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Pacific FC, Langford continue to work toward long-term deal for Starlight Stadium

CPL season kicks off on Saturday
Langford Mayor Scott Goodmanson, left, and Pacific FC managing-director Paul Beirne met the media Thursday to discuss the recent one-year agreement the city and the CPL club signed. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Langford mayor Scott Goodmanson sampled a Trident Burger at a special promotional event Thursday unveiling the fare this season at Starlight Stadium. Soccer fans get their chance at the concessions Saturday as Pacific FC opens its sixth season in the professional Canadian Premier League.

Goodmanson stayed behind on Thursday to watch the Canadian women’s rugby sevens team training on the Starlight Stadium pitch for the Paris Olympics this summer and the national men’s sevens team for its Paris Olympic qualifier.

Sport is invaluable to a community, said former national-level rower Goodmanson, on why he is so keen on keeping as much of it as he can in his community: “I honestly don’t think you can measure that. It is that important. When you have [youth] players that can see and be mentored officially and unofficially by the higher and elite levels of whatever sport, you can’t measure how strong of a connection that is. You have those young athletes who are looking up and saying I want to be like that.”

That’s why he wants to keep Rugby Canada, PFC and the defending B.C. Football Conference champion Westshore Rebels at Starlight Stadium, he said.

The most urgent concern revolves around Pacific FC. The City of Langford council approved a one-year stadium use agreement with the CPL club late Wednesday. According to Langford, contract negotiations were triggered when PFC did not exercise its unilateral right to renew the contract for another five-year term on June 30, 2023.

“We would have rather had five years. But we’ve got the one. And we’ve got this year to sort out what we can do,” said Goodmanson.

“I think both sides want to stay here [Starlight]. Langford city council and the public have all made it clear that we want PFC at the stadium and to be a long-term tenant. We’ve worked hard to show them that and to get a deal.”

A sticking point, reportedly, is the slowness of completing a north grandstand to fully enclose the stadium and bring it to a capacity of about 10,000.

“Council had budgeted money to finish off those plans,” said Goodmanson.

“There were some plans done in 2021 and early 2022. But we know the team and the ­facility need more than what those plans produced. So we are going to refine those plans more on the assumption we are going to have a five-year deal. Then we can have a plan we can take to the public for a referendum and continue on.”

The existing 6,000 seats have only sold out for a few notable soccer games such as PFC’s Canadian Championship tilt in 2021 against the ­Vancouver Whitecaps of MLS, PFC’s ­CONCACAF League games in 2022, a Whitecaps CONCACAF Champions League game this year and two games featuring the 2020 Tokyo Olympic-champion Canadian women’s team against Nigeria and Australia.

It is worth it for those occasions, said PFC managing-director Paul Beirne: “They had to turn people away for some recent games at Starlight [Whitecaps CONCACAF game against UANL Tigres of Mexico and the Canada-Australia women’s game], so mid-size stadiums are super-important for soccer in Canada.”

About the short-term, one-year deal signed with Langford, Beirne added: “Time was working against us so this was done in order to buy time to give Langford an opportunity to do the things it wants before beginning on the next phase. The spirit of cooperation between the two sides has never wavered.”

As part of contract negotiations, PFC requested to explore alternate recreational uses for its 55,000-square-foot indoor training facility in Langford in collaboration with the city. The facility was built in 2019 on city owned land as part of a partnership agreement with PFC for the benefit of youth soccer development and wider community uses. The indoor facility review will consider wider community recreation opportunities, said the city.

“We’ve got this year to sort out what we can do with the [indoor training facility]. That’s got to be a viable institution on its own. This a chance now to work between the two parties,” said Goodmanson, on Thursday.

“We have our parks master plan coming through now. It’s a shared space that will probably definitely be affected by that plan. It’s city land and we put $2-million of prep on it and PFC built the building [for a reported $5 million]. We’ve run it as a partnership. Just because it hasn’t worked perfectly in the first few years, let’s see how we can make it even better for PFC and for the public.”

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