Canucks and Lions say little about Surrey mayor’s campaign promise to build huge stadium
The Vancouver Canucks and BC Lions are staying mum on a 60,000-seat stadium in Surrey promised by Mayor Doug McCallum in his re-election platform.
On CBC The first edition, McCallum told host Stephen Quinn he was talking to both clubs “…to see if there’s any possibility that we can set up games or farm teams or work with them in terms of hockey and football.”
When asked if they had discussed the stadium with McCallum, the Vancouver Canucks said “no comment.”
BC Lions communications manager Matt Baker said: “I can’t confirm that, although I heard the mayor say so, so do what you want with it.”
McCallum told CBC that a Surrey stadium makes sense for these teams because most of the spectators attending Lions and Canucks games “are actually from Surrey.” Both clubs declined to comment on his statement.
The idea of building such a huge stadium in the suburbs of Surrey has drawn criticism, jokes and a lot of headaches.
Although McCallum touts it as a multipurpose facility for sports, cultural events, and film production, it’s hard to find merit in the idea.
On the one hand, the region already has the BC Place stadium in Vancouver with 54,500 rarely filled seats.
Average attendance for Vancouver Lions and Vancouver Whitecaps home games at BC Place is hovering around 20,000 and 16,000 respectively in 2022, and tall curtains wrap thousands of empty seats in the upper bowl to try to make the stadium look more smaller and more visually appealing for television.
Watch | An analysis of the feasibility of building a 60,000 seater stadium in Surrey:
Large stadiums usually have a strong anchor tenant to keep the economy running and often depend on government subsidies and tax breaks for construction and operation.
As owners of the Vancouver Canucks and Rogers Arena, the Aquilini family has a well-integrated business that isn’t going anywhere.
BC Place is owned and operated by the province as PavCo. It is assumed that the province will not line up to subsidize a competitor.
“During the municipal election cycle, there are a lot of ideas and debates generated, and we can’t talk about that,” said PavCo Senior Director Meaghan Benmore.
And then there is the cost. By comparison, the estimated price of the new 60,000-seat stadium under construction for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills is US$1.4 billion. McCallum said he had yet to start drawing up a business plan for the Surrey stadium.
“We did some reviews. We spoke to different sports organizations, and once we get elected, we’ll start the next day and develop a business case,” he said.
“Try changing the channel”
McCallum is sure to face questions about the stadium, which some say could be the real focus of the stadium drill, with his public mischief trial scheduled for late October, two weeks after the mayoral election.
McCallum is facing the accusation about a claim that someone ran on his foot in a grocery store parking lot.
“I think he’s clearly trying to change channels here. He’s trying to get people talking about something other than his foot,” said Hamish Telford, a political scientist at the University of the Fraser Valley.
Telford believes the stadium concept appeals to civic pride and is reminiscent of McCallum’s previous successful campaign, where he promised to replace the RCMP with a municipal police force and expand the SkyTrain.
“You know, big cities have these things. Big cities have their own police forces. Big cities have subways and train lines and…big cities have stadiums.”
However, without a realistic plan, Telford says there is a risk the stadium bet will be too “pie in the sky”.
“People are talking about something else. But in the longer term, he’ll have to support the idea if he wants it to work for him,” Telford said.