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33% reduced-rent deal with City of Surrey keeps BC Lions football facility in Whalley

Current market rates ‘unaffordable’ to CFL club, to pay $1.39M in new 5-year lease agreement
In July 2016, then-BC Lions quarterback Jonathon Jennings (in hat) teaches kids to throw the football during a “Play with the Pros” skills camp at the CFL team’s practice facility in Whalley. (File photo: Tom Zillich)

The BC Lions will keep their practice facility in Surrey at a rate 33 per cent below the appraised rent, thanks in part to the football club being “active members of the community.”

Surrey city council has OK’d a five-year lease-agreement extension with the CFL team for its clubhouse and field in Whalley, at 10601 City Parkway.

The club’s “partnering agreement” with the City of Surrey calls for a negotiated rent of $1.39M over the five years of the new deal, or $580,698 below the appraised rent.

Details of the lease agreement are included in a corporate report to council posted to

Lions president Rick Lelacheur calls it “a reasonable deal” for the club.

“We’d like to pay less, of course,” he said Tuesday (July 26), “but I think we came to a fair and equitable agreement. In that report it was pointed out that the Lions do a lot in the community, particularly in the Surrey community and in the schools, with a number of programs, and I think the city likes that as well.”

Since acquiring the lands in 1991, the report says, the City of Surrey has leased the building and field to the Lions for their head office and training facility. “The current lease is in its final year and the Lions have requested that a new five-year lease be granted by the City to allow them to continue with their football operations at this location.”

Market lease rates and land values in City Centre have risen “dramatically” in recent years “due to substantial real estate investment by private developers and the City,” the report notes.

“This significant change in market rates has rendered the premises unaffordable to the Lions. Staff recognize the importance of retaining the Lions within the City, and more particularly at their current location.

“The Lions have historically been, and continue to be, active members of the community, participating in civic celebrations, various fundraisers, and other local events. The Lions have committed to work with City staff to add to this level of community involvement during the proposed new lease term.”

• RELATED STORY/VIDEO: On a Surrey field, BC Lions players teach football and life skills to Indigenous youth.

Lelacheur figures the Lions have practiced in Whalley since 1983 — long before he became president of the club five years ago.

“It’s a good location for us, and being right on the SkyTrain really helps our players. We like it there, and I think the city likes us there too.

“Whalley is seeing better days ahead, with the all the development,” he added. “I don’t know how much they need, but I think with the development of all the high-rises, they do need some greenspace. To me, it’s just been a win-win being there. Since I’ve been here, we haven’t looked around elsewhere.”

• RELATED: Housing in Surrey is expensive, even for Lions.

The new five-year lease provides for “early termination upon 12 months written notice by either party after the second year of the term,” the report to council notes.

Terms of the lease say the Lions are responsible for property taxes and the day-to-day maintenance of the building and field. The city is responsible for structural repairs and capital replacements, such as HVAC and roofing.

At a council meeting Monday (July 25), Mayor Doug McCallum said the Lions have been “a tremendous corporate partner in that lease because they’ve been out in our community in so many functions, encouraging our young people to get active.

“The new owners are excited to be in Surrey,” McCallum added.

Last August, B.C. entrepreneur Amar Doman, a fan of the CFL club since age 10, was introduced as new owner of the Lions.

Coun. Allison Patton said she’s noticing “a lot of hype about the BC Lions these days. Down south I hear women in their 50s talking they’re going to the BC Lions games and you know all the different individuals, kids excited, so I’m pleased we can have the facility there.”

Meantime, the Lions’ next “Backyard Block Party” will return to Robson Street in Vancouver, near BC Place Stadium, on Saturday, Aug. 6. Famous Players Band will perform at the event, which starts at 3 p.m., prior to a game against Edmonton Elks. This event is for fans 19 and over with two pieces of government ID required upon entry.

Fans of all ages will be able to join the expanded party on Terry Fox Plaza, with $5 beers and margaritas for those 19 and over, as well as food specials.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: BC Lions practise in Surrey for their first home game in nearly two years.

Rare chance for kids to ‘Play with Pros’ at B.C. Lions field in Surrey (photos, video).

with file from Tom Zytaruk

Tom Zillich

About the Author: Tom Zillich

I cover entertainment, sports and news stories for the Surrey Now-Leader, where I've worked for more than half of my 30-plus years in the newspaper business.
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