Out of BC Place
The BC Lions picked up another home win on Saturday (July 20), beating the Edmonton Eskimos 31-21.
On the field, the Lions have been a consistently good team since Wally Buono came to town in 2003. They’ve only had two losing seasons and won two Grey Cups but one lingering issue that no one seems to talk about is the franchise’s stagnant attendance.
I know we’re only three games into the 2013 season but the Lions are averaging a pretty mediocre 26,623 – good for fifth in the CFL. They’re really only outdrawing Toronto because the only other teams below them (Hamilton and Montreal) don’t even have enough seats to draw 26,000.
The problem isn’t really the on-field product, the Lions are a good team and have been a contender basically since Buono took over. The real white elephant in the room is BC Place.
After all was said and done, the upgrade on BC Place cost taxpayers a whopping $563 million dollars – too bad all of that money can’t buy atmosphere. Despite all of the upgrades, fancy new screens and improved seats – it’s still a lousy place to watch a football game.
Vancouverites struggle with rain nine months out of the year and the last thing we want to do in the summer is sit inside a stadium.
Sure, the roof on BC Place “opens”, but not in a way that showcases Vancouver’s natural beauty.
Putting aside all of the other issues, the fact is that BC Place is simply too big for a CFL regular season game. As shown by Montreal’s Percival Molson Stadium, bigger isn’t necessarily better. It’s all about intimacy and experiencing the game outside – the way it always should be.
This brings us to a forgotten issue – the Vancouver Waterfront Stadium. Now I know it was originally designed to be a Whitecaps facility, but a 30,000 seat facility with views of the North Shore Mountains and the ocean would be perfect for the Lions.
It’s been kind of a dead issue since 2011 but it’s a proposal that Vancouver sports fans shouldn’t let die.
It would build demand for the team and make Lions games much more of an experience than what they are today. Buzz is virtually non-existent for Lions regular season games, particularly these early season ones, but a Waterfront Stadium would change all that.
And the best part about the Waterfront Stadium – it’s privately funded! BC Place is fine but it doesn’t wow anyone like some of the great American football stadiums.
University of Phoenix Field in Arizona was built for $455 million, Century Link Field in Seattle set Washington State taxpayers back $430 million and even Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis was only slightly more at $720 million. Keep in mind all three of these stadiums are brand new from the ground up, not simply refurbishments.
The Waterfront Stadium, located in Gastown, would also be perfect for everyone taking transit from the North Shore and the Lower Mainland.
Stadiums are all about the fan experience and it’s a little depressing as a fan to be all hyped for a game and look up to see the entire upper deck empty. Remember the experiment at Empire Field? Sure it lacked a lot of the amenities that BC Place has, but it was a better in game experience. The fans were louder, it was more intimate and basically a lot more fun.
Vancouver could still use BC Place for playoff games and bigger events like Montreal does with Olympic Stadium but moving to a more intimate setting would be a win-win for both the franchise and the fans.