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

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