project, I'm writing to answer some of the questions recently raised by council in regard to finding an “alternate site” for the stadium as well as the use of BC Place. We urge you to focus your efforts on the current proposed location and to properly consult with the Whitecaps, the soccer and sports community before suggesting an alternative business plan for the Whitecaps.

As you are already aware, the current downtown location is already an alternate site...the fourth considered, in fact. Fortunately, it has turned out to be the best possible site. The unparalleled access to transit makes the waterfront site the most accessible stadium in North America. The stadium will be built within walking distance for over 100,000 who live and work in the downtown peninsula everyday. As we know from City Council's recent opposition to the Gateway project, a prime objective of your government is to limit incoming traffic to Vancouver. Common sense dictates that having a stadium located at the terminus of every transit line is an effective way of achieving this. Even if an “alternate site” were located along a single Skytrain line, it would not serve the transit needs of the entire Lower Mainland. The net result of an “alternate site” would mean thousands of extra cars on Vancouver streets.

The Citizens of Vancouver have also spoken decisively in favour of this site. Your own public consultation on the proposal showed 67% support for this site among those who attended the open houses. A stunning 78% of the letters and e-mails you received were in favour of the proposed stadium. On June 27, you saw the 5000 signatures of citizens on the Friends of Soccer “Build the Stadium Now!” banner. Council has also received over 1000 postcards from citizens which say very clearly on the front “Build the Whitecaps Stadium Now!”. This site has the support of over 40 Gastown merchants who we now know faced intimidation and boycott threats from our small number of opponents. The Downtown and Chinatown BIAs support the site. Tourism Vancouver, the Vancouver Board of Trade and countless community groups support the site. On top of this, Vancouver's sports community has discovered its united voice on this issue.

To force the Citizens of Vancouver to start a new public process on a new site at this advanced stage is extremely disrespectful to the thousands of people who rose up and participated in local politics for the first time in their lives. That is why we will interpret any position proposing an alternate site as a deferral strategy, designed to avoid the real issue. To pursue this, without consulting the Whitecaps is disrespectful to them as applicants and completely ignoring the fact that they have come so far, with the City's assistance to where they are today. Had council consulted with the Whitecaps before pursuing this line of questioning, you would have known that an exhaustive search for several sites had already been completed.

Had you consulted the Whitecaps supporters, you would have already known that BC Place was rejected by Vancouver soccer fans over 15 years ago. For soccer to thrive, we need a stadium that provides scale, intimacy and atmosphere, something that cavernous BC Place cannot provide in any configuration. We need a stadium where the Whitecaps have a say over their home dates, not where it's dictated to them. We need a stadium that is capable of serving the rugby community, the tennis community and the multitude of user groups who are lining up behind the Whitecaps Waterfront Stadium proposal. If BC Place truly was a viable option, don't you think these user groups would already be there by now?

When the vote comes down next week, we need your leadership on this issue. The Whitecaps Waterfront Stadium is the single most important development in the history of Canadian Soccer, and it is already years overdue. We have a benefactor who, for now, is willing to contribute this incredible facility to our sport and our city. We now know from your City Planners that the stadium proposal can participate in the Central Waterfront Hub Study. We know that the Whitecaps are capable of working closely with its neighbours, including the Port Authority who have offered to cooperate. And we have the overwhelming support of the Citizens of Vancouver. What we need now is your courage and leadership to rise above the criticism of a few dozen vocal opponents. We're ready to throw our complete support behind you if you move the waterfront stadium process forward. But we can't do that unless you support the massive majority of citizens who see the stadium as the “highest and best use” for the proposed site.

Bill Currie
Friends of Soccer