Waterfront stadium 'could be dramatic, beautiful, spectacular - The Province

Proposal to council hinges on land-swap deal with port officials

Kent Spencer

Vancouver Coun. Suzanne Anton looks forward to the day when major league soccer can be played at a mid-sized waterfront stadium.

"It could be the most dramatic, spectacular, beautiful location in North America," Anton said yesterday.

The idea of a waterfront stadium arose again yesterday as the Vancouver Whitecaps played host to the United Soccer League First Division championship with the Puerto Rico Islanders.

The game was played at Swangard Stadium in Burnaby, a smallish facility whose 5,800 capacity was completely sold out.

"I think we could have filled a 15,000-to-20,000-seat stadium for an event like this," said Whitecaps' president Bob Lenarduzzi.

Plans for the waterfront location first surfaced in 2005 when team owner Greg Kerfoot bought developmental rights above the rail yard to the east of the SeaBus terminal.

But progress on the privately funded $75-million facility has been held up by drawn-out negotiations with Port Metro Vancouver, a federal agency.
A land swap with the port is needed to assemble a square-shaped building site for the proposed 15,000-seat stadium. Kerfoot is also said to be seeking a condominium development in the area.

He wants to swap Whitecaps-owned land to the west of the railroad tracks in exchange for port land to the north.

The Caps have offered to give up 30,000 square feet of space for 10,000 of the port's, a 3-to-1 ratio. The port, meanwhile, wants ownership of the rail yard.

Lenarduzzi said there is very little to report about the negotiations.

"We're still actively pursuing the waterfront site," he said. "Right now, there's nothing we can say."

Port CEO Gordon Houston was tight-lipped when approached by The Province last month.

"The Whitecaps and ourselves are working it out. I will not say anything further about it," Houston said.

The talks need to be resolved before a proposal can go forward to Vancouver city council.

Anton believes concerns over late-night activity in Gastown and nearby Crab Park being overwhelmed with visitors can be addressed.

"The site is a major transportation node. No new parking is required -- there is lots of downtown parking in the evenings when events would be held.

"We don't have a mid-sized stadium in the Lower Mainland. This would not be a big, ugly cement box. These stadiums can have spectacular architecture. The symphony could play there. Davis Cup tennis matches could be held."

Anton said the land swap is very complicated.

"It very hard to determine the value of the property. Developmental rights are uncertain," she said.

kspencer@theprovince.com

© The Vancouver Province 2008