VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The Vancouver Whitecaps, student athletes and young soccer lovers have a new home at UBC now that the university has cut the ribbon on its National Soccer Development Centre.
The field house will act as the official joint training facility for the UBC Thunderbirds and Whitecaps.
Students participating in a variety of sports from soccer, to track and field will have access to the 473,600-square-foot fields and facility.
“When our women’s team walked into the change room for the first time, there were tears,” said steeplechase athlete and UBC marine biology student Brianna Cairns, remembering when shipping containers next to the old fields were used as changing rooms, physiotherapy clinics and storage space. “People were just so excited and feel like it’s just a vote of confidence for the team, like ‘OK, we might actually mean something now.'”
The five-year, $32.5 million project boasts a variety of amenities, including three grass and two artificial turf fields, student and player change rooms, a Whitecaps’ lounge, a sports science wing, and physiotherapy rooms.
The province contributed $14.5 million while the Whitecaps paid $15 million and UBC donated land valued at $3 million.
The facility will also serve as the western base for Canada’s men’s, women’s and youth national teams, while more than half of the field time will be dedicated to community soccer.
The Whitecaps started using the space earlier this summer after waiting more than a decade since discussions around building this type of facility began.
The 38,000-square-foot fieldhouse is a big step up from where the team started 43 years ago, according to Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi. “We were the beneficiaries of public parks and schools. We were gypsies. We trained where anybody would have us,” he said during his speech at Friday’s grand opening. “So having this, it’s been worth the wait because this is stunning.”
Soccer needs to carve out its own niche in the Canadian professional sports world, Lenarduzzi said, and he believes this new facility will go a long way towards helping it accomplish that and Canada’s 2026 World Cup bid.