CITY CENTRE â€“ Surrey council has agreed on recommendations from the parks, recreation and culture department to enter into talks with the Vancouver Whitecaps to bring a United Soccer Leagues Pro team to Surrey.â€¨ â€¨
The recommendation, passed by city council on Monday (Oct. 20), authorizes staff to â€œnegotiate an operating agreementâ€ with the Whitecaps to make Surrey the home of their farm team.â€¨ â€¨
The report proposed to make Newton Athletic Park the potential temporary home for the USL club. The turf pitch is also where the Kwantlen Eagles play their home matches as the university invested $1 million, while the city put up the remaining $2.5 million, to build the field.â€¨ â€¨
Shortly after the announcement was made, Doug McCallum and the Safe Surrey Coalition sent out a release stating the idea would be a â€œbig mistake.â€â€¨ â€¨
"The Whitecaps are looking for a free ride, and it seems as though the only municipality willing to fit the bill is the City of Surrey," McCallum said in the release. "I met with over a dozen soccer clubs last night at the same time as the council meeting, and players are more interested in investing in infrastructure that provides recreational opportunities for residents, not professional players.â€¨ â€¨
"When professional teams come calling, however, the City of Surrey jumps at the chance to spend taxpayers’ money to court a business at the expense of our citizens,â€ added McCallum.â€¨
McCallum and the Safe Surrey Coalition feel Surrey amateur athletes shouldn’t be displaced to make room for a professional team looking to land a publicly-funded stadium.
According to the recommendation, $214,000 would be needed in the budget to pay for three tow-behind bleachers, concrete paving, the fencing surrounding the pitch and other costs.â€¨ â€¨
The Whitecaps require a minimum 3,500 seats, washrooms with controlled access, broadcast-level lighting, video board and control room, public address system and scoreboard, a minimum of two dressing rooms, a permanent Whitecaps storage area and 500 parking stalls.â€¨ â€¨
If the Whitecaps land an affiliated club in the Lower Mainland, it would be the only Canadian team.â€¨ â€¨
There are currently eight teams set to expand for the 2015 season starting in March, including the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders reserve teams.