Starlight era begins at Langford stadium

A stadium by any other name is a common thing. Especially when it comes to corporate sponsorships, which switch often as a part of the economics of sport, such as the recent change in Seattle from CenturyLink to Lumen Field.

So Westhills Stadium officially becomes Starlight Stadium this week.

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“I hope it’s a sign of the times,” said Langford Mayor Stew Young, referring to the newly-installed Starlight signage.

“I’m always happy when companies support sports with their cheque books.”

Toronto-based Starlight Investments will pay more than $500,000 for the naming rights over five years. Young says it is the largest corporate sponsorship in Langford history. It is expected Langford will get about 15 per cent of the naming-rights proceeds with the Canadian Premier League pro soccer club Pacific FC, which initiated the deal, to get the lion’s share.

“It’s a huge deal for us and shows what we’ve done in just a few years,” said Rob Friend, CEO and co-owner of PFC.

PFC is a charter member of the CPL, which will be entering its third season this year.

“It’s great to see, with all the development going on in Langford, that the developers want to also support sports,” said Young.

“This will really help PFC during the pandemic.”

Starlight Investments is described on its website as a company “focused on North American multi-family and Canadian commercial real estate.”

Starlight Stadium is home to PFC, the Tokyo Olympics-bound Canadian men’s and women’s rugby sevens teams and the Westshore Rebels of the B.C. Football Conference. It has also been looked at as a medium-sized venue for the Canadian men’s soccer team in World Cup qualifying games in the years ahead, against smaller CONCACAF nations, that don’t require stadiums the size of B.C. Place or BMO Field in Toronto.

Two scheduled Canada games against Trinidad and Tobago at Westhills Stadium were ­cancelled last year due to the pandemic.

The facility is also home to the annual Canada Sevens women’s rugby tournament on the World Series circuit, which has been cancelled for the second consecutive year due to the pandemic.

Other sporting-venue name changes on the Island have included the former Bear Mountain Arena in Colwood, home of the Victoria Grizzlies of the B.C. Hockey League and Victoria Shamrocks of the Western Lacrosse Association, now known as The Q Centre.

The Cowichan Valley Capitals of the BCHL played at Island Savings Centre until that deal concluded in 2019 and the name reverted to Cowichan Community Centre.

Royal Athletic Park is ­relabelled Wilson’s Group ­Stadium at Royal Athletic Park each summer for the Victoria ­HarbourCats’ West Coast League baseball season.

Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre, home to the Victoria Royals of the Western Hockey League, has retained that dual corporate and Second World War-memorial name since opening in 2005 as the replacement for the old Memorial Arena. The original deal for the naming rights was for $1.25 million over 10 years.

That was extended in 2014 for another 10 years, running through 2024 for a reported $900,000. Under the old arrangement, the City of Victoria received $70,000 over 10 years. Under the current contract, the city gets $90,000 over 10 years.

Pacific FC is among five of eight teams in the CPL, Canada’s long-awaited domestic pro soccer league, which play in corporately sponsored stadiums. The others are Cavalry FC at ATCO Field at Spruce Meadows in Calgary, Valour FC at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, Atletico Ottawa at TD Place Stadium and Forge FC at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton. The other three CPL venues remain civically or institutionally named — FC Edmonton plays at Clarke Stadium, York United at York University Lions Stadium and HFX at the historic ­Wanderers Grounds in Halifax.

“Ours is the biggest stadium rights deal in the CPL,” said Friend.

The name change from ­Westhills to Starlight Stadium is official as of this week, but Friend said the “ribbon cutting” has been delayed to the summer because of COVID.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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