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Whitecaps excited at prospect of new home

Minister Ida Chong, centre, poses for a photo during a media event at the University of British Columbia Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012. The Government of B.C. announced that they will help complete a world-class soccer development centre that will help promote the sport in the province.

JONATHAN HAYWARD/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Vancouver Whitecaps FC will soon have a new home in an expensive, state-of-the-art facility at the University of British Columbia.

"We have never had a place to call home," said Bob Lenarduzzi, the Whitecaps president. "So today is groundbreaking."

The massive undertaking - dubbed the national soccer development centre - will include a new fieldhouse and improvements to three grass and two artificial turf fields.

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Ida Chong, former Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development helped realize the undertaking to support soccer's growth in the province, which she said has the highest participation rate of any sport in B.C.

Fifty per cent of the facilities' field time will be devoted to community groups, she said. The other half of the time, it will be home to the Whitecaps mens, womens and residency teams; UBC soccer teams; and the West coast base for Canada's national mens, womens and youth teams.

"You can not get a better formula than that when it comes to inspiring kids," said Lenarduzzi, explaining how children will be playing on soccer fields alongside their heroes.

The B.C. government, the Whitecaps and UBC have partnered to fund the project, which will cost more than $32 million. The provincial government will contribute $14.5 million and the Whitecaps will cover $15 million of the total bill. UBC is providing the land.

The new facility is expected to help Vancouver's economy by attracting major sporting events. It will also create more than 200 jobs - 170 direct employment opportunities and 90 indirect jobs during construction.

"I hope that when the shovels hit the ground and we see this facility built, everybody will realize the potential that it has to offer all of us, as British Columbians," said Minister Chong.

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