Kickoff For Kelowna? CPL Ownership Group Expresses Interest
British Columbia’s Kelowna might be the landing pad of a new Canadian Premier League club, according to Kelowna-based news outlet Castanet.
Kelowna city officials have confirmed that a group of investors have touched based regarding the placement of a new Canadian Premier League team in the region, though the faces behind the bid have remained anonymous for now.
“We have received an introductory proposal from a franchise group involved with the Canadian Premier League,” stated Kelowna active living and culture director Jim Gabriel. “There is a lot of interest in coming to the region, and specifically Kelowna, which is nice.”
Former Canadian Premier League analyst Steven Marc Scott named Kelowna as a potential location for expansion earlier this year, describing it is a location with a decent football culture that clocks in with a smaller population than other frontrunners from coast-to-coast. The former CPL man also gave mention to Kamloops, too.
The city of Kelowna represents BC’s third-largest metropolitan area behind Vancouver and Victoria, both of which have already have CPL flags planted nearby: Vancouver Island’s Pacific FC won the domestic league last season, while Langley looks set to launch a brand new CPL team in 2023.
While Canadian soccer culture is growing within the country, one of the biggest roadblocks has been securing soccer-specific venues for potential teams to play in. Kelowna’s ownership group faces this problem, too: the pre-existing Apple Bowl seats just 2,300 and, even with expansion, likely wouldn’t meet CPL standards for an expansion team.
The prospective ownership group has reportedly reached out to the venue operator for Recreation Avenue Park, which is situated near Okanagan Lake within walking distance of downtown. Those park lands are owned by the city, with venues like Kings Stadium, Elks Stadium, and the Kelowna Curling Club currently calling the space home.
“Existing groups are very important to our community. It doesn’t matter if it is here, the Apple Bowl, Mission Recreation Park, Rutland Sportsfields, our existing partners are always front and centre in conversations,” added Gabriel, who stated that if anyone was looking to plant a soccer stadium at Recreation Avenue Park, the city would examine the impact on the site, existing groups, and the area in general.
He also added that there are alternate locations in the Kelowna area that could be of interest to the ownership group, pending their viability.
While the interest may spark some immediate hope for football fans in the region, Gabriel urges a sense of patience and tempered expectations given that all of the discussions have been of a preliminary nature thus far.
“When you look at different partnerships that are looking for opportunities in our community, we get excited about that, but we have to make sure we understand what happens on the site, impact of existing user groups, existing facilities, impact of the area. There’s a whole bunch of things that become part of any consideration process.”
The Canadian Premier League currently has eight teams, with a ninth expected to play out of a proposed 8,000 seat facility in Langley next year. Expansion rights have also been awarded to Saskatoon and Windsor pending their ability to secure stadium locations, while Regina has picked up recent interest, too.