CFL

B.C. Place Stadium to get retractable roof

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The Canadian Press
5/16/2008 4:30:55 PM
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VANCOUVER - Aging B.C. Place Stadium will receive a major facelift to keep the facility viable for the next 30 years, but the centrepiece of the project, a new retractable roof, won't be installed until after the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell lavished praise on the government-owned facility and its benefits, but was laconic when it came to discussing how much the renovations and roof will cost.

''The final budget has not been determined,'' Campbell told a news conference Friday. ''We have to look at all the benefits as well as the costs.

''We think it's important for the taxpayers to get the full and detailed business plan in place.''

It's estimated a retractable roof will cost at least $150 million.

Campbell also announced plans for a new 29,000-square-metre art gallery to be built near B.C. Place on False Creek. The  Liberal government has already committed $50 million towards its cost.

Upgrades to the stadium will occur in two phases. Renovations to suites, seating, washrooms and concessions stands, plus enhancement of the existing roof liner, will occur before the Olympics.

David Podmore, chairman of the BC Pavilion Corp., which oversees operation of the stadium, said it isn't feasible to have the new roof completed in time for the Games.

''We'd be rushing it,'' said Podmore. ''I couldn't look at you and tell you we've got the best value for our money.

''We concluded it's much better to take the time and complete the design in an orderly way.''

Once the renovations are completed the Vancouver Whitecaps soccer team will begin playing games at B.C. Place.

The Whitecaps, who currently play in the United Soccer Leagues, plan to apply for a Major League Soccer franchise. The team also will continue to pursue plans to build a 20,000-seat  stadium on the Vancouver waterfront.

John Furlong, chief executive officer with the Vancouver Olympic Games Organizing Committee (VANOC), said he isn't bothered that the new roof won't be in place for Olympics. The 60,000-seat facility will host the Games opening and closing ceremonies

''We had always been planning like we wouldn't have one,'' said Furlong. ''We're fine with it and I think that the decision is the right one.

''We will have the stadium in the best form it can be in. It will be more comfortable, it will be more accessible. I think everything will be upgraded.''

Harry Bains, the provincial NDP Olympic critic, chastised the government for not acting on a 2006 report that called for a new roof.

''Had they acted on that report in 2006 we would have this roof replaced before the Olympics (and) we would have this roof much cheaper,'' said Bains.

''What guarantee do we have that this patched-up roof isn't going to collapse during the Olympics or before the Olympics?'''

B.C. Place, which opened in 1983 as the first covered stadium in Canada, is currently home to the B.C. Lions of the CFL, plus trade shows and concerts.

The future of the building, which sits on prime downtown real estate, has been questioned. The seats are hard, the concrete interior drab, and the building becomes hot and noisy during games.

The stadium's marshmallow-shaped,  air-support roof, which covers about four hectares, collapsed in January, 2007 but has since has been repaired.

There have been calls for a new, open-air stadium but it's estimated building a new facility would cost around $1.2 billion. That price doesn't include the needed infrastructure, roads and services.

''It's not sustainable to knock a facility down and start rebuilding it again,''' said Campbell. ''We need to be sure it fits into the city's fabric.''

Podmore said the new roof will have a similar design to the roof on a stadium in Frankfurt, Germany. It will be a tension-fabric roof with a 25-metre by 85-metre opening in the centre.

It will be suspended by tension cables and a series of 35 masts, 50-metres in length, built around the perimeter of the stadium.

''It is very functional and very suited to the particular design of B.C. Place,'' said Podmore. ''The building will be a much more comfortable atmosphere for events, games, and trades shows. It will be a much more efficient system and a much more attractive system.''

B.C. Lions centre Angus Reid said he's excited about the idea of playing games in an open-air stadium.

''It's a better feeling,'' said Reid, a Richmond, B.C., native. ''Nothing can beat playing games in natural light and natural noise and wind and all the fun stuff that football is truly meant to be played in.''

Podmore said money for the renovations will be generated from the sale of development rights on land Pavilion Corp. owns around B.C. Place. Other funds will come from existing corporation cash reserves plus sponsorship revenues.

He said too early to say how much the renovations will cost.

''We have about five months of engineering and detailed work to do to get to the point to give you a budget that will be a fixed budget for this work,'' said Podmore.

''We wouldn't present the budget until we have the opportunity to complete the engineering, complete some of the tendering of various components of the building and present a complete business plan.''

B.C. Place Stadium (Photo: )

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