VANCOUVER - A retractable roof won't be installed at BC Place until 2011, but the B.C. Lions could be playing in an open-air facility a year earlier.
The Vancouver Sun has learned that the B.C. Pavilion Corp. and the Canadian Football League club that is PavCo's primary tenant are considering moving at least some games in the 2010 season to a temporary facility at the site of old Empire Stadium in east Vancouver during construction of the new roof.
Construction is expected to start soon after BC Place serves as host for the Closing Ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics.
The 32,375-seat Empire Stadium was home to the Lions from 1954 to 1982 and to the Vancouver Whitecaps of the North American Soccer League during the 1970s and '80s. The stadium was demolished in the early 1990s and served as a parking lot for the Pacific National Exhibition for several years before the property was converted to soccer and ball fields.
With PavCo now evaluating tenders on the roof project, neither David Podmore, the Crown agency's chair, nor B.C. Lions executives would directly confirm the old Empire site is in play.
"I can't go down that path," Podmore said in a telephone interview. "We're just in the final stage of evaluation of a very complex bid, or tender. As soon as we've reached a conclusion as to what's the best approach, we'll share those thoughts and suggestions as to how we'll proceed. What we're doing is looking at all the various ways to minimize the impact not only on the Lions but all tenants. We're examining all options to find the most cost-effective approach."
Those other tenants include such long-standing trade shows as the Vancouver International Auto Show, the B.C. Home and Garden Show, the Vancouver International Boat Show and the golf and outdoor recreation show. Some of those could be moved, if necessary, to the new Vancouver Convention Centre.
But there are relatively few options available in Greater Vancouver for CFL games with 30,000-plus seats. "Potentially it would be possible," PNE spokeswoman Laura Ballance said Monday of installing temporary grandstands, concessions and washrooms on the green space in the shadow of Playland's wooden roller-coaster. "We can't comment on any discussions, but we can say we don't have a formal proposal in front of us at this time. With our long history with the B.C. Lions and going into our centennial year next year, there might be some synergy there . . . but we have no formal proposal from PavCo or the B.C. Lions."
Lions owner David Braley said it would not be appropriate for him to comment while PavCo was still evaluating what is the "most cost-effective way to build roofs."
George Chayka, the Lions vice-president, business, also tried to defer all questions to PavCo. He said the Lions have not looked at any potential sites for relocated games, but did acknowledge that the University of B.C.'s Thunderbird Stadium would be too small, even with temporary seating.
"If there is a move from BC Place, it will be announced in due course," he said. "I'm sure PavCo will be cognizant of our needs in whatever decision could be made."
December 23, 2009
VANCOUVER - The wait is over for the BC Lions Football Club and its fans as the BC Pavilion Corporation (PAVCO) along with officials from the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) announced today that a temporary stadium will be constructed on the grounds of Empire Fields.
"We are very excited about today's announcement and it's an early Christmas gift for our fans," said Lions vice president, business, George Chayka. "We have a tremendous opportunity in 2010 to provide our fans with a season to remember as we return to the birthplace of Lions football for the first time in 27 years."
The one-year move to Empire Fields became necessary following PAVCO's announcement earlier this year that construction on a new retractable roof for BC Place would not be completed until July 2011.Ê The BC Lions will host the 99th Grey Cup at BC Place in November 2011.
"After one look at the conceptual drawings I believe our fans will be very impressed with what we have in store next year," added Chayka.
Completely enclosed on all four sides with an approximate seating capacity of 27,500, the new Lions' den will be a cozy fit for fans. Individual seats totaling 20,100 will run along the side lines and another 7,400 bench-style seats will occupy the end zones. Sideline seats between the goal lines will be covered and a limited number of private boxes will also be constructed along with media facilities, concessions, stadium level lighting, scoreboards, a video board and washrooms.