Whitecaps prez happy with new practice digs 0
Bob Lenarduzzi speaks to media Monday at the Whitecaps’ new temporary practice facility at the University of B.C. (Hosea Cheung, 24 hours)
The fact that Saturday’s big opening day match at BC Place is still about a couple thousand tickets away from a sellout doesn’t come as a surprise to Bob Lenarduzzi.
Considering NHL hockey has been back in action for more than a month, to go with the typical procrastinating nature of Vancouverites, the Whitecaps president said the numbers are pretty consistent with past seasons.
“With the Canucks starting late, the hype around that and the interest around that has obviously detracted from us, and I’m not complaining for a minute,” Lenarduzzi said, adding there’s always a significant walk-up. “I get they are the hot sports property of the marketplace. We understand for us it’s just a question of continuing to build the fan base … and I continue to say to people that haven’t been out that you need to get out just to be part of the atmosphere.”
But sellout or not, it didn’t deter Lenarduzzi from sporting a big smile Monday as the club unveiled the first phase of their new training facility to the media at the University of B.C.
The 4,000-square-foot area, which is connected to the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre, will serve as the club’s temporary practice base for the next two years before phases two and three of the National Soccer Development Centre are completed. That includes a new fieldhouse, two state-of-the-art grass fields and two turf fields — which will total about 25,000 to 30,000 square feet.
The process for finding a permanent practice home has taken nearly a decade, according to team COO Rachel Lewis, but it was only about two years ago that talks with UBC began. The price tag for the entire project will be $32.5 million.
“It’s long overdue but the fact that it’s here and the players will come in (Tuesday) for the first time and get a feel for it just before the home opener, it’s going to be a nice lift for them,” Lenarduzzi said. “It should have been something that we had. For whatever reason it’s just taken this long, but we now have it and it’s a great base to build on.
“We’ve got a lot to look forward to once we complete the whole project in terms of the training centre.”
He added it will hopefully help in attracting players in the future.
“It’s a significant part of recruitment,” he said. “Aside from the fact that we live in such a beautiful city and a lot of people are aware about it, this is just another piece of the puzzle right now.”
Back in town Monday after a pre-season schedule that saw them compile a 6-1-1 record, the third-year Whitecaps will make final preparations for their opener Saturday at BC Place against Toronto FC.
The team will train Tuesday at UBC, hold a jersey launch on Wednesday night, have media day Thursday — also at UBC — before closing out their final practice of the week Friday at BC Place. Saturday’s match, which kicks off at 3:30 p.m., will be their third straight home opener — and their second against TFC.
“Every club that’s starting up a new season always feels optimistic,” Lenarduzzi said. “I do believe sincerely that we’ve added some very good pieces.
“We want to be a team that goes out and attacks, but in order to have success you have to make sure that you’re not conceding as many goals as we did last year.”
Captain Jay DeMerit is doubtful for Saturday’s game as the defender is still dealing with achilles soreness … Defender Johnny Leveron and midfielder Paulo Jr. remained in North Carolina to train with the NASL RailHawks while the Whitecaps worked on obtaining their visas … The Whitecaps officially added goalie Simon Thomas Monday. The Victoria, B.C. native will serve as the third-string keeper behind Brad Knighton and Joe Cannon.