Expansion Vancouver FC gave fans a glimpse of its new home Thursday at Willoughby Community Park at the Langley Events Centre.
The fledgling Canadian Premier League franchise released an artist’s rendering of its planned soccer-specific stadium — a modular design that will accommodate up to 6,560 fans on game day in its inaugural 2023 season.
Amazingly the stadium is scheduled to be completed in some six weeks.
“It’s quite a surprising thing that we don’t see much of in North America,” said Dean Shillington, part of Vancouver FC’s ownership group SixFive Sports & Entertainment. “It’s a prefabricated product basically. If you think of how a prefabricated house would be assembled. It’s the same thing.”
Think IKEA or LEGO on a stadium-size scale.
Work is underway at the site to lay the concrete foundations and site services that will support the prefabricated structure. The first shipping containers housing prefabricated parts of the facility arrived Wednesday at the Port of Vancouver.
The containers are taken to the stadium where parts are assembled “like a LEGO stadium.”
The plan calls for the stadium to be ready for Vancouver’s first home match May 7 against Cavalry FC. The expansion team will play its first three league games on the road, kicking off the season April 15 at Pacific FC.
The club says the venue “is designed to grow with the club and its surrounding community.”
“We hope over the coming years to add to the stands, add a covered roof to the structure and build it out as we hope the sport and the community build out,” Shillington said.
The stadium is owned by and will be operated by the Township of Langley. The soccer franchise is involved in its construction through its parent company’s affiliate SixFive Stadium Experience — a business that came out of the group’s experiences with Pacific FC’s Starlight Stadium in Langford and the new Langley venue.
Such stadiums range in price from $10 million to $25 million. Shillington says his company already has a number of stadium projects across the country.
“This is by far the most affordable for municipalities and the quickest timeline for anyone to execute in any realistic way,” Shillington said.
Such projects can be done in eight to 12 months from start to finish, he added.
The modular design is based on the likes of Empire Field, the club said. Empire Field was a temporary soccer and CFL stadium built at Hastings Park, built to accommodate local teams while a new retractable roof was installed at B.C. Place Stadium in 2010 and 2011.
Halifax Wanderers FC, an original CPL team, has its own modular home, Wanderers Ground.
The two B.C. CPL clubs are owned by SixFive Sports & Entertainment, whose lead investors are Shillington and former Canadian internationals Rob Friend and Josh Simpson.
While the clubs share ownership, the league says the club operations are separate.
Friend will be the point man for the Vancouver franchise while Simpson focuses on Pacific.
SixFive Sports & Entertainment is a global football fund “seeking investments in high growth markets, under-managed European clubs, and distressed or turnaround opportunities.” The name comes from Friend’s and Shillington’s height.
The south end of the new stadium will be home to Vancouver’s supporters’ groups. The east grandstand will be home to a Cabana Club, while VIP dining and “Tunnel Club”-style experiences will be offered below the west grandstand.
A Family Zone will be located at the north end of the stadium.
The venue will offer “several entertainment plazas” including an area designated to house a mini-food truck festival on game day.