Wednesday, April 30, 2008

MLS Expansion - Vancouver's soccer future tied to railroad past

The future of a waterfront soccer stadium that could lead to a MLS team for the city of Vancouver hinges on the resolution of railroad issues. Vancouver Whitecap owner Greg Kerfoot has proposed building a $90m stadium with his own money, but he doesn't have enough land to make it happen. That's where the Vancouver Port Authority (VPA) comes in.

The VPA owns the strip of land Kerfoot needs to complete his stadium, however to get at it, the VPA wants rights over the part of the rail yard Kerfoot owns. Kerfoot is not in a hurry to give up his property, although he has given Canadian Pacific right-of-way to the rails in perpetuity.

So what is the big deal? Well the reason Kerfoot doesn't want to hand over the land or rights to another group has to do with his other plans for the site as he wants to build three condo towers around the stadium, which would defer a lot of the cost of the stadium (hello DC and San Jose).

Part of these towers will stand over the current rail lines, meaning he will need to place some serious support pillars into the area. This engineering work will probably require altering the path of the rails in some way. Needless to say, the more people involved in this means the less direct control Kerfoot has over the site.

For their part, the VPA fears that any drop in railway capacity will hinder the ability of their shipping port to handle all the traffic in the future.

Thus enters Canadian Senator and former Vancouver mayor Larry Campbell.
"Maybe it takes someone to sit down and say: 'Okay, boys and girls, is this going to happen?' " Campbell said Monday afternoon. "I don't know if anyone would consider me an honest broker, but I've taken mediation.

"From a politician's point of view, this [project] is a win-win."
Now it is up to Campbell to see if he can make the two sides agree. If he does, Vancouver becomes a top-tier MLS target.

As far as a backup plan, if it will help them land a MLS team, the Whitecaps owners are open to the idea of playing at a revamped B.C. Place Stadium, but only on an interim basis. The MLS is open to the idea but only if a stadium deal was assured of taking place.

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