By Jim Jamieson
Three years after setting out to win approval for a 15,000-seat, open-air waterfront stadium adjacent to Gastown, the Whitecaps are deadlocked in talks with the Port of Vancouver.
The two sides say they've agreed on a new site -- the fourth -- for the natural-grass venue that would put Vancouver on the map to host international matches and also on the short list for a Major League Soccer expansion franchise.
The new site is to the east of the Seabus terminal, above the Helijet landing area and straddles Waterfront Road and some of the rail tracks behind it.
But the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority and the Whitecaps have been at loggerheads for about four months over the final two issues to be resolved, said Patrick McLaughlin, the authority's director of planning and development.
McLaughlin said one of the issues has to do with the details of a land swap with 'Caps owner Greg Kerfoot, who reportedly bought a total of 10.5 hectares on the waterfront in 2005 for about $22 million.
"We said, 'As part of this deal we want you to include the rail yard and transfer it to us,'" said McLaughlin. "We don't want the development rights. We want to own and operate the railway below."
According to McLaughlin, the hang-up on the issue is that the 'Caps are only willing to give up about half of the 6.9-hectare parcel. The Whitecaps have offered 3.1 hectares.
The second issue has to do with a disagreement about the valuation of the port's land, which is about 1.5 hectares. McLaughlin said the property, which is federal Crown land, would be converted into a lease.
'Caps president Bob Lenarduzzi was "shocked" to learn that the port authority had gone public with what he thought were confidential discussions. "We're shocked that they would choose to share the details of the negotiations," he said.
"Regardless of how he comes to his conclusions, we're offering them 30,000 square metres of our property for 10,000 square metres of the land that's required to build the stadium."
But Lenarduzzi said he still felt the process was very much alive: "Obviously, we're disagreeing with one another but we're still talking."
McLaughlin agreed: "The process is ongoing, but we're at a point where we need to make some progress pretty quickly."
Lenarduzzi said an expected major facelift of B.C. Place Stadium would have no impact on the Whitecaps' intention to keep pursuing the waterfront stadium. "We're focused on getting it done on the waterfront, on being in that area," he said.