Wednesday, April 23, 2008

MLS Expansion - Will Vancouver ever let Whitecaps owner build a stadium?

The Vancouver Whitecaps are yet another soccer team having troubles getting their stadium built, however their issues are very different from those of most teams as the organization is not looking for public money to fund the project. Instead the objection centers on the use of waterfront land.

Whitecaps FC owner Greg Kerfoot is ready to front the full cost of the $90m, waterfront stadium, however those opposed to the idea feel the location will deprive the public from access to the water as well as negatively alter the historical area. This dispute has caused Kerfoot's proposal to linger for four years, just waiting for approval.

So why bring this up under the header of MLS expansion? Simple, if this stadium gets approved in the next year or so, it would catapult Vancouver from not even a chance territory to serious contender in the quest to land either the 17th or 18th franchise in the league.

As envisioned, the stadium would start off as a 15,000-seat facility, but could expand to 30,000, which fits in just fine with the current MLS stadium requirements. Add to it the waterfront view and the rivalries with Seattle and Toronto and they might just have something magical. But it all comes down the stadium as MLS Commissioner Don Garber has specifically told the city, no stadium, no team:
"The key for Vancouver is being sure they have a stadium plan. It's the third leg of the stool to give the city an opportunity to be part of the mix in future MLS expansion."
Vancouver still stands far outside the realm of MLS reality as cities like St. Louis, Miami, New York and Montreal push forward, but that could change very quickly if Kerfoot's plan is approved.

On a side not, Kerfoot seems to be the Canadian version of Lamar Hunt as he has placed a lot of his own money into developing the game in the country.

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