Vancouver’s new soccer stadium in Coal Harbour has some opposition

Sunday, April 30th, 2006

WATERFRONT WHITECAPS: Gastown coalition against new structure

John Bermingham

The proposed stadium sits on the Vancouver waterfront east of Canada Place. The dotted line is the SeaBus route.

It’s got the buildup of a World Cup, but all the play will be off the field.

Both sides in the campaign for — and against — building the proposed Whitecaps Stadium are gearing up for an intense fight over the 15,000-seat venue planned for Vancouver’s waterfront.

Tuesday, a coalition launches its opposition campaign, seven weeks before the matter goes to Vancouver City Council.

The Gastown Neighbourhood Coalition, a business and land-owner group, is joining hands with a pair of newly minted groups, the Central Waterfront Coalition and the Gastown Residents Association.

The waterfront coalition is a loose alliance of Downtown Eastside and Gastown residents, non-profit groups and retailers. The Gastown association was recently founded by three Gastown residents, and is currently on a membership drive.

On the pro-stadium side, the Whitecaps have been courting the business community and key individuals such as Bruce Allen. Their supporters are organizing among the wider soccer community.

Both groups are sure to be out in force at city hall in mid-June, when council decides whether to take the stadium proposal to the next planning stage.

Next week, city staff will release two consultants’ reports: one a technical review, the other the results of its community consultation.

After a $160,000 review of the proposal, funded by the Whitecaps, city planner Kevin McNaney is drafting a report that’s due out in late May.

Staff met about 1,000 people at open houses and interviewed property owners, business groups and community groups.

Central Waterfront Coalition founding member Ian Armitage lives a soccer-ball’s kick away from the edge of the proposed stadium.

“This mega-structure would essentially entomb about 22 residents in our building,” said Armitage, who lives on the water side of Water Street.

“I think it should be shelved until they at least come up with a more coherent and cohesive plan for the [waterfront] land.”

Jon Stovell, spokesman for the Gastown Neighbourhood Coalition, said Gastown is becoming a heritage precinct and the stadium would be like a monster in its back yard.

GNC has hired two urban designers to come up with an alternative vision for the central waterfront.

GRA founding member Claudia Schulz said residents don’t want thousands of soccer fans with cars coming into Gastown.

“What we would like to see is a Soho-style urban residential area, with coffee shops and small businesses,” said Schulz.

Meantime, Whitecaps president John Rocha is encouraging supporters to write letters to city hall.

“There are specific groups that have objections to our project, but what we find is the broad support for our project is quite strong,” said Rocha.

A Whitecaps-funded poll last October showed 71 per cent of Vancouverites support the stadium, with 15 per cent opposed.

And there’s John Knox of the Vancouver Southsiders, a group of Whitecaps season-ticket holders, who says soccer fans all over B.C. are busy networking.

“I really have to laugh at what really is a concerted effort to paint the fans of the Whitecaps, by these opponents of the stadium, as being drunken yahoos, who are going to be marauding through the neighbourhood.

“It’s absolutely unfair and unfounded. We like to sing. We like to have a pint or two, but we don’t cause problems — and we’ve absolutely no interest in hassling people downtown.”

© The Vancouver Province 2006


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