Surrey debates stadium designs

City council wants a concrete landmark structure while board of trade pushes affordable modular proposal

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Published March 25, 2024 – revised April 9, 2024

By EMILY BEST

The debate about what kind of sports stadium will be built in Surrey comes down to affordable versus iconic.

Surrey Board of Trade, allying with global soccer investment group SixFive Sports and Entertainment, is pushing for affordable. But city council wants something more substantial as the debate in one of B.C.’s fastest growing cities continues.

SixFive Stadiums, a division of SixFive Sports and Entertainment, presented a proposal to the city in February to build a modular stadium at Tom Binnie Park. The week before, Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke had announced plans to build a 12,000-seat stadium.

Adam Torpey, vice president of business development for SixFive Sports and Entertainment, said his company’s modular construction approach would allow Surrey to build a stadium at a fraction of the cost of a concrete stadium.

“The beauty of it is it’s such a cost-effective solution and it offers the same base function of a stadium when done right,” said Torpey.

SixFive Stadium’s modular concept offers stadium sizing from 500 seat grandstands up to 25,000-seat stadiums, with the largest costing between $50 million to $80 million. The company constructed Langley’s new 6,600-seat soccer stadium last year.

“I think public perception is a big, big thing,” said Torpey. “So, what people see at Langley, they think it’s temporary, but it’s a permanent stadium.”

Torpey said Langley is a good phase one example and noted that cladding is an important consideration with panelling and fixtures used to customize the steel structure.

“It’s night and day when you do the fine details,” said Torpey. “If you think of a car being made, it’s kind of like the core of a car without your shell on.”

Surrey councillors debated whether the modular concept constitutes a long-term solution to the city’s stadium dreams.

“Certainly, everything should be on the table,” said Coun. Linda Annis. “Modular stadiums are great, but I think we need to be looking at what will be best.”

Annis said she would like to see a stadium with 20,000-25,000 seats that could attract large trade shows and concerts. She is aware of SixFive Stadium’s proposal and emphasized she wants to see something long-term.

“We need to be building an iconic stadium here in Surrey,” said Annis. “Because we soon will be the biggest city in the region and we need to be thinking that way and planning not just for our immediate needs, but for our longer-term needs.”

Coun. Mike Bose said he, too, would like to see a “more permanent structure” built.

“Not that there’s anything wrong with the SixFive concept,” said Bose. “It would be an adequate stopgap measure … to get the ball rolling.”

Torpey, who wasn’t with the company during the Langley build, said it is prioritizing custom cladding on future projects, which include stadiums across North America in the Canadian Premier League, United Soccer League, and MLS Next Pro.

“That’s what makes it the wow factor,” said Torpey. “So that’s what we’re really pushing for with all of our projects, to really make sure that we add those components, because although they’re small compared to the overall budget of things, it’s … quite a large piece of it all.”

Torpey said expenses associated with the modular system don’t come close to the costs associated with conventional concrete stadiums.

“There’s so much news out there about stadiums being just money pits,” said Torpey. “But they’re talking about the big behemoths, you know … we don’t want to be in that ball game.”

Board of Trade president Anita Huberman said the modular concept aligns well with the city’s plans.

“You know, we can’t afford a concrete stadium like BC Place,” said Huberman. “We need to be fiscally responsible.”

The provincial government’s projections from 2013 estimated that BC Place would generate $100 million per year in economic activity following the stadium’s revitalization which cost $514 million between 2010 and 2012.

The same report estimated in 2013 that to build a stadium similar to BC Place at that time would have cost more than one billion dollars.

“[SixFive Stadium’s] solution is still elegant and is a small step towards being that destination asset that Surrey so desperately needs as we become the largest city in British Columbia by 2029,” Huberman said.

Lana Popham, minister of tourism, arts, culture and sport, was unavailable for comment. Her office directed questions to Surrey city council.

 

Anita Huberman, Surrey board of trade president and CEO, discusses her ambitions for a modular stadium, while city councillors highlight their desire for something more “iconic” 

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