(Photo Credit: Vancouver FC)
Last April’s announcement that a new Canadian Premier League was coming to the Fraser Valley drew a lot of excitement and anticipation, but subsequent information about the new club have moved at what’s felt like a glacial pace in the 10 months that have followed.
In fact it was pretty much radio silence till November when we got to learn of the new club’s name, identity, and who their first head coach was going to be. The announcement of players has sporadically followed since Callum Irving’s reveal as their first ever addition on December 14th. There’s also been draft picks, local trials, training sessions with 30 of those players to make it through, and even a friendly match against Trinity Western Spartans, which TWU won 2-1.
But fans have been clamouring for more information on a number of things, and it has to be noted that not all of the delays in getting stuff out there has been the fault of the fledgling club.
Speedbumps along the way have been innumerable, but Vancouver FC finally revealed one of the most sought after snippets of information on Thursday afternoon, the first rendering of its new stadium (as pictured above).
The 6,500 capacity soccer-specific stadium is a first in the Lower Mainland. The stadium’s modern modular design is based on the likes of Empire Field, the temporary and oft-missed venue which Vancouver Whitecaps called home for most of their inaugural MLS season in 2011. Built by SixFive Stadium Experience, the company set up by Vancouver FC owners SixFive Sports & Entertainment after their initial involvement with Pacific FC, the stadium is built as part of their aim to improve the soccer infrastructure in Canada by building similar, fan-friendly professional stadiums across the country.
“The modular stadium system dramatically reduces onsite construction time and allows municipalities to create professional and intimate soccer-specific venues for a fraction of the budget typically spent on arenas and concrete stadiums,” Dean Shillington, Managing Partner of SixFive Sports & Entertainment, parent company of SixFive Stadium Experience and Vancouver Football Club, said in a club press release.
“We hope to create a true, authentic soccer destination for all. This stadium will become the heartbeat of the community for years to come and is a very flexible amenity that can expand as the sport of soccer continues to grow in Canada.”
The first shipping containers housing the club’s unique flat pack stadium arrived at the Port of Vancouver on Wednesday. Work is underway at the future home of Vancouver FC to lay the concrete foundations and site services that will support the prefabricated modular structure, with construction expected to take just six weeks.
@aftncanada @vanfootballclub Was out for a walk earlier and checked up on the progress of the future CPL pitch. Construction well underway on the east/west seating areas. @CPLsoccer pic.twitter.com/kvGrutuGHJ
— Alex 🇵🇹🇨🇦 (@alex60494) January 20, 2023
The club say that the new, currently unnamed stadium will offer up to 6,560 local soccer fans “an immersive game day experience” during Vancouver FC’s first season. As to exactly what that means, the aim is to build an atmosphere to rival some of the best in the game worldwide. The stadium, located at Willoughby Community Park at the Langley Events Centre, is designed to grow with the club and its surrounding community, and is able to expand in capacity and amenities to serve its supporters now and in the future, with the hope is that the “electric atmosphere” that the ‘Caps saw at Empire can be replicated and bettered in Langley 12 years later.
The south end of the stadium will be home to Vancouver’s supporters’ groups. The east grandstand will be home to a Cabana Club, while VIP dining and Tunnel Club-style experiences will be offered below the west grandstand. Vancouver’s youngest fans will be entertained in the Family Zone, located at the north end of the stadium, and there will be several entertainment plazas located throughout the stadium, including an area designated to house a mini food truck festival on each match day, offering a selection of eats from local businesses.
“We are delighted to share our vision for our future home with our fans, who can expect a stadium to rise before their eyes in the coming months as we look ahead to hosting our first match in club history later this year,” said Rob Friend, President, Vancouver FC. “We are excited to provide a proper football experience for every fan that walks through our doors, and to see this stadium come to life in the near future.”
Vancouver is scheduled to host its inaugural home match on Sunday, May 7 at 4 p.m. PT against Cavalry FC.
While there is a lot to like about the new stadium design, including the intimate nature of it and the proximity of all fans to the pitch, there is one glaring omission and that is roofs over the stands.
To build modern, stadiums in Canada without coverings continues to baffle me. To do so in an area which has such heavy rainfall is staggering. Now you can argue that much of the season will be played in the nicer weather and that Canadian are a hardy bunch, but the fact of the matter is, if you’re targeting the more casual fans and especially families, they are not going to want to sit and get drenched for two hours or burnt to a crisp or get heatstroke under the beating sun. Not to mention the added atmosphere a roof brings with it in containing the noise.
If you want to have a prime example of that locally, you can look at some of the issues that Altitude had in that regard in their inaugural L1BC season with uncovered bleachers.
Having commentated on the CCAA nationals at the venue in October, the way the sun moves around the stadium is going to make for some very uncomfortable viewing in the summer months. Plus you also have to consider what damage the sun and rain will do to the seating in the stadium over time.
Now, again, it has to be said that this is not Vancouver FC’s ideal rendering. The initial plans we saw last year had a roof over all of the stands and that is still what the club are hoping to add down the line in phase 2 of the development. For now, it’s just a case of getting something up there for this fast approaching first season.
Construction will begin very soon and we’ll bring you regular updates here on the site and on our Twitter page. Fans can also expect a slew of further announcements soon on more players, including local ones, jerseys, and preseason plans, which will see a number of matches against local and CPL sides played around the area to get the club out and about more in the community.