Just as Seattle overcame obstacles to finally secure an MLS franchise, our Pacific Northwest neighbors are also in search of solutions.
Both Portland and Vancouver are seeking assistance from local authorities in fixing stadium issues, and all the while the cost of purchasing a team is climbing.
According to a report this week in the Oregonian, the price for an MLS franchise has jumped 33 percent this spring, to $40 million. Seattle and Philadelphia, which begins play in 2010, paid $30 million. Ten months ago, San Jose’s entry fee was $20 million and Toronto bought in for $10 million in 2006.
Both Vancouver and Portland are proven markets. The Timbers averaged nearly 7,000 fans last season and the Whitecaps draw over 5,000 in Swangard Stadium.
In Oregon, club and city officials would appear to be working in concert. PGE Park requires a major renovation, including installation of seats along the east sideline. In addition, the Triple A baseball club would need a new home. Combined price tag: $55 million.
Up north, Whitecaps owner Greg Kerfoot is not asking for financial assistance, only cooperation from local and federal government agencies.
Kerfoot purchased land between Gastown and Burrard Inlet three years ago and he intends to foot the bill for a $90 million, 15,000-seat stadium. He has proposed a land swap with the Port of Vancouver, but he Port has effectively blocked the stadium project, claiming it wants to preserve rail access to its adjoining property. Now, ex-mayor Larry Campbell is trying to mediate an agreement.
Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi, frustrated by the lack of movement, is suggesting a renovated B.C. Place as a temporary home to an MLS team.
All the while, the clock ticks, the figure on the tote board balloons and patience of some passionate fans is pushed toward the limit.
As for Seattle, the wait for the Sounders FC debut is being mitigated by the visit of some attractive international sides.
Brazil, the most successful (four World Cups) and star-studded national team in the world, comes to Qwest Field May 31 to face Canada. Last month it was Mexico making its Northwest first call, and there’s still another six months remaining in 2009 for more.
Certainly, Brazil’s arrival is creating quite a buzz. The prospect of seeing Kaka–the reigning world player of the year–alongside two-time winner Ronaldinho is especially enticing. And Real Madrid’s Robinho ain’t too shabby.
Tickets go on sale Monday (May 5) at Ticketmaster.com, SoundersFC.com and the Qwest Field box office.
For sheer star power, this is shaping up as the city’s biggest series of soccer blockbusters since 1976. That year, on the same piece of real estate, none other than Pele, Zico and Eusebio were on display at the Kingdome, playing for the Cosmos, Brazil and NASL champion Toronto, respectively.
Sounders in Spotlight
For the next couple weekends the Sounders will get the center-stage treatment.
On Friday night (May 2), Seattle can be seen playing live on Fox Soccer Channel (5 p.m. live, midnight delayed) in a USL Division 1 Championship rematch with Atlanta. It’s the first time the two clubs have met since the Sounders thrashed the Silverbacks last September for the league title. Altogether, Seattle will make four FSC regular season appearances.
Fans can celebrate the Sounders home May 10, when they play their home opener at Qwest. Save by getting tickets in advance for $13 at the stadium box office or SeattleSounders.net. Prices go up to $15 on the day of game.
Turn On, Tune In
Once and perhaps future Sounders keeper Marcus Hahnemann is one of a kind, and he’s relishing the pressure as Reading faces the threat of relegation from the English Premier League. Hahnemann and the Royals host Spurs in the first game on FSC (7 a.m.) Saturday morning. At the same hour on Setanta, Fulham and Birmingham play in what is virtually a loser-out match.
Later (FSC, 2 p.m.) it’s the 2008 TV debut of Hope Solo and the Beijing-bound U.S. women against Australia.
The MLS fare features Columbus, surprising early leader in the East, hosting Kansas City (FSC, 4:30). From the underachieving West, equally surprising Houston (they’re winless) plays Chivas USA (HDNet, 5:30).
Sunday offers two delicious derbies: Milan-Inter (FSC, 6 a.m.) and Boca Juniors-River Plate (FSC, 11 a.m.) from the La Bombonera. That stadium rocked Sounders FC general manager Adrian Hanauer during his recent visit to Buenos Aires and viewers should get a good idea of what he experienced.
You’ll need an alarm clock and either a friendly bartender or a friend with a Setanta subscription to see how the EPL title race plays out. Deadlocked with two games remaining, Man United hosts West Ham Saturday (4:30 a.m.) and Chelsea travels to Newcastle Monday (8 a.m.).
Starfire Sports Complex will be the site of the state cup finals for girls U15-18 this weekend. Semifinals are Saturday and championship games Sunday…Not only will the UEFA Champions League Final be an all-English affair but the UEFA Cup Final will also feature a British team. Scotland’s Rangers prevailed on penalties against Fiorentina and faces Russia’s Zenit May 14 in Manchester. Chelsea and Manchester United meet for Europe’s top prize May 21 in Moscow…According to Forbes, David Beckham led all footballers in earnings for 2007. Beckham made $37 million in endorsement-related income to go along with a combined $12 million from Real Madrid and L.A. Galaxy. Ronaldinho (combined $32.6m) and Thierry Henry ($25.1m) were next in line. Chelsea had five players among the top 20…The Sounders women’s team opens its season at home May 15, facing Ventura County at Starfire…Mexico’s Panchuca won a place in next December’s Club World Cup. Panchuca beat Saprissa of Costa Rica for the CONCACAF Champions Cup. The new CONCACAF Champions League replaces the former and begins preliminary stages in late August.