VANCOUVER — B.C. Place Stadium will be the site of the first-ever World Cup soccer final played on artificial turf.
The 55,000-seat venue was named as the site of the championship game for the 2015 Women’s World Cup on Thursday, with organizers adding that all other senior men’s and women’s finals have been played on grass.
“There’s a lot of factors that go into (choosing the final venue),” national organizing committee member Steve Reed said following a new conference to announce the selection. “The final match, certainly, we wanted to maximize the number of participants, the number of people that are in the seats. B.C. Place obviously has that capacity.”
Canadian organizers and FIFA, the sport’s world governing body, made the decision on the final venue jointly. Reed is hoping to build on the success of the soldout 2012 CONCACAF women’s Olympic qualifying tournament that was held in Vancouver.
He said the stadium’s new retractable roof, which was installed after the 2010 Winter Olympics, upgraded suites and seats also appealed to FIFA.
All games during the CONCACAF tournament in January 2012 were sold out, with only lower-bowl open. During the World Cup, all seats will be available.
“We’ve got good facilities across Canada,” said Reed. “But, I think, at the end of the day, FIFA looked at B.C. Place and determined that was obviously the best (place) for them.”
Montreal and Edmonton will host semifinal games in the tournament that runs June 6 to July 5 in six Canadian cities.
“Vancouver for the final was part of trying to reach our goal of 1.5 million ticket sales,” said Sandra Gage, the event’s chief marketing officer. “There are really three venues of the six host cities that are capable of reaching that number for us because of their capacities, so (they) would be Montreal, Edmonton and Vancouver.
“And, really, Vancouver is probably the newest stadium in Canada right now (of the host venues), with its refurbishment. So we felt that it was the appropriate place to (host) the final.”
In the past, FIFA has frowned on using artificial turf in major men’s events and professional leagues, because of injury concerns. But Gage said the use of artificial turf has not been an issue in the women’s game.
The Canadians, seeded No. 1 in the Pool A, will open group play with two games in Edmonton and then move to Montreal for their next contest. Other nations will have similar schedules of two games at one venue and one game elsewhere.
“That is done with travel times, distance, time zones to ensure that (the schedule) is fair across the teams,” said Gage.
In total, 52 matches will be played over 30 days with games also scheduled for Winnipeg, Ottawa and Moncton.
“Each of the groups will have a No. 1 seed in them, so all of the markets will have a No. 1 seed playing in them at least two times,” said Gage.
Even if Canada does not reach the final, Vancouver fans will still get to see captain Christine Sinclair and company in action.
“Actually, if you look at the way the schedule is now, if Canada were to finish first in their pool, they would actually play a round of 16 and a quarter-final game here in Vancouver,” said Gage. “If they do not (finish first), the quarter-final would be in Ottawa.”
The schedule was unveiled during news conferences in Vancouver and Edmonton.
Vancouver Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi said the selection of B.C. Place as the final venue was a testament to the support the city displayed for the 2012 CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament.
“The venue is as good as you get anywhere in the world,” said Lenarduzzi. “The province is one of the most beautiful places to visit. So to be hosting the world in July of 2015 is a very exciting prospect.”
Peter Montopoli, the general secretary of the Canadian Soccer Association and the tournament’s national organizing committee chairman, said Vancouver was chosen because of its state-of-the-art facility and experience hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics. But schedule makers faced many challenges as they slotted games.
“The idea was that we needed the spirit of play throughout the entire schedule,” said Montopoli in a telephone interview after attending the Edmonton news conference. “And when you’re working across 52 matches, six official host cities, five times zones, it’s very difficult. It’s never been done before.
“FIFA have never had a challenge like this in terms of a competition that involved five time zone changes. … It took us 33 versions to get to the final version, which we feel was amenable to all — including FIFA.”
The governing body did not have any concerns about playing the final on artificial turf, and the surface did not impact scheduling, he added.
“Right now, the state a two-star artificial turf is on a par with grass, and FIFA is a high proponent of artificial turf,” said Montopoli. “So there’s no reason why it wouldn’t be successful.”
The World Cup draw will be held in November 2014 after all qualifying games are complete.