Vancouver soccer stadium talks derailed

By Bob Mackin The Vancouver Whitecaps and the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority have reached an impasse that threatens the proposed Whitecaps Waterfront Stadium. The Port's planning and development director Patrick McLaughlin told CKNW radio Wednesday that the sides are "miles apart" in negotiations that would enable the $75 million project to proceed. Whitecaps' media-shy owner Greg Kerfoot began talks with the City of Vancouver in 2003 to privately fund a soccer stadium near the Pacific Central railway station. Three years later, Kerfoot paid $20 million for the Canadian Pacific Railway railyards behind Waterfront Station on the city's central waterfront. City council gave conditional approval in 2006 for the 15,000-seat stadium, based on the club's ability to make a deal with the federal government-owned port. A proposal to build the stadium atop the SeaBus commuter ferry's Vancouver terminal was scuttled by TransLink, which forced the latest round in talks with the federal-owned port. McLaughlin said the railway tracks near Gastown are vital to Port operations. "We're talking about prime real estate in the city and the Whitecaps have offered us a dollar for the land," McLaughlin said. "We simply cannot give it away." In an interview with 24 hours, Whitecaps' president Bob Lenarduzzi denied the $1 offer and called McLaughlin's comments "misleading." "They've never attached a value to the land they claim is so valuable to them," Lenarduzzi said. The Whitecaps proposed a generous three-for-one land swap -- 30,000 square metres of Kerfoot's property for 10,000 square metres of federal land -- in a bid to change the stadium's footprint. Lenarduzzi said he was surprised the Port went public just two days after the sides last met. "There was an understanding at the end of the meeting that that information would stay internal," he said. McLaughlin said a mediator may be needed. Lenarduzzi welcomed the suggestion. Since the Whitecaps' stadium proposal was born in 2003, both Toronto and Montreal have built soccer-specific stadiums. The Vancouver delay is hindering Kerfoot's plans to seek a franchise in Major League Soccer.