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'A splash': Kelowna readies itself for CPL soccer

Vancouver FC will be the 'home' team against Calgary's Calvary FC, in the first CPL match ever hosted in Kelowna

With Kelowna's fervent population growth, the not-so-small Okanagan city has been missing a crucial bedrock that separates itself from other growing communities. A professional sports team.

That may be changing soon, as the Canadian Premier League (CPL), the country's primary national soccer league competition, is launching its On Tour series with a stop in Kelowna for a match. 

Kelowna native Rob Friend is the owner of Vancouver Football Club (FC), one of two B.C.-based clubs in the CPL. His Vancouver team will be facing off against Calgary's Cavalry FC, for a match at the Apple Bowl on Sunday, June 16 at 2 p.m.

"This is special for me to be able to bring this game and soccer to Kelowna," he told Kelowna Cap News. "Yes, it is one game but the hope is that it proves to be a catalyst for further investment in the city of Kelowna and to bring professional soccer to the city."

The neutral site, a regular season game between two top clubs will be a first for the league. 

"We are excited that the league allowed me to put my hand up and bring the game into new markets," Friend added. "We obviously looked across the country and I was the first to say that the city is a viable market, and I think it deserves a serious look of bringing this game to the city."

Friend is also the CEO and co-owner of Pacific FC, the Victoria-based CPL club that launched in the league's inaugural season in 2019. Vancouver's began play in 2023, and is based in Langley.

Excitement has risen in the lead-up to the game, with numerous activations popping up around the downtown core, including mini football pitches.

For Vancouver FC centre-back Rocco Romeo, bringing the game to Kelowna was an exciting idea, considering he had never set foot in the city before. 

"It is a beautiful city, and the people are very approachable," Romeo said. "I hope that the community comes out and the league gets put on notice."

Romeo was in town with teammate Sebastian Dzikowksi, and other personnel, for a promotional shoot in late May. 

"Kelowna has a very unique market, as there is so much tourism in the summer," said Dzikowski, who played in Kelowna previously, as a member of the UBC Thunderbirds in U Sports.

"Your (Kelowna) population increases tremendously during the summer months, which is right in the thick of our season," he added, as the CPL begins play in mid-April, wrapping up by the end of October. 

The match will be played at Kelowna's Apple Bowl. The stadium, which opened in 1980, has a capacity of 2,314. A major barrier to getting a future CPL team in Kelowna is the lack of a proper soccer stadium in the city. And, this is a barrier that Friend acknowledges.

"It is just one game," he said. "I think we are looking past the challenges of the Apple Bowl. If we are going to bring a team to the Okanagan, obviously it needs to be up to the CPL standards, which is a soccer-specific type stadium."

The Apple Bowl currently hosts Okanagan Sun football games, and several high school track and field meets. It is the largest stadium in Kelowna, but would rank dead last in the eight-team CPL for capacity (2,300), behind York United FC's 4,000-seat York Lions Stadium, which is currently the smallest in the league.

"I think the game is going to be a really good opportunity for activation of the stadium in terms of beer gardens, VIP, etc," Friend said. "For sure long-term, we need to look further into what a permanent, soccer-specific, multi-purpose stadium in the city of Kelowna would look like."

Tom Dyas, Mayor of Kelowna, recently published a column championing the growth of sports within the community, something Friend echoes, as he thinks the city is "ready" for not just a new soccer stadium, but for a venue that can host, and attract large concerts, international games and rugby matches.

"The CPL has identified markets across the country for our expansion strategy and Kelowna is certainly one of them," Friend explained. "If this game goes well, it is definitely going to be a step in the right direction with regards to investing in a team for this city."

As for the match itself, Vancouver FC will be coming into Kelowna with a tidy 4-2-3 record, second-best in the league. Cavalry, last year's league finalist, is fifth, with a 2-6-1 record. 

Despite Vancouver FC being labelled as the de-facto 'home' side, Romeo and Dzikowski are expecting to hear a lot of Calgarians in the stands cheering on the Cavalry.

"I would love Calvary fans to come," smiled Romeo. "I love rivalry games because it will create that environment that Kelowna hasn't seen before. This game will be a splash."

Tickets can still be purchased at

Bowen Assman

About the Author: Bowen Assman

I joined The Morning Star team in January 2023 as a reporter. Before that, I spent 10 months covering sports in Kelowna.
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