Monday, July 30, 2007

A Community Stadium for All

Much of what's been written about the Whitecaps Stadium over the last two years has focused on the benefits the stadium will bring for Canadian soccer. Of course, our city's role in international, professional, women's and amateur soccer stands to gain immensely once it's built. But, what often gets lost in all the excitement is that the Whitecaps are trying to give Vancouver a much-needed outdoor community stadium. It was a need established by Mayor Larry Campbell in 2004 when he asked the Whitecaps if they were interested in building it.

A community stadium is one of a city's most basic institutions. And, in the fine tradition of other private sector gifts to Vancouver such as the Lions Gate Bridge and the Carnegie Centre, the Whitecaps are taking the initiative to build this gift to the city. Beyond soccer, this stadium will be used by thousands of citizens in many different ways.

If we look at it purely from a sporting perspective, Vancouver can finally start hosting many of the world class & amateur events that currently go to other major cities. For a start, we already know that the stadium will serve Canada's rugby community, potentially as our national stadium. The tennis community is eager to bring world-class tournaments to Vancouver, such as the Davis Cup. The Whitecaps have also said that the stadium will be made available for amateur sporting events as well. This will be the type of sporting shrine that will inspire and reward athletes for their thousands of hours of hard work and sacrifice for their craft.

But the delays over the last two years have already taken a toll. Vancouver has already missed out on it's share of the $166 million windfall from the FIFA U-20 World Cup. In 2009, the World Police & Fire Games, one the largest amateur events on the planet, will be forced out to the suburbs and beyond, once again denying Vancouver the many tourism and economic spinoffs the Whitecaps Stadium could provide. Every day we go without the stadium, our athletes, our citizens, our small local businesses miss out on opportunities such as these.

Cultural events will also play a large role in the stadium. The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra already wants to make the Whitecaps Stadium it's summer home. The Waterfront Stadium will also be an exciting, dynamic venue for downtown open-air concerts. As we know, VANOC was interested in utilizing the stadium for the cultural components of 2010, but delays by the city ensured that the stadium would probably not be built in time for the winter games. As a result, it's likely that fewer people will have the chance to enjoy cultural events during the Olympics. Once again, another huge loss for the citizens of Vancouver.

But most importantly, the Whitecaps plan to open the stadium as a permanent home to Vancouver's many multicultural festivals and events. They've already announced that they will donate the use of the Stadium to the City of Vancouver every year to celebrate the city's birthday. Beyond that, the possibilities are endless. Many of our downtown festivals that currently close down streets and bring massive policing costs, could be brought down to the waterfront, where all Vancouverites can celebrate in the footprint of our mountains. The stadium will make these events easier and less expensive for festival organizers to put together.

Vancouver is also missing out on the large scale public benefits outside of the stadium. When the stadium is built, the City will have the ability to fulfill its goal of building a better transit hub to handle the ever-growing number of suburban commuters to downtown. The stadium also brings an opportunity to finally extend the seawall from Coal Harbour to the Carrall Street Greenway, giving the first public access to a piece of Port Corporation land that's been off-limits to citizens for decades. Pedestrians and cyclists would finally have a continuous loop to travel from Stanley Park to False Creek to English Bay. Without the stadium, this part of the waterfront could be closed off for many generations to come.

We, as a city, have to stop thinking small. For a cosmopolitan city like ours to thrive, our downtown core has to be open, inclusive and welcoming to all people. We also have to start building institutions that appeal to people of all cultures and backgrounds. The Whitecaps' spectacular Waterfront Stadium, combined with the global appeal of the beautiful game, promises to be one of the first of these for Vancouver. Please take a moment to tell City Hall to get off the sidelines and make it happen. You can e-mail them now at

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


The Commissioner of Major League Soccer, Don Garber, officially confirmed today that Vancouver is one of the cities being considered for expansion into Major League Soccer. In an exclusive interview with the league's official website MLSNET.COM, Garber revealed that the league was looking at expansion and Vancouver was a serious candidate.


"When will MLS be expanding to Pacific Northwest/Florida/New York/Philadelphia/Canada?"

Don Garber
"If I answer that here, we certainly won't have much to talk about during the State of the League address tomorrow. I'm well aware that much of the internet traffic and fan buzz recently concerns expansion and all of you know I, and MLS president Mark Abbot, spend a great deal of our time traveling from city to city meeting with potential owners, officials and sports authorities and all others to manage the expansion of the league. I'm very confident that we will be able to announce a 16-team league by the end of the year. It's still a moving target as to what cities will flow in when."

"Can you give us the status on some other markets?"

Don Garber
"There's more interest in MLS expansion than at any other time in the history of the sport in the country. Without prioritizing any one market, here is a rundown of the cities: Vancouver, Portland, Seattle, San Jose, Sacramento, San Diego, San Antonio, St. Louis, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Rochester, New York City, Atlanta, Miami and Las Vegas."

"Has the success of Toronto FC given the MLS a blueprint for success in new markets and the future? And has its success blown your mind over how crazy and how popular it is?

Don Garber
"The answer is to all of that is yes, yes, yes. So the answer to that question is yes, yes, yes. My hat goes off to MLSE who have proven to be terrific operators, who understand the sports business and now the soccer business like few others. From the time we began discussing the opportunity with MLSE to the opening home game, the success they have at home games each week, I'm impressed and thrilled at what we have going on up in Toronto. In many ways it is a blueprint yet every market has its own idiosyncracies, opportunities and challenges. One of the things that has really impressed us, and something we hope to replicate in other markets, is the passionnate involvement of teams' supporters groups, something we hope to replicate in other markets."

Vancouver was the only Canadian city mentioned by the MLS Commissioner on Wednesday.
Major League Soccer expansion in the past has traditionally relied on these factors before teams were able to particpate in North America's top league:

1. An owner with reliable resources to support the franchise. On this front, the Whitecaps are secured.

2. A city with significant soccer interest among the population. On this point, Vancouver has rich soccer culture and the oldest continuous running professional soccer club in Canada.

3. A Soccer Specific Stadium...or concrete, feasible plans to build one.

The third point is entirely in the realm of our City Council. In the coming days, weeks and months, Friends of Soccer are going to do our best to consult with you, work with you and mobilize the entire country to put pressure on City Council to push the stadium forward in time for the 2011 Women's World Cup and a new MLS team.

The time for patience and restraint are over. The people of Vancouver have already said yes four times to the stadium. All that's left is for the Whitecaps & the Port of Vancouver to present a vision for the Waterfront lands and to present a design for the new showcase of Canadian Soccer.

Every stadium we build in this country is a major victory for Canadian Soccer. When Toronto faced their council debate on the first Soccer Specific Stadium in Canada, fans from Vancouver to Bathurst, N.B. voiced their support and encouraged you to contact the elected officials involved.

Now, it's your turn.

It's time for Canadian Soccer Supporters EVERYWHERE to to let Vancouver City Council know how important the stadium is for soccer in this country. Please write city council today at

Please remember, this is just the start. I believe that together, we can set the framework for the creation of soccer specific stadiums and facilities across Canada. I'll write more on this in the coming days.

Please help us...we're reaching a critical time in development of this stadium and Canadian Soccer as a whole. In the coming months, it will be your voice that matters.

Until Kickoff,

Bill Currie

Friends of Soccer