In 2012, Vancouver Whitecaps FC announced their plan to build a National Soccer Development Centre in association with UBC and the BC provincial government. The facility, which is slated to cost about $32.5 million, will include two turf fields and three grass fields on campus which will serve as a home for both Whitecaps and UBC soccer teams. Whitecaps COO Rachel Lewis explained that building the facility will give the club a more stationary training base.
“When you look at professional sports around the world, every organization, no matter the sport, needs a place they can call home,” said Lewis. “We’ve been a little bit like nomads, wandering from field to field in Metro Vancouver without a place to call home. Thankfully, in the last couple of years, with the first team out at the interim facility — our first phase out at UBC — has been absolutely fantastic and long term. When the rest of the facility is complete, it allows us to have all of our programs, boys and girls, youth to senior, under one roof.”
According to Lewis, the club spent about eight years searching for a site for a permanent facility before ultimately deciding on UBC.
“We’ve been looking at sites around Metro Vancouver for a number of years,” said Lewis. “[We] hadn’t really contemplated the university. And then [we] started the conversation with them and just immediately felt like it was a perfect fit for us. There’s so many synergies around education and sport and our our shared vision for those things. But also, it’s just a spectacular location, it’s a beautiful showcase of the city, it’s a wonderful location close to downtown, and it’s just got a really great, young urban feel that is a perfect fit for our club and our players.”
Kavie Toor, UBC Director of Facilities and Business Development, also believes the university is an ideal site for the training facility.
“I think UBC is uniquely positioned to combine a number of different elements that other municipalities can offer,” said Toor. “That includes linkages with our high performance programs, including our varsity teams, connections with the student body for Whitecaps FC2, connections with the research arm of the university and the sports science side of things. So I think those things uniquely position UBC to be an ideal fit for the Whitecaps partnership.”
In addition, Toor, believes the facility will strengthen the relationship between the Whitecaps and the university and even provide opportunities for varsity athletes to play for the Whitecaps FC2.
“We’re looking to bring the top soccer players in the country,” said Toor. “Having the National Soccer Development Centre as a link with the Whitecaps will be a tremendous interest to perspective students.”
Construction on the facility at UBC already underway and it is estimated to be completed in time for the 2017 MLS season.