Monday, May 19, 2008

An Open Letter to City Council on BC Place Announcement

Dear Mayor Sullivan and Councillors,

I'm writing on behalf of Friends of Soccer to make you aware of our reaction to last week's announcement regarding the retrofit of BC Place and the Vancouver Whitecaps decision to pursue a lease there. While we are relieved that this last ditch effort may have saved the Whitecaps' hopes of bringing Major League Soccer to Vancouver, we strongly feel that this is not a suitable long term solution and that Vancouver's stadium situation has not been resolved. We believe the Whitecaps were forced into a deal with BC Place mostly due to political inaction and an epic failure of public policy at the local and federal level.

While BC Place is a valuable asset to the city, Vancouver still needs a smaller scale community stadium in its downtown core. The BC Place announcement does nothing to assist amateur sport or rugby. It does nothing to assist the community groups and festival organizers who now have to incur the costs and inconvenience of closing down streets to hold their events. It limits the soccer community to hosting only large scale events that can attract 30,000 or more spectators. It will not open up our downtown waterfront, or provide a magnet for citizens to revitalize Gastown. These are just some of the benefits the Whitecaps Waterfront Stadium can provide.

When I speak with soccer fans from across the continent, they are all very aware of our stadium predicament and they are aghast that Vancouver has not done more to accommodate a privately funded stadium for the Whitecaps. Throughout North America, local governments make tremendous efforts to attract and retain professional sports teams. Soccer has been no different in this case.

In Philadelphia, state and local governments have teamed up with their port authority to finance and build a soccer specific stadium on waterfront lands. In St.Louis, the local government has pre-approved financing and zoning of a soccer specific stadium in place for any owner who wants to bring a MLS team there. In Montreal, local officials helped the Montreal Impact find an Olympic Park location for their stadium, and the province is one of the team's sponsors. In Toronto, the city partially financed the stadium, and have lined University Avenue streetlights with Toronto FC banners. All of these governments don't regard their stadiums and teams as solely private for-profit enterprises. They see them as community builders and contributors to the quality of daily life in their city. They generate economic activity and are a source of pride for their citizens.

While Council's verbal support of the project is helpful, what the process is missing is City Council's active involvement with the Port Authority and the federal government to help the Whitecaps clear these hurdles. What has frustrated citizens most about the process is that we believe governments in other cities would have been involved by now, and we would not be looking at 2016 as a tentative date for a new stadium.

The BC Place retrofit will not make the stadium issue go away. As long as the Whitecaps continue to pursue a community stadium and a proper home for soccer, we fully support them. We continue to expect our local and federal politicians to do all in their power and influence to expedite and improve this process.

Sincerely Yours,
Bill Currie
Friends of Soccer

Friday, May 16, 2008

B.C. Place: The Whitecaps Had No Choice

Today's announcement regarding the future of the Whitecaps at BC Place comes as no real surprise. Mixed emotions, perhaps, but not surprise. With the stadium situation tied in bureaucratic knots, and all of the Pacific Northwest USL teams looking to bolt for MLS, the Whitecaps had to move now to stake their claim. They were faced with the choice of playing in BC Place with MLS, or the long-term potential of having no professional soccer in Vancouver at all. They made the right decision in the end, and I strongly support their move.

The Whitecaps' pursuit of Major League Soccer is a cause to celebrate. It's the only league that's committed to being the best in North America, and it's the only league that's committed to developing and importing word class talent. USL has served our city well over the years, and they have benefited by having strong organizations like the current Whitecaps and the Vancouver 86'ers of the past. It's likely the Whitecaps will continue to have a presence in USL in the future through the W-League and PDL. But a city of soccer like ours deserves a team that plays at the top levels of the game. Major League Soccer allows the Whitecaps to deliver this to us.

Today's news does not mean the stadium situation is resolved or the stadium fight is over. Far from it, in fact. The Waterfront Stadium proposal is very much alive. Vancouver still needs a smaller scale stadium for community events, festivals and amateur sports. Gastown still needs revitalization. The Whitecaps still need an appropriate home where they have real control over scheduling and revenues, and can provide the best MLS experience for its fans. They simply want what any home owner wants...some control over their future. As long as the Whitecaps continue to pursue that dream, Friends of Soccer will be there to support them.

The BC Place renovation is a testament to the power that governments can yield when there's political will to solve an issue. In one fell swoop, the province boldly moved to preserve the future of our largest stadium. They stood up to the self-interested, shortsighted critics and came up with a creative solution that provides a new home for the Vancouver Art Gallery as well. Remember this the next time you hear a local or national politician tell you they're powerless to act on an issue.

The Whitecaps have shown beyond a doubt that they're committed to building soccer in B.C. for the longterm. The best way for us as fans to thank them is to support the Whitecaps in their move. Thousands of us already know the limitations of BC Place as a soccer venue. But, the Whitecaps are going to do their best to bring us the world class players and teams we've been asking for. Until we get a proper home to call our own, let's do our best as fans to make this work for everyone.

Yours in Sport,
Bill Currie
Friends of Soccer

Peter Ladner's Position on the Whitecaps Stadium

On Thursday, May 8, Friends of Soccer invited the six potential major candidates for Vancouver Mayor to use its website to state their position on the Whitecaps Stadium. We have promised to publish their statements in their entirety, unedited and without commentary. We have no intention of endorsing any particular mayoral candidate.

Today, Councillor Peter Ladner of the Non-Partisan Association responded to our invitation. His campaign's website is


1.Do you support the Whitecaps Waterfront Stadium Proposal? Why or why not?

Yes. I am a strong Whitecaps supporter. I consider outdoor professional soccer to be the most entertaining and accessible sporting experience in the Lower Mainland and have attended lots of games at Swangard Stadium.

It would be a huge benefit for Vancouver to land a major soccer franchise in a new, multi-purpose stadium downtown. Part of making Vancouver a globally competitive city is having a healthy professional sports industry.

Our global competitiveness would also be enhanced by the stadium’s ability to attract business and visitors to the downtown and add an amenity to the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre.

As someone who has owned and run my own business (Business in Vancouver Media Group) and chaired the city’s budget committee, I have a special appreciation of the unprecedented generosity of a successful entrepreneur funding it at no expense to Vancouver taxpayers.

I see the soccer stadium as contributing to the affordability and physical health of Vancouver, not just because of the owner taking financial responsibility for its construction and operation, but also because it would finance the Whitecaps impressive province-wide network of support teams and training facilities.

It would advance my goal of making Vancouver the greenest city in North America by being located at the centre of so many public transportation networks, a sustainable transportation feature not available in other locations.

I have supported it from the beginning, while recognizing the problems of accommodating that use on a difficult site. As a councillor, I have to ensure the stadium doesn’t overpower Gastown and downtown eastside neighbours, that it can be adequately accessed, and that it doesn’t impede vital transportation infrastructure like the SeaBus and the port rail yards.

I have met with Greg Kerfoot, Bob Lenarduzzi, the Whitecaps development team, Port of Vancouver representatives, Downtown Eastside residents, city planning staff and other councilors to advance this project. I have frequently spoken out on the unique opportunity of having this stadium in the heart of our city.

2. What plan of action do you have to make it a reality?

As a councillor, I have tried to ensure the city is not delaying the process and is doing whatever it can to accommodate the Whitecaps’ offer. I will continue to publicly endorse the proposal and fight to make sure the Whitecaps’ and the city’s concerns are dealt with as expeditiously as possible.

I believe it is the mayor’s responsibility to stay abreast of the difficult negotiations underway between the Port, the Whitecaps and CP Rail. The mayor should be encouraging the parties to agree to an independent appraisal for the value of the rail yards, the key sticking point right now.

I would not back up the process and start looking for other locations unless the Whitecaps determine the waterfront site will never work and want to pursue another approach.

The bottom line for Vancouver is that this site has to find a home in the city as soon as possible.

3.What makes you uniquely qualified to succeed on this issue?

I know all the players. I understand business. I really want it to succeed. I am trusted by both sides.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Surrey Stadium Interest Welcome, But Fraught with Risk

In today's Vancouver Province, Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts invited the Whitecaps to consider her city as an alternate site for the new stadium. She also suggested the Whitecaps could get swift passage of the stadium through council if they were to move.

It's good to see a mayor who understands the importance of having sports infrastructure and professional teams as part of a vibrant city. Mayor Watts is working hard to establish Surrey as an urban centre of its own, and its population should easily outstrip Vancouver's within a decade. It's only natural to believe that a stadium could play an important role in the urban renewal of Whalley. This should serve as a vital wakeup call to Vancouver City Council on what they stand to lose by standing on the sidelines in the stadium debate.

Surrey, no doubt, is growing. The city has great minor soccer associations and an excellent system of all-weather fields for players of all ages. On the participation front, it's a great soccer city. But before the Whitecaps look at a Surrey proposal, the City of Surrey needs to thoroughly understand the tremendous risk the Whitecaps would be taking with such a move. The perils are not inconsiderable.

Surrey has no history of supporting successful pro sports teams. It's only professional sports venture was in 1995 with the short-lived minor league pro baseball team, the Surrey Glaciers. They survived one season, and taxpayers were left on the hook for a $2 million renovation of the Stetson Bowl. While things may have changed since then, it's important to know that Surrey would be asking the Whitecaps to move to an untried, untested city. Most major league teams are granted to cities that have a long track record of supporting pro sports at a lower level. Surrey doesn't have this.

While the Province is quick to shrug off the lack of corporate support the Whitecaps would have in Surrey, it is in fact vital to operating a MLS team, or any professional franchise. While both the Canucks and the BC Lions have solid fan bases, both teams would not be able to compete or even be in danger of folding if they could not attract corporate support. Corporate support and television revenues are what allow the Canucks and the Lions to meet their payrolls and attract the talented players that fans are constantly demanding. MLS is no different than any other sports league in this respect. A MLS version of the Whitecaps would have higher player expenses than the BC Lions, but lower television revenues. To suggest that they could survive solely on gate receipts is naive at best. It's unreasonable to ask the Whitecaps to operate at this disadvantage.

The interest from Surrey's mayor is a refreshing change from the silence and inaction of Vancouver's politicians. But why should the Whitecaps have to purchase more land and carry the entire risks of building a stadium in an unproven city? I believe she needs to come up with with good answers to these questions before approaching the Whitecaps.

Bill Currie
Friends of Soccer

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Allan DeGenova's Position on The Whitecaps Waterfront Stadium

On Thursday, May 8, Friends of Soccer invited the six potential major candidates for Vancouver Mayor to use its website to state their position on the Whitecaps Stadium. We have promised to publish their statements in their entirety, unedited and without commentary. We have no intention of endorsing any particular mayoral candidate.

Today, Allan DeGenova of the Vision Vancouver responded to our invitation. He has opted to respond through a YouTube Video. This video response option has been offered to all candidates. His campaign's website is . He also invites stadium supporters to contact him at 604.307.8082

Mayor Sam Sullivan's Position on The Whitecaps Waterfront Stadium

On Thursday, May 8, Friends of Soccer invited the six potential major candidates for Vancouver Mayor to use its website to state their position on the Whitecaps Stadium. We have promised to publish their statements in their entirety, unedited and without commentary. We have no intention of endorsing any particular mayoral candidate.

Today, Mayor Sam Sullivan of the Non-Partisan Association responded to our invitation. His campaign's website is .

Dear Bill,

Thank you for your recent invitation from the Friends of Soccer to comment on the construction of a new soccer stadium on Vancouver's waterfront. I appreciate you taking the time to contact me.

As your Mayor, I am completely supportive of this initiative. In
addition to personally championing the stadium during several meetings in Ottawa, I have encouraged Council and city staff to expedite our approval process once the negotiations between the Port and Whitecaps are complete.

Prior to this recent round of negotiations, our government expressed our openness to constructing a new soccer stadium on City owned land outside the downtown core. However, the Whitecaps preferred a waterfront location.

Building a new privately funded soccer stadium is entirely dependent on a complex negotiation between the federally controlled Port of Vancouver and the Whitecaps.

While I share the frustration of many fans, I am hopeful that these negotiations will prove fruitful and that this proposal can come back to Council for approval in short order.

I trust this addresses the issues you have raised and thank you again for your advocacy on this important issue for our city's future.

Sam Sullivan

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Gregor Robertson's Position on The Whitecaps Stadium

On Thursday, May 8, Friends of Soccer invited the six potential major candidates for Vancouver Mayor to use this website to state their position on the Whitecaps Stadium. We have promised to publish their statements in their entirety, unedited and without commentary. We have no intention of endorsing any particular mayoral candidate.

Today, Gregor Robertson of Vision Vancouver responded to our invitation. His campaign's website is

Dear Bill,

Thanks for writing. As you may know, I am an avid soccer player (VMSL Div 2) and Whitecaps fan since the beginning. Let me start by saying that Vancouver needs a professional soccer stadium and as Mayor I would ensure that it gets moving. Soccer fans have waited long enough for a much-needed home for the Whitecaps. The MLS in Vancouver would be great for the city, and would be one of my priorities should I be elected as mayor.

The Port and the Whitecaps should continue their negotiations but it’s important that we consider alternative locations, including reconsideration of the False Creek Flats. The Flats (just east of Science World) has city-owned land and might be the best opportunity to get the stadium moving. An agreement on the waterfront may be hard to reach. Either way, we need to move on and get this done.

The city cannot force the Port (federal government) to give up the land and any provincial government intervention would simply add to the controversy. The solution is for the city government to make a resolution a priority. I totally understand Mr. Kerfoot’s frustration and the new Mayor must work to find the optimal place for the stadium. It will not only offer a place for the Whitecaps and amateur soccer, but may be used as a community amenity for concerts and events.

I trust this answers your question and I look forward to working together to make a professional soccer stadium in Vancouver a reality.



An Invitation to Mayoral Hopefuls From Friends of Soccer

Today, Friends of Soccer is inviting the major Vancouver mayoral candidates to use our website to address the stadium issue. We'll be publishing their responses as soon as they arrive, unedited and without commentary.

The letter below has been sent to Mayor Sullivan, Peter Ladner, Allan DeGenova, Raymond Louie and Gregor Robertson. Although he has not formally declared his intention to run, we have also extended the invite to David Cadman.


My name is Bill Currie, and I represent the grassroots citizens movement Friends of Soccer. Since October, 2005, thousands of citizens have used the Friends of Soccer movement to voice their support for the proposed Whitecaps Waterfront Stadium. Thousands more consult the Friends of Soccer website ( every month for information on current developments regarding the stadium project. Many of these people pass this information on to their associations, teammates and others. We operate independently of the Whitecaps and our supporters span all ages, cultures and political beliefs.

While the upcoming election will encompass many major issues, it has become obvious that the Whitecaps stadium will be one of them. Many of our supporters want to know the candidates' positions regarding the stadium, and one major mayoral candidate has actively sought out our support. While we have no intention of endorsing any particular mayoral candidate, we believe it would be fair and transparent to provide all candidates with an opportunity to address our supporters regarding the stadium.

I am pleased to invite you to use the Friends of Soccer website to express your detailed position on the Whitecaps Stadium. You have my personal assurance that, regardless of your position, your words will appear in their entirety, unedited, and without commentary by our website. You are also free to use this as an opportunity to inform our supporters on where they can find more information on your campaign, and how they can join. I highly encourage you to take this opportunity.

While you are free, of course, to take any stance on the stadium, you should be aware that our supporters are most interested in your answers to these three questions:

1.Do you support the Whitecaps Waterfront Stadium Proposal? Why or why not?
2.If you support it, what plan of action do you have to make it a reality?
3.What makes you uniquely qualified to succeed on this issue?

I will publish your position soon after we receive it. Should you choose to decline, we will simply print that you chose to do so, without further commentary. We ask that you reply no later than Wednesday, May 21.

Regardless of your position on this issue, I believe it's fair to say that the stadium has engaged average citizens in the political process in a unique way. It is my hope that you will accept this invitation to continue the dialogue.

Bill Currie
Friends of Soccer

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Friends of Soccer – A Grassroots Citizens Movement

With all the recent attention given to the Whitecaps stadium, I've received quite a few e-mails lately asking pretty much the same question: “Who/What is Friends of Soccer?”.

The simple answer is anyone who supports the Whitecaps Stadium is a Friend of Soccer. We're not a club. We're not an organization with a board or a membership. We're not a front group being financed or manipulated by developers or anyone else with a hidden agenda. We're not sponsored by the Whitecaps. We're not even a soccer team.

All we are is an independent grassroots citizens movement. It started back in October, 2005 with the basic belief that citizens have the power to persuade governments to make the Whitecaps stadium a reality. At that time, the stadium was under attack by few dozen activists and local politicians who were committed to killing the proposal before it even got off the ground.

Imagine that! A handful of people were ready to reject out of hand a much-needed privately funded stadium that would have easily cost the taxpayers more than $60 million to build without private help. Would they have ever done such a thing to the Canucks or the BC Lions? Of course not!

With a simple call to action, the soccer community and average citizens rose up to the challenge. In 2006, they attended Open Houses on the Stadium and told city planners overwhelmingly that this is what people wanted. They voiced their support through letters and e-mails to council. Thousands signed a banner telling the City to “Build The Stadium Now!”. They wrote letters to newspapers and phoned open-line radio shows. Many stood before City Council and gave passionate, logical speeches for the stadium. And almost everyone told their friends, family and teammates to get involved. In short, they did all of the things we still need to do today.

And through it all we found that we were hardly alone in this fight. When John Kostiuk, a Gastown resident, started the community group Stadium Now!, he exposed the fact that a majority of local residents and businesses were not against the stadium, and that some of them at the time were even being intimidated by landlords and opponents to keep quiet. Beyond that, the list of community groups, businesses, and sports organizations who spoke out and got involved grew by the day. In the end, City Council heard our voices and unanimously voted not once, but twice, in favour of the stadium.

To this day, all of these people are Friends of Soccer. Their work is a model of citizen democracy at its finest.

The Whitecaps have been more than generous in offering this gift to the city. But it's been the voices of citizens that has helped carry it this far. While we haven't yet achieved the prize, it's gratifying to know that this website could shut down tomorrow, but the voices for the stadium would go on until we all win.

Yours in Sport,
Bill Currie
Friends of Soccer

BC Soccer Association Voices Stadium Support

Today's Vancouver Sun features a strong public endorsement of the stadium by the BC Soccer Association. The BCSA has long been supportive of the Whitecaps' efforts to make the stadium a reality, and they've also been helpful to our movement as well. Below is the letter written by BCSA Executive Director Bjorn Osieck.

Take soccer to next level
Waterfront stadium proposal is vital for future of game in this province

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Re: Soccer Stadium a Gift Spurned (April 23):

As the provincial governing body for soccer in British Columbia, the B.C. Soccer Association is certainly committed to the promotion and development of our game. It is our modus operandi.

It is thus only natural that we strongly support the proposed Whitecaps Waterfront Stadium project on behalf of the more than 130,000 registered players, coaches and officials engaged in soccer and the half-million British Columbians directly connected to the sport through their families.

Yet our support and advocacy for the proposed stadium only grows when we see what has happened in Toronto (with the launch of Toronto FC of the MLS at BMO Field) and now Montreal (with the opening this month of brand new Saputo Stadium, home of the Montreal Impact of the USL).

The positive impact of those stadia on soccer development in Ontario and Quebec has already been significant and will continue to fuel the growth of the game in those provinces. More and more young people -- of all ages -- will be drawn to soccer as a game high on fitness, socialization and other life skills.

That's good for Ontario, it's good for Quebec and it's ultimately good for Canada. But we can safely say the impact of a professional soccer stadium project in Vancouver would be even more profound here in B.C., where the BCSA is working with its districts, leagues and clubs and the Government of British Columbia (through ActNow) to promote the benefits of active living and fitness for children and for all residents of B.C.

We already have the highest per capita participation numbers in Canada. We are "The Province of Soccer" and we would be building on strength here to take soccer to the next level.

We lend our support to the project and we strongly concur with the views expressed, that such a stadium would be a powerful community amenity and would generate significant community benefits, in downtown Vancouver and across the province.

Bjorn Osieck

Executive Director, British Columbia Soccer Association


Friday, May 02, 2008

A letter to send to your teammates

Stadium Supporter Mike Meade has written a great letter that you can send to your teammates and Soccer Association. Feel free to cut, paste and use it. The pressure from players, coaches and fans on the federal government is starting to snowball, and it's on the verge of going nationwide! Now's the time to jump on the bandwagon and get involved!

Parents / friends / people with interest in soccer,

I am writing you as a concerned Canadian Citizen who loves the Beautiful game of soccer, but frustrated with the current state of our game in this country, and urging you to help in any way possible to try and advance a cause that is common to us all: making it the best it can be.

As you may or may not be aware, The Vancouver Whitecaps Football Club has been on the record as willing to finance and proceed with construction of a soccer specific stadium located in the Vancouver area. The intent of the stadium, among others, is to be the home of Whitecaps FC teams, as well as a suitable BC based host venue for International caliber games, and World Cup Qualifiers. The Whitecaps are also on the record as stating that it is their desire to have their club playing in the top Professional league in North America, which is widely considered to be the MLS. The MLS has expressed a strong desire to expand to Vancouver, with the major stumbling block being the lack of a suitable facility.

Soccer in this country was never stronger at both an international level and grass-roots level than it was in 1986, when Canada qualified for the World Cup. The competitive level of play, training, and preparation that our team required to qualify for that tournament was due mostly to the fact that the core of the squad had been playing in the North American Soccer League, which folded due to financial mismanagement in 1984. Despite the league folding, the success of Canada’s Senior Men’s team was largely credited to the NASL, where our best players could get the level of competition they needed to be world class players.

Since 1994, the United States has become an International Power in the game, while Canada’s teams have slowly slid down the FIFA standing, failing to qualify for every World Cup since 1986. There has not been a strong domestic league in Canada since the NASL folded; our best players are forced to either play overseas at the lower divisional ranks, or quit the game at the elite level and get real jobs. Meanwhile, the MLS in the United States has provided a strong domestic league, that compensates its players well enough to make a living, and allows the core of American elite players to compete at home at a fairly high level.

The MLS has proven its value as a competitive league, but Canadians are still restricted from playing in US Cities due to import ratios. The only team w/ out import restrictions is Toronto. Realistically, Canada needs three MLS teams to make a significant impact on our elite international competitiveness. Montreal is imminent. In Vancouver, the opportunity is slipping away due to a Crown Corporation standing in the way of shovel hitting the ground. Again, the proposed Waterfront Stadium is to be financed PRIVATELY! Whitecaps owner Greg Kerfoot OWNS THE LAND!

What does this have to do with your kid playing at the house club level? Everything!

Follow the dominos…the better sports are run at the highest levels, the better they are at the grassroots. The benefits to our youth players is a very long list, not to mention the benefits of our city gaining a world class facility without spending public money. The trickle down effect from having the Whitecaps playing in the MLS will mean an increase in their revenues, and flow down to an increase in both their boys and girls development programs.

I am asking anyone who has just a bit of passion about this as I do to please SPEAK UP, and petition our politicians. Send your local MP, or all the relevant MPs (as I have), a letter demanding they put pressure on the Crown Corporation to work in good faith w/ the Whitecaps and move this project forward.

Some key contacts who I'm sure will love to hear from their you:

 Lawrence Cannon: Minister responsible for Transport Canada, which oversees the Port Authority that is presently stonewalling the land transfer with the Caps.

 David Emerson: MP for Vancouver Kingsway & current Federal Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver–Whistler Olympics.

Also, following is a list of Vancouver Area MPs (Liberal and Conservative members selected only):


Ed Fast

Delta-Richmond East

John Cummins


Mark Warawa

Newton-North Delta

Sukh Dhaliwal

North Vancouver

Don Bell

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam

James Moore


Raymond Chan

South Surrey - White Rock - Langley

Russ Hiebert

Vancouver Centre

Honourable Hedy Fry

Vancouver Kingsway

Hon. Emerson, David

Vancouver Quadra

Honourable Stephen Owen

Vancouver South

Honourable Ujjal Dosanjh

West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast

Blair Wilson

Many thanks for taking the time to read this. I hope you can lend your voice to the cause.