Whitecaps might leave roof open at BC Place

The Canadian Press

10/11/2011 8:52:58 PM

VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver Whitecaps are willing to leave the roof open at BC Place Stadium rain or shine for Major League Soccer games.

The Whitecaps only concern is making sure their fans stay dry.

The Whitecaps (5-16-10) host D.C. United (9-10-11) Wednesday night for the second to last home game of their inaugural MLS season. The team still hasn't decided if they will open or close the stadium's retractable roof.

The forecast is for clouds and a 40 per cent chance of showers.

"We are leaving ourselves the option," Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi said Tuesday.

"If it's possible we would prefer the roof open."

The roof was open when the Whitecaps lost 1-0 to the Portland Timbers in their first game back at BC Place on Oct. 2. That game was played on a warm, sunny afternoon.

The retractable roof was the cornerstone of the $563 million in renovations done to BC Place. When opened, the hole in the roof is about the size of the playing field.

Lenarduzzi has no problem with the players getting wet on days when it rains.

"Our preference is that it's open," he said. "Soccer is traditionally an outdoor sport."

What the Whitecaps don't know yet is if fans will be fully protected.

"We need to find out what happens when it rains," he said. "Are the people in the front row going to get wet or how far up are they getting wet.

"It's a bit of a trial and error for us right now."

Wally Buono, the coach and general manager of the B.C. Lions of the CFL, wants his team dry and warm.

"My personal preference, unless it's sunny, warm and in the afternoon, I prefer the stadium closed," he said.

"Soccer has a different mentality."

Some fans still went home wet even though the roof was closed when rain fell during Saturday night's CFL game against the Calgary Stampeders.

Isolated drips fell on about 10 people in the crowd of 30,000 watching the game.

Officials with the B.C. Pavilion Corp, the Crown corporation that runs the stadium, blamed the leaks on temporary seals that are in place on the roof.

About 45 workers continue to work on the roof in two shifts a day to install the permanent seals. Officials estimate it could take eight to 10 full days of good weather to finish installing the seals

Lenarduzzi said the Whitecaps will experiment with the roof during their final two homes games this year and possibly the first few games of next year.

"We would like to provide the open-air experience as much as we can," he said.

"We need to figure out what happens if we open the roof and it is raining. Do people get wet?"

BC Place holds over 50,000 fans for football but that is reduced to 21,000 for soccer.

When the Whitecaps play a special curtain is drawn to mask the unused seats in the upper tier. It's not known if those curtains would protect fans from rain.

Building officials say the decision on whether the roof will be open is made jointly prior to each game by BC Place and the team.

Under CFL rules, if the roof is going to be open for a game it also must be open for the pre-game warmups.

The roof can be closed at halftime if the weather changes. In cases of extreme weather the roof can be closed during the game.

The Whitecaps will get a chance to win their first road game of the season Saturday when they travel to Dallas. Vancouver is 0-11-5 on the road and is the only MLS team without a victory away from home.

Vancouver will finish the season at home Oct. 22 against Colorado.