Is Kelowna ready for professional soccer?
The best player to ever come out of the city thinks so.
Rob Friend, who was inducted into the Central Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame Thursday morning, believes a Kelowna franchise in the Canadian Premier League can thrive in the city.
Furthermore, he says a proposed new downtown stadium could be the catalyst for revitalizing downtown.
Friend, an original founder of the CPL and owner of the expansion Vancouver FC, says the league really likes Kelowna as a market.
"It's a fantastic sports market," Friend told Castanet News following his induction in the sports hall of fame.
"And, I think having a downtown stadium would be a game changer for the local economy, for entertainment in the city.
"The city is mature enough to support a professional league."
Friend says it will all come down to the venue and whether the city is supportive of that venue.
As Castanet reported in the summer, the venue under consideration is Recreation Avenue Park which presently houses King and Elk stadiums, the Kelowna Badminton Club, Kelowna Curling Club and two youth ball diamonds.
In the summer, city officials indicated they had received an "introductory proposal" from a group hoping to establish a franchise in the city.
Partnership director Bob Evans says the city now has a more formal application.
"The City of Kelowna can confirm that it has received a multi-use development proposal that is supported by the Canadian Premier League (CPL) regarding the possibility of an expansion team coming to our city," said Evans in an email.
"The city is always open to opportunities, and this one is certainly exciting. That said, as a municipality we need to ensure that for all proposals and opportunities presented to the city, proper processes are followed. We are currently in a due diligence process to determine if this opportunity is suitable for our community."
Evans says the application is complicated making it difficult to determine a timeline for completing the due diligence process.
Friend acknowledged there are challenges but says if everyone works together, the Recreation Avenue Park location could be the perfect spot for a new entertainment venue.
"It comes down to venue, so we hope as owners within the league that if the city is supportive, we believe the community would be supportive.
"I think it's in the city's hands and about working together with the key stakeholders, baseball, curling and badminton to come together and feel it's a win win."
The Canadian Premier League began operating in 2019. The league currently has nine teams with the addition of Vancouver FC.