Vancouver Whitecaps FC returns Aug. 21 to play in front of a B.C. Place crowd for the first time since the pandemic began.
The date is also nine months after a judge ruled the Major League Soccer club could not keep its stadium lease a secret anymore.
theBreaker.news originally sought a copy of the amendment in fall 2016 from B.C. Pavilion Corporation under the freedom of information law. PavCo and the Whitecaps refused to co-operate.
In early 2019, an adjudicator with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner upheld the public’s right to access negotiated contracts between private companies and public bodies. But the Whitecaps sued the OIPC to block the disclosure.
The club unsuccessfully claimed the deal with the taxpayer-owned stadium manager was not negotiated and admitted it did not want the public to know the financial and sponsorship terms.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Karen Horsman disagreed with the Whitecaps and ruled: “The adjudicator’s decision was justified, intelligible and transparent, and therefore reasonable.”
theBreaker.news finally got a copy of the Jan. 1, 2017-effective sponsorship agreement, which is an addendum to the 15-year anchor tenancy deal made March 10, 2011.
The reason for the deal was to resolve a long-simmering feud over naming rights.
The Whitecaps sought the amendment for advertising and sponsorship activations outside of the stadium’s inner bowl.
PavCo retained the right to sell naming rights for the stadium itself, but committed to engaging with the Whitecaps on the issue “in a collaborative and integrated manner.”
Before the September 2011 reopening from a $563 million renovation, PavCo sold the naming rights to Telus for $40 million in cash, goods and services over 20 years. But the Telus Park sign was never raised.
The BC Liberal cabinet under Premier Christy Clark, a close friend of Whitecaps’ owner Greg Kerfoot, cancelled the deal under pressure from the Bell-sponsored Whitecaps. PavCo paid $15 million for screens and wifi installed by Telus.
Whitecaps have referred to the field under the roof as Bell Pitch, but PavCo began seeking a new naming rights partner a year before the pandemic hit.
The contract, obtained exclusively by theBreaker.news, set the Whitecaps’ annual payments to PavCo at $225,000 (or $12,500-per-game) from 2017 to 2021. The payments increase by $25,000-per year beginning in 2022, maxing out at $325,000 in 2025.
The deal also hiked the facility fee to $3.25 per ticket and the parties agreed to a comprehensive review of facility fees during the 2021 operating year.
In the mid-2000s, Kerfoot proposed building his own $75 million outdoor stadium north of Gastown. He did not contribute to the cost of the B.C. Place renovation, which included a retractable roof.
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