by Bob Mackin
Hockey's Vancouver Canucks are not getting into the soccer business.
Canucks Sports and Entertainment president Chris Zimmerman told 24 hours Tuesday that the Aquilini family-owned company decided last week to cancel its bid for a Major League Soccer franchise. Zimmerman said the lack of opportunity for a soccer-specific venue in Metro Vancouver was the reason.
"It was not about competing with the Whitecaps," Zimmerman said. "We have incredible respect for the Whitecaps and what they're doing."
The Vancouver Whitecaps' bid, backed by club owner Greg Kerfoot, NBA star Steve Nash and former Yahoo president Jeff Mallett, was sent Friday to MLS headquarters. It proposes the club begin MLS play in 2011 at 60,000-seat B.C. Place Stadium. By then, the multi-purpose stadium will have a retractable roof.
Zimmerman said the Aquilinis were concerned that such a plan "was not consistent with MLS objectives" for its teams to play at intimate, soccer-specific stadiums. He said the Aquilinis were looking at several options for a soccer-specific stadium in the area. One of them was Swangard Stadium in Burnaby, where the Whitecaps won the United Soccer Leagues' First Division final on Sunday. Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan has often promoted his vision to expand the 6,000-seat, single grandstand park into a 20,000-seat stadium.
Kerfoot's proposed 30,000-seat waterfront stadium near Gastown is stalled in land swap negotiations with the federal Port Metro Vancouver, which is why the Whitecaps are promoting the B.C. Place option.
Zimmerman said there were talks with Kerfoot about a joint bid, but he did not elaborate.
Size and type of stadium may not be such a big issue with MLS. The Seattle Sounders will join MLS in 2009 and play at Qwest Field, the 67,000-seat home of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks.