BC Place promises to blow the roof off

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:18 AM ET

VANCOUVER - About 18 minutes before kickoff, the plan is to blow everybody away in one incredibly overwhelming roof-raising extravaganza of light and sound.

And then to follow it with what B.C. Lions president Dennis Skulsky promises to be an “unprecedented and unparalleled game day experience never before seen in Canadian sports history.”

Just prior to kickoff Friday between Edmonton Eskimos and the B.C. Lions, the plan is to pull the cord to open-the new parachute-like roof at the new BC Place.

“I don’t know if I’m giving away any secrets, but we want to open it. If the forecast is for only 20% rain or less, we will open it just before the game and let everyone see it,” said Brian Griffin, the director of stadium construction.

“It takes about 18 minutes. And if the roof is open and it starts to rain, it stays open. We have an amazing drainage system that can handle 70 millemetres per hour. We can play in the rain.”

It’s the grand opening of the new BC Place, which cost local and provincial governments a combined $563 million without significant controversy — unlike the bloodletting involving a $450-million arena which would totally transform downtown Edmonton.

First fans are going to be hit with the full effect of all the bells and whistleS together in combination with the second largest HD video scoreboard in North America to only the Dallas Cowboys in their new stadium.

It is impossible not to be overwhelmed by the 68-foot wide (38 foot if you are sitting in the endone) $6-million board with a picture so sharp and so large that nobody will be watching the actual game on the field Friday, guaranteed.

The windows which circle the top of the wall structure to the stadium now, all contain LED lighting.

There’s a LED ring around the upper deck which is about twice the depth of the one across the road at the Canucks games. And more LED lighting at field level. The sound system is sensational. It should be overwhelming.

Given a sneak preview along with Vancouver columnist Cam Cole the day before the Lions players get their first look at the place Thursday, it was easy to declare it the best, big sports building in Canada the minute it opens. Which, for a $563 upgrading, it probably should be.

The tour was provided by stadium manager Howard Crosley, who used to wear No. 6 playing for the U of A Golden Bears under coach Clare Drake in the early ‘70s. And it was hosted by B.C. Lions president Skulsky, the ex-Edmontonian who witnessed his first CFL game in the Woodwards Knothole Gang section of Clarke Stadium for 25 cents in the 1960s.

“This is a bit of an upgrade,” he laughed.

Skulsky was like a proud papa as we took a tour of the place which features a new German turf significantly different and even more grass-like to the state of the art FieldTurf recently installed in Commonwealth Stadium.

“We won the coin toss,” said Skulsky of how the decision was arrived at to have the Lions open the stadium.

“Bob Lendarduzzi of the Whitecaps made the call,” he said of the soccer team boss. “He called tails. It was heads. You should have seen his face.”

The Whitecaps will open here in the 26,000 version of the stadium Sunday, where a push of the button brings hydraulically controlled lower seats forward and a canopy down from on high to make for more intimate gatherings.

For football or soccer, it’s an you-gotta-see-it-to-believe-it experience when you sit in the seats which are now 20-21 and 22 inches wide instead of 17, 18 and 19 and were installed in three months — and tell me again why it’ll take three years to put the new wider $12 million worth of green seats into Commonwealth Stadium.

The place looks pleasantly different on the outside, of course. And it has the same feel in the concourse and in the bowels of the building excepth for the 1,140 flat screen TVs scattered about.

Unfortunately the seats themselves, a strange scattering of gray and red meant to not make the place feel as empty as when the crowd is less than capacity, don’t knock even one sock off. But they’re wider and the stuffy joint now has outside airflow through the building which the other day turned a 30 degree day outside to 21 inside.

How long will it be before there’s controversy when the Lions suddenly get a bit of a breeze behind them for an important field goal?

Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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