Canadian Premier League franchise kicking tires in Kelowna

Pro soccer eyeing Kelowna

Professional soccer could make its way to Kelowna — if they have a place to play.

City officials have confirmed a group of investors have expressed interest in bringing a Canadian Premier League franchise to the region.

"We have received an introductory proposal from a franchise group involved with the Canadian Premier League," active living and culture director Jim Gabriel confirmed.

"There is a lot of interest in coming to the region, and specifically Kelowna, supported by the CPL, which is nice."

The CPL is presently an eight-team league with franchises stretching from Vancouver Island to Halifax.

A ninth franchise playing out of a proposed new 8,000 seat facility in Langley is set to begin operating next year with Saskatoon and Windsor waiting in the wings.

Gabriel says the group wishes to remain anonymous at the moment.

One of the issues facing a potential CPL franchise is a place to play.

It's been suggested the franchise group believes the aging 2,300-seat Apple Bowl does not meet their needs, meaning a new facility would need to be built.

Operators of both King Stadium and the Kelowna Curling Club within the Recreation Avenue Park complex in Kelowna's north end confirm they have been told there is interest by the group in that property.

The curling club, King Stadium, Elk Stadium which houses several baseball teams including the WCL Falcons, and two smaller minor sport diamonds are all included within the park on lands owned by the city.

"User groups are aware of it. 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," said Gabriel.

"Recreation Avenue Park...like any site...if someone is looking at putting in a soccer stadium, the impact on the site, impact on user groups that are there, impact on other facilities, impact on the area...all of that becomes part of an internal consideration and dialogue."

Gabriel says there are a number of different locations that may or may not be of interest or viable.

Suffice to say, utilizing Recreation Avenue Park would require new fastball, baseball facilities and a new curling club.

But, Gabriel cautions nothing is close to being finalized, calling talks "very preliminary."

"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."

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