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B.C. Lions may return to original site of Empire Stadium

Team might play some 2010 CFL games at old Empire Stadium location while B.C. Place gets new roof

By Gary Kingston, Vancouver SunJune 23, 2009Comments (9)

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B.C. Lions’ first touchdown (above), with By Bailey hurtling across the goal line against Winnipeg at Empire Stadium on Aug. 28, 1954.

B.C. Lions’ first touchdown (above), with By Bailey hurtling across the goal line against Winnipeg at Empire Stadium on Aug. 28, 1954.

Photograph by: Brian Kent, Vancouver Sun files

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.”


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I don't see why they can't put permanent bleachers (actual seats would be better) at least on the north side and west end of the pitch. There's a natural embankment so the land can't be used for anything else. Temporary stands could be put in when needed and as mentioned above, we could have a nice little stadium in Vancouver. It could be used for rugby as well since Thunderbird is such a joke of a stadium.

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  • 3 weeks later...

lets hope that the city doesn't tear down a rebuilt empire stadium.after the lions are done with it ,it would be great if it was shared between sfu football and soccer(both have left the cis and joined the ncaa)womans national stadium,whitecaps women home,western base for canada;s mens senior team.not to mention international rugby.oh i forgot to mention a rebuilt empire will not have an oval running track.

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