Thursday, September 20, 2007

Friends of Soccer Remarks To City Council

Planning & Environment Meeting - September 20, 2007

My name is Bill Currie, and besides being the founder of the Friends of Soccer movement, I'm also a West End resident. I'm here to say that I support the 2010 Winter Games Live Site Plan and ask that you approve it.

In fact, if anything, let's find a way to create more of these, because we need more opportunities to gather as a city. However, it's unfortunate that in this case, the best we can offer the world is a stage with fences, scaffolding, tents and portapotties in a parking lot.

But that's not your staff's or VANOC's fault.

It's also sad for our citizens and local residents that the city will have to cut off the seawall and decommission a public park and popular sports field for what will likely be several months. And while I support the project, I can honestly say that the soccer community will not like that one bit.

But that's not your staff's or VANOC's fault either.

Also, according to the designs in the report, the venues appear very small. The total capacity of both venues combined is less than the average attendance at a BC Lions game, and these are fans that pay to get in. This is one of the largest sporting events in the world. It's likely that these venues won't be able to accommodate the tens of thousands more who'll want to attend these concerts and events.

But once again, that's not your staff's fault or VANOC's fault. In fact, they should be commended for making the most of these sites. It's very clear that their options in the downtown core are limited.

If there was ever a red flag that we need permanent outdoor gathering places downtown, this is it. A fantastic gathering place was offered to both the City and VANOC as early as 2004 in the proposed Whitecaps Waterfront Stadium. It was a gift to the city, in a beautiful spot where Vancouver began. And VANOC was on record as being interested in it for a purpose just like this. Despite overwhelming support, 4 rounds of public consultation, and 2 unanimous votes from this Council, it hasn't proceeded far enough or fast enough. And because of that we're paying the price for this now.

It appears the time for 2010 is too late. So, along with the FIFA U-20 World Cup, and the dozens of sporting events and festivals that would have been held by now, we'll chalk this up as another lost opportunity. But, what makes this lost opportunity different is that it's going to cost the taxpayers of Vancouver $5 million dollars. I believe this could have been avoided.

So, I ask that you approve this plan. But I also ask that you don't let this happen again. The stadium is about to come back in front of you soon, and it needs your help. I appreciate that every councilor here has voted in favour of the project in the past…but a passive vote is not enough. I urge you…get actively involved with the Whitecaps and City Staff on the Waterfront Stadium project. We already know that when elected officials in Toronto and Montreal became involved in their stadium projects, they were able to quickly turn them into reality. Any one of you can be a champion in this. And if you can step up, become more involved and help find a way through the maze for this project, you'll have the support of a very grateful city.

Thank you.

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