At the start of his seventh campaign over 20 years for Surrey’s mayoral seat, Doug McCallum has promised a grand 60,000 seat stadium. It will only be accessible by transit and it will be able to accommodate all sports — so he claims.
The City of Surrey is no stranger to outlandish promises by mayors and mayoral candidates. In 2014, then councilor Linda Hepner pitched a ferris wheel in South Surrey, something she abandoned after being elected to the mayor’s seat.
A year into the controversial incumbent’s current term, McCallum directed city staff to find a road that could be flooded to have a “wandering canal” go from the Fraser River to South Surrey.
But neither ferris wheel nor canal can compare to how absurd this idea is — well, the canal does.
The cost of McCallum’s dream stadium could reach as high as $2 billion, and for a city that brought in just under $1.2 billion in 2021, it wouldn’t be feasible to pay for the stadium on our own. Which brings us to who could possibly help pay for it.
The provincial government owns BC Place, so it wouldn’t make any sense for them to give Surrey money to help fund a competitor to that stadium’s business. The other option would be funding from a sports team, but with the Canucks owning Rogers Arena and the BC Lions happily in BC Place, it seems unlikely that any established major team would consider jumping in on this flawed plan.
McCallum’s promise that it would be solely accessible by transit is a wild addition to the already wild promise. Aside from the obvious impracticality of 60,000 extra people on transit going to the same place, the SkyTrain line that would pass the stadium hasn’t been built. We have no idea if it would be feasible to ask tens of thousands of extra people to go on it anytime there’s a big game.
Then there’s the issue of location. The area has single detached homes and townhouses, and some businesses like a Rona store and a couple of car dealerships nearby. It also neighbours a recreation centre and is within walking distance of schools.
This would be the perfect area for purpose-built rentals made specifically for families or another type of below market affordable housing earmarked for families. In the next few years, it will have a SkyTrain allowing people to take transit to work, right by a rec centre and schools for kids.
The average low- to middle-income person can’t or barely afford housing in Surrey. Building an oversized stadium is not what people need. Every cent McCallum wants earmarked for the stadium can, and should, go towards affordable housing.
I might agree if the idea was completely different. A smaller venue for concerts and performances, similar to Vancouver’s Vogue Theatre, located in Whalley near the existing SkyTrain would be a fantastic amenity for the city to host cultural events like performances and plays while still being affordable and not taking up a massive amount of land that would be better suited for housing.
After the election on Oct. 15, I think McCallum’s stadium will join his canal and Hepner’s ferris wheel as a memory of a bizarre promise.