Expansion Update: Vancouver 2011

bc-placeWith all the tumolt surrounding Portland’s 2011 expansion effort, its cousin in MLS expansion, Vancouver, has quietly slid under the radar.  With opening kick for Vancouver just 86 weeks away, thinks are quietly moving towards a successful opening.   Vancouver is well set up for success.  The ownership group seems solid.  Billionaire Greg  Kerfoot has long been a friend of soccer and Steve Nash adds glamor and splash to the ownership.  The Whitecaps have done well at the gate and the market is hungry for higher level soccer.   BC Place is well situated and funding is in place for a substantial renovation (well over $200 million U.S.) that will add a retractable roof.  Soccer capacity will be limited to 20k.

The team has set-up a slick website, that is unfortunately updated infrequently.  The site contains links to BC Place renovations, and a brief discussion of the hoped for waterfront stadium.   There were reports soon after the announcement of the franchise that more than 5k season ticket deposits had been received.

In the three months since the franchise was awarded, it has been very quiet in Vancouver.  However, with almost two years until Vancouver first kicks off in MLS, that is probably a good thing.  Portland’s bid has been in the news for all the wrong reasons, while stadium renovations in Vancouver are continuing without dispute.  Promoting a team that won’t play a game for two years is a delicate balance.  The Sounders did an outstanding job of building momentum up to their 2009 debut and avoided peaking too early.  Vancouver can quitely promote their MLS squad through the current Whitecaps, while quietly putting together the support system necessary to maintain and succeed in MLS.  We will continue to monitor developments in Vancouver.

MLS Expansion: Vancouver in 2011?

vancouverAs part of our ongoing examination of MLS expansion targets, it is now time to explore Vancouver’s bid for 2011.  Jeff Mallet, Greg Kerfoot, Stev Luczo and Steve Nash (yes that Steve Nash), are the men leading the charge to bring MLS to Vancouver in 2011.  The proposed team would play at BC Place Stadium following a renovation and in a Soccer Specific Stadium sometime thereafter.   Vancouver is already home to the Whitecaps of the USL and would add a second Canadian team to MLS.

The ownership group seems solid.  Mr. Kerfoot has long been a friend of soccer and Steve Nash adds glamour and splash to the ownership.  The owners have the money; Kerfoot is a billionare.  The Whitecaps have done well at the gate and the market is hungry for higher level soccer.   BC Place is well situated and the proposed soccer stadium is also in a solid location.

All that said, color me unconvinced.  The stadium situation is murky (there is no guarantee the sss wil be built), and BC place is not an ideal soccer venue.  More importantly, I question how much the League really wants a second Canadian franchise.  Montreal was a unique creature; both because of its rivalry with Toronto and high level support (just see the massive support Montreal got for its Champions League game).  Vancouver is way off the typical sports beaten path (just ask the Grizzilies of the NBA), and would add even more lengthy travel to the MLS season.

All that said, I think the Vancouver bid is attractive for many of the same reasons I support Portland.  The money is there, the support is there and as a “mid-size city” (for sports purposes), I think it is a good fit for MLS.  With the target date for announcing new franchises approaches, we will continue to monitor Vancouver and the rest of the bids.bc-place