Pacific FC's return brings economic boost to West Shore

The T-shirt cannon was being rolled out Wednesday afternoon and the pineapples were being prepped for a team that is on the forefront of post pandemic sport.

“We’re one point away from the top of table and we play Valour who’s leading the league standings tonight, so we could be in first place by the end of the night,” said Brad Norris-Jones, vice president of operations for Pacific FC.

Playing in a Winnipeg-based bubble for 8 games was not how the Langford-based team wanted to begin its season. Now, with COVID-19 restrictions lifting, the West Shore is welcoming back in-person sports and the money it brings.

“Now, for the next 20 games it’s on the road for 10 and at home for 10, so it’s exciting times,” said Norris-Jones.

Those exciting times extend beyond the team itself. Having professional soccer back is an economic kick that the region desperately needs.

“Economic impact would be in the $15 million mark with the transportation, the hotels, food and beverage,” said Norris-Jones. “If we’re not playing, it hurts the city.”

Just down the road from Pacific FC’s Starlight Stadium is MOD Pizza at the Belmont Market. They are expecting to have a busy Wednesday night, as they saw a huge spike in business after the team’s first home game.

“Just seeing that this pandemic is starting to come to an end, we’re starting to see businesses come back to life,” said Jim Hayden, Owner of MOD Pizza. “Just having big organizations like Pacific FC back-up and operating again has truly proven beneficial to us.”

With just under 2,700 fans attending the last game, it’s not just restaurants that are hopeful for the increase in foot traffic.

“I think we might get some browsers for sure,” said Justin Bush, with Jordan’s Flooring on Langford Parkway.

“We definitely do expect to see something whenever there’s a large venue of people coming in,” said Bush. “Especially into a town like Langford.”

Welcoming fans back to live sporting events is an unfamiliar sign of normality for the region.

The Victoria HarbourCats season was scheduled to begin in April, when all the COVID-19 restrictions were in place. That forced the Canadian teams in the West Coast League to cancel their seasons for a second year in a row, but they will be back next year.

“It’s great to have so much support and people understanding that we are going to be able to be back and survive to thrive for 2022,” said Jim Swanson, general manager of the HarbourCats and the Nanaimo Night Owls.

In the meantime, having soccer back on the West Shore has everyone excited.

“I can just go on and on about how important it is to get this back and to have some normal lives for everyone,” said Norris-Jones. “Even though we’re not at capacity, we’re feeling comfortable and excited about where we’re going to go.”

Every game at the Starlight Stadium means more than game on, it’s a sign that slowly we are getting back to normal.