VANCOUVER, B.C. – Finally, a place for the Vancouver Whitecaps to call home.
After years of searching for an ideal location and prolonged discussions with municipalities and the government in British Columbia, the ‘Caps will have a soccer-specific training facility to rival any in Major League Soccer.
Along with the provincial government, the club unveiled its plans on Thursday to build the National Soccer Development Centre at the University of British Columbia’s Thunderbird Park.
WATCH: 'Caps unveil plans for training facility
“Today, definitely – there is no doubt about it – represents a significant milestone in the sport of soccer in this province, in this country and for the Vancouver Whitecaps Football Club,” club president Bob Lenarduzzi said at Thursday's press conference. “It’s groundbreaking in that regard, and will only be something that we’ll look back upon and probably look at as a pivotal moment in the evolution of the sport here in this province.”
The facility will have five new or upgraded fields, and will receive B.C. government funding to the tune of $14.5 million. The Whitecaps themselves will pay $15 million for the facility that will cost $32.5 million in total. UBC is providing the land as its contribution to the project.
While the Whitecaps play their matches on artificial turf at BC Place, carrying out the majority of training sessions on artificial turf as the team has been doing at Burnaby Lake Field was never an ideal scenario. This facility will allow the team to train on either real grass or an artificial surface, as three of the fields will be grass and two artificial.
“We have to temper [training] quite a lot – we probably can only do 70 percent of what I’ve been able to do over the last few years at a lower level,” head coach Martin Rennie said of training on artificial turf following the announcement. “Being on turf you have to watch you don’t get injured, you can’t do the fitness work you would do, you can’t train as long as you would like. Turf does make a big difference to the body when you’re doing it every single day.
“For us to be able to get a facility like this which will have fantastic grass fields is a massive advantage and something that will help us a lot.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.