VANCOUVER, B.C. – Vancouver Whitecaps' plan to launch a USL PRO team next season have been thrown into turmoil after New Westminster city council unanimously rejected Monday evening the club’s plans to move into a refurbished Queens Park Stadium.
Whitecaps President Bobby Lenarduzzi said the club was both surprised and disappointed by the decision.
"We had dialogue right up to the council meeting yesterday afternoon," Lenarduzzi told reporters at Whitecaps training on Tuesday. "I wasn't involved in that dialogue, but the people that were from our end actually were feeling that there was a chance. From that perspective it was a surprise and the fact that it was unanimous was also a surprise as well and a disappointment."
But it could be a case of one door closing and a number of others opening following the decision, with the Whitecaps being courted by a number of suitors expressing a desire in having the 'Caps new USL PRO team call their city home.
"The one thing about going through this exercise with New Westminster is that it's generated a lot of profile," Lenarduzzi said. "Once the decision was announced, we had calls from communities that we hadn't been speaking to prior, and obviously the areas we had been talking to we'll re-engage with them.
"I think each community offers up different opportunities. Some have existing venues, others have indicated that they might be prepared to build a venue for USL PRO. We'll meet with each of the municipalities and we'll get into specifics and ideally there'll be an interest in hosting us in their community."
Lenarduzzi admitted that playing in a temporary home for their first season would be a last-ditch alternative they'd consider. Although no firm cutoff date has been given to them by the USL, the Whitecaps are aware that the clock is now ticking to get everything sorted out in time for next year.
"There is going to be a crunch time but as of right now, we've spoken to USL and they've indicated that they'll give us a bit of leeway," Lenarduzzi said. "They haven't given us a drop-dead date at this point. We know that in order to give us the best chance of success next year that we ideally find a partner in the lower mainland that's excited about the opportunities that USL brings to their community."
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The signings yesterday of Homegrown players Marco Bustos and Kianz Froese adds to Vancouver’s burgeoning young talent pool and the Whitecaps know the importance of getting all of these players the key development minutes that they need, which a USL PRO team provides.
"It's our desire and it's our focus to find a partner and have a team in USL next season," Lenarduzzi added. "I don't think you can ever be definitive when you're in the situation that we're in when we don't have a confirmed partner right now in terms of where we're going to play.
"But it's our intent and we, as a club, are so focused on providing the opportunities for [our young] players. We don't want to waste another year of, if they're not in the MLS starting rotation that they waste a year of their development. So we're committed to, and focused on, getting it done for 2015."