Philadelphia is getting it done

Lenarduzzi expresses frustration on stadium issue

Steve Ewen - The Province

Don't blame Vancouver Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi if he has a little Philadelphia envy.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported in its Jan. 19 edition that the city had the ownership types for a Major League Soccer expansion team but no stadium deal.

The Feb. 1 Inquirer had news about $47 million in funding from the Pennsylvania state government to help build a new 18,500-seat soccer facility on the waterfront in Chester, a Philadelphia suburb. Groundbreaking on the stadium is expected later this year, the story stated.

The whole process didn't actually happen over a couple of weeks. Organizers started on it two years ago and the push became public last summer.

Still, it gives some idea of what can happen. And it gives a hint at how flustered the Whitecaps are, considering they initially started work on their proposed waterfront stadium in 2003 and they've said all along that their owner, Greg Kerfoot, isn't looking for any major funding help.

"The biggest question I get all the time from people isn't, 'How is the team going to be this year?'" said Lenarduzzi. "The biggest question is, 'What's going on with the stadium?' The only answer I can provide is that we're still in discussions.

"What can I say? When you hear about the kind of commitment from the state, it results in even more frustration on our part.

"There seems to be a willingness in certain states and provinces to come together and move things forward.

"That doesn't appear to be the case here."

Lenarduzzi said that the Whitecaps are still in discussions with the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority about the stadium, but he wouldn't elaborate.

Anne McMullin, director of corporate communications and public affairs for the VFPA, was in meetings Tuesday and couldn't be reached for comment.

According to the Inquirer, the stadium in Chester will be part of a $414-million riverfront development. Besides the state funding, county and city officials had already committed $30 million to the stadium and the Delaware River Port Authority map chip in another $10 million.

The rest of the money will come from the team.

MLS commissioner Don Garber said Philadelphia was "well-positioned" for an expansion team because of the stadium deal.

© The Vancouver Province 2008