Whitecaps opt for UBC over Burnaby
The Vancouver Whitecaps' new training facility will be built at the University of British Columbia with Burnaby appearing to be runner-up in the competition for the $32.5-million project.
The soccer team had been seeking a site since a proposal for a $31.5-million project in John Oliver Park in Delta fell through in January 2010. Funding for that project included a $17.5-million grant from the province.
Last week, the club announced it had chosen UBC as the site of the planned National Soccer Development Centre (NSDC), which will include a state-of-the-art fieldhouse and five new, refurbished or improved soccer fields.
UBC is providing the land, while the Whitecaps are covering $15 million of the cost. The provincial government will contribute up to $14.5 million with the agreement allowing the team to request up to a further $3 million from Victoria in 10 years for resurfacing of artificial turf fields.
Construction of the facility is expected to create more than 170 direct jobs and 90 indirect jobs. More than 50 per cent of playing time at the facility will be for community use, as well as for UBC's soccer teams, BC Soccer, and as the west coast base for Canada's national teams.
The NSDC will also help Vancouver attract and host major events, including the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup.
While a site in Burnaby's Central Valley was being seriously considered, Team president Bob Lenarduzzi said in an interview that "what it came down to in the end was just available space and UBC were able to come up with enough space. Unfortunately, we weren't able to do the same in Burnaby."
Burnaby city hall wasn't able to offer up land to the same extent as UBC as it needed to balance its priorities with city taxpayers, he said.
"We spent a lot of time with Burnaby looking at what the options could be and their concern was that in providing [land to the Whitecaps] that there might be less available for recreational use."
Lenarduzzi explained that the team was looking for a site where all the components of its training facility could be located in one spot, something that wasn't possible in Burnaby.
At UBC, as an added bonus, the team will also be able to utilize existing artificial turf fields at adjacent Thunderbird Stadium, which is the same surface they play on at B.C. Place.
The team plans to base all its operations out of the new UBC facility, including its youth residency teams which are currently based out of Burnaby Central secondary.
Lenarduzzi said there will be a transition period during construction with everything moved to the Point Grey campus within a couple of years.
For decades the Whitecaps, and its predecessor team, the 86ers, used Swangard Stadium as its home field. That changed a few years ago when the current incarnation of the team moved to B.C. Place.
The team will continue to have a presence, albeit reduced, in Burnaby at the two artificial turf fields it built at Simon Fraser University several years ago. That was the actual start of the team's training centre and will still be used by its development squads. "On the women's side we'll likely play some games at Swangard still in the future," he added.
He noted that he spoke with Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan about the decision before the announcement was made.
"We had a good conversation and he was very understanding as were we understanding of their situation as well. So I'm pleased that we've made the decision but still with a good relationship with Burnaby because we've been there for a long time and we'll likely be involved in Burnaby for years to come at different levels."
Corrigan did not respond to requests for an interview before the NewsLeader's press time.