Soccer stadium still a distant dream

Bob Mackin
Vancouver Courier

Friday, April 11, 2008

White is the colour, stadium's the aim. We're all together, wondering who to blame?

Yes, the Vancouver Whitecaps begin the 22nd consecutive season of pro soccer at Swangard Stadium on Saturday, just a corner kick away from Vancouver in Burnaby.

The Greg Kertfoot-ballers have been trying since 2003 to build a stadium in their namesake city. First near Pacific Central Station, then most recently on the Central Waterfront where their tech millionaire Kerfoot bought $20 million in land.

A well funded and divisive opposition campaign in 2006 forced the Whitecaps to rethink plans to build on a podium over railway tracks. Then TransLink vetoed the idea to build over the SeaBus terminal. "No thanks," they said.

The Whitecaps have made another offer to the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority for a land swap, which will undoubtedly be kicked back and forth between the federal Crown corporation's offices and Parliament Hill and translated to French and back again before a decision is made.

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment got federal and provincial subsidies to build BMO Field in Toronto. The Whitecaps aren't cap-in-hand. They just want some federal, provincial and civic decisions to go their way.

The club isn't standing still. The stadium is a key part, but just one part, of the club's Vision 2011 strategy to better the globe's greatest game. The Whitecaps deserve applause for thinking beyond 2010.

What will the local sports scene look like the year after the five-ring circus packs up and trots off to Sochi, Russia? Let me be the first to offer predictions.

Stan Smyl head coaches the Vancouver Canucks in their 40th NHL season. The team reverts to the mustard, ketchup and pepper uniforms and the downhill-skate logo in a shameless bid to boost revenue amid a recession. And it works!

Vancouver goes to the seventh game of the Stanley Cup final--again--but this time loses to Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Canuck goaltender Roberto Luongo, awaiting his wife in Florida to deliver triplets, allows the first goal on the first shot of the deciding game. Final score, 1-0 Pens.

The Vancouver Giants celebrate their 10th anniversary. During a rebuilding year, they use intermission short-track speedskating exhibitions to pack Pacific Coliseum. Yes, short-track speedskating was the surprise hit of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

The Vancouver Canadians continue their innovative promotional gimmicks with a midnight madness game. But it goes to extra innings and finally ends at noon.

In an election year, the Whitecaps resort to desperate, American-style tactics. They threaten to move to Edmonton because Waterfront Stadium has still not been approved.