Deal in works to bring Whitecaps to John Oliver, where civic officials also envision a national training centre
By Sandor Gyarmati
Delta is hoping to turn a potential partnership with the Vancouver Whitecaps into something much bigger at John Oliver Park.
At the Union of B.C. Municipalities Convention last fall, Mayor Lois Jackson met with Premier Gordon Campbell to discuss the possibility of establishing a national soccer training centre in Delta. The idea would be tied to a deal that's currently being negotiated with the Whitecaps, who are interested in building a soccer training centre at the East Delta park.
"There are cities, I understand, that are very interested in having a national centre like this and I think there's a bidding process for something like that," said Jackson.
In the fall, the municipality signed a memorandum of understanding with the Whitecaps for the soccer club to construct a training centre with playing fields and other park improvements. It would be worth approximately $25 million. Delta would pay for the necessary roadway improvements to the park.
Delta would also provide a 60-year-lease for the Whitecaps for a portion of the park that would be used exclusively by the soccer club. The remaining portion would be controlled by Delta for community uses.
According to the memorandum, the Whitecaps would be responsible for operational costs associated with their lease area, including the payment of any taxes, while Delta would be responsible for operational costs associated with the area under its control.
Jackson said if the project goes ahead, it could end up being a training centre for young soccer players from the entire country, a project that would require some government funding.
"It is a bit of a dream vision, so we're asking the questions up front to see what may be possible provincially and also federally and we'll see how it all unfolds."
Although Delta is looking at turning the soccer centre into something grander, Minister of Healthy Living and Sport Mary Polak potentially threw cold water on the vision. Polak wrote to Jackson last month stating her ministry is advancing the proposal through the government's annual budget process, but Delta should be aware the government "will be faced with a number of difficult decisions in that process given recent economic events which had the effect of significantly reducing provincial revenue."
As far as Delta's possible deal with the Whitecaps, council is to be updated on the negotiations later this month. Club officials are also to make a presentation to council.
Jackson said even if a deal is reached with the Whitecaps, it would not be signed without public input.
"Given that there can be some agreement between the Lenarduzzi group and the Corporation of Delta, that lease would still have to go through a pubic process to make sure people are happy what's being contemplated," she added.
The Whitecaps already have a presence in Delta after launching a soccer academy in partnership with the school district.
© The Delta Optimist 2009