Saturday, April 12, 2008

Whitecaps Stadium Saga Handcuffs Soccer in BC

For Whitecaps fans, the start of a new season always brings fresh hope and anticipation. Tonight's home opener against the Montreal Impact is no exception. With a new coach, a new philosophy of the game, and a few fresh faces in the squad, we have a lot of reasons to believe we'll make a run at the playoffs this year.

But, as we all know, the picture for the Whitecaps success is far from complete. It's not due to a lack of ambition or effort on the Whitecaps part. The ongoing stadium saga, which is being stymied by the City, the Port Authority, and the Federal Government, is handcuffing the Whitecaps efforts to grow the game. And the time is coming for us to once again rise up and let our elected officials know this is not acceptable.

It's a crucial year for the stadium. We have a municipal election coming up in November, where we'll have to hold the mayor and city council accountable for their appalling lack of effort in pursuing the stadium. There's always the possibility of a federal election as well, and we have to pressure Ottawa to release the vacant lot the Whitecaps need to build the stadium. And we once again have to rally the citizens of BC to show our governments that we haven't gone away, and that we're not going away until the stadium is built.

If we look beyond the stadium, we'll see that the Caps have made great strides in building the deep infrastructure a modern football club needs to thrive. The training facilities they've built at SFU and plan to build in Delta will ensure that many soccer players in the province can can learn and train at a higher level. The residency program they launched last fall is the first in Canada that creates a direct route to a career in soccer for young elite players without forcing them to go to Europe. Their commitment to supporting our underfunded women's national team is extraordinary, and they offer opportunities for women soccer players that are unmatched in Canada. And to top it all off, they've brought a level of harmony between the amateur and professional game through working with the BC Soccer Association. This year, the Whitecaps will field a team in the PCSL, and sponsor Super-Y league teams for young players throughout the province. They provide soccer camps throughout BC and hold countless free clinics for kids throughout the Lower Mainland.

There are other good professional soccer organizations in Canada. The Montreal Impact are an impressive team that shares some of the same goals as the Caps in Quebec. And Toronto FC have put their government-funded stadium to good use by uniting a fractured soccer scene in that part of the country and providing grassroots opportunities for kids. But the Whitecaps have taken the responsibility of growing the game of soccer in BC and Western Canada on their shoulders, and it's here where they're leading the way.

Growing soccer in BC, however, is a futile exercise if we have no home for the game. We'll continue to send our best players away from home, and we'll be continually fighting to keep pro soccer alive in Swangard. The Whitecaps already play in one of the oldest, smallest facilities in USL, and they play against teams that already reap the benefits of having their own soccer specific stadiums. And we now know that we can't even hope for Major League Soccer in Vancouver until the stadium issue is resolved. In a country where so many of our best players come from this province, Vancouver should be leading the way...not playing catchup with Toronto or Montreal.

Once again, we need you to take action and make your voice heard. Tell your local Conservative or Liberal Member of Parliament to pressure the transport minister to release this vacant parking lot for the good of the city. If your MP is an NDP member, ask them why they're opposed to building a privately-funded community stadium and growing the game of soccer in BC. And finally, let the mayor and city council know that they're not doing enough to deliver on the stadium promise they made to citizens almost two years ago, and that we need the stadium finalized before the November election.

You can write to the Mayor and city Council at

Here is a list of our local M.Ps.

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