A City of Surrey staff report passed by City Council yesterday recommends displacing 29 sports local sports groups to accommodate the Whitecaps USL Pro team, which is a plan that has already been rejected by the City of New Westminster in September due to concern over costs.
The Whitecaps have spent the past year looking for a municipality to build a 3,500-seat stadium (with expansion capability to 5,000 seats) on taxpayers’ dime. Already by-passed by a number of Metro Vancouver municipalities, the City of Surrey’s aggressive recruitment campaign is baffling according to Surrey mayoral candidate Doug McCallum.
“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,” says McCallum. “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.”
The City of Surrey is proposing an immediate expenditure of $214,000 to purchase bleachers and build new surfaces for the Newton Athletic Park to serve as a temporary home for the team. The staff report also recommends a feasibility study to determine the needs of the franchise and the millions of dollars in costs involved in building a stadium in time for the 2017 season.
City staff claim that the plan provides “a range of accessible and affordable recreation, cultural and library services that respond to the needs and interests of the City’s diverse population, including children, youth, seniors, multi-cultural groups, families and those with special needs.”
What is ignored in such an assertion, however, is that 29 local sports associations will be displaced during the USL Pro League season. This is indicative of the complete lack of attention to building sports and recreation facilities for the local community over the past six years, according to McCallum.
“The City of Surrey has not updated the official Parks, Recreation and Culture Strategic Plan since 2008, and several of the promised items have still not been delivered,” adds McCallum. “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. This is out of line and unacceptable.”
McCallum and the Safe Surrey Coalition have already released a policy platform that pledges to invest into a new Parks, Recreation and Culture Strategic Plan and update it annually.