Vancouver is counting down for MLS Soccer: But not if Carole James has her way
Vancouver's hugely popular Whitecaps soccer operation recently finessed one of the best deals for the City of Vancouver seen in years. They landed a coveted MLS (Major League Soccer) franchise for the city, and orchestrated a brilliant real estate proposal for developing the area adjacent to BC Place in partnership with the City and the Province in return for a renovated, retractable roof and state of the art soccer stadium on False Creek.
In a matter of a couple of weeks Phase One of ticket sales for the 2011 arrival of MLS in Vancouver sold out, with ticket sales for Phase Two en route. It is perhaps the single best good news story for the City in a year that has otherwise been about chickens and gang wars. However, someone forgot to let the strategists in the BC NDP's backroom about this.
The NDP's attack ads against the BC Place renovation have triggered a backlash from soccer fans who are outraged that the union-backed opposition are trying to ruin their party. The non-partisan pro-soccer lobby group Friends of Soccer are slamming what they call "mis-leading" ads that falsely label the soccer stadium development as an attack on homeless people:
The BC New Democratic Party ran a series of internet ads on several soccer-related websites condemning the renovation of BC Place, and falsely suggesting that the cost of the renovation is coming at the expense of healthcare and the homeless. We at Friends of Soccer find these ads extremely misleading and innapropriate. We call on the NDP to immediately back away from this irresponsible threat to the future of soccer in our province.
Mayor Gregor Robertson must find himself in a jam over this one. First of all he's supposedly a soccer fan. Secondly, he's been trying to work cooperatively with the Premier and the development community, and he should know that the BC Place development is a vital part of the Vancouver's planning and economic strategy for the downtown core. On the flipside he gets his political and financial support from the same labour unions who back the NDP, and he has his strings pulled to a large extent by Geoff "Mayor" Meggs, who is rooting for James.
I can just imagine the awkward phone conversation between Mayor Gregor Robertson and NDP Opposition leader Carole James:
Gregor Robertson: Hi, Carole? It's Mayor Robertson.
Carole James: Who? I'm not sure I know that name.
Robertson: Alright, Carole. Can't you let that one go?
James: So now it's fine to phone me, eh? How about when you decided to step down as an MLA last summer. What happened? Lose your cell phone charger? It would have been nice not to learn about it in a scrum.
Robertson: Fine. Can we talk about BC Place for just a minute? I know attacking land deals plays to the base and all, but have any of you guys heard the expression soccer moms? There's a few of them in the Lower Mainland, along with their husbands and kids. A bunch of them vote. Did it occur to any of your people that screwing the deal on our new soccer stadium might kill your chances in a few swing ridings around here?
James: Since when did you become Ken Dobell? Besides, the Google ads have already gone viral and our supporters love 'em. Stadiums or health care? The choice is clear for British Columbians...
The call would not have gone well from there.
Clearly soccer fans have reason for some trepidation. The polls show that with a good bounce the NDP are within reach of forming government. If Carole James is Premier, there's a good chance that pro soccer fans in Metro Vancouver will have to tough it out for a few more years at Swangard Stadium.
UPDATE: Vaughn Palmer's new blog provides additional coverage on the NDP wanting to scrap plans for the soccer stadium retrofit at BC Place. Vancouver MLA Adrian Dix has all but ruled out support for the stadium under an NDP government by stating:
"I think [the BC Place retrofit with the soccer stadium] just shows what (Campbell's) priorities are, and we're going to have a very different priorities in the election."
You can read Vaughn's post on this here.