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

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