Tale of two towns
By TERRY JONES, QMI Agency
|The Lions run onto the field to face the Eskimos in their first CFL game back in BC Place since its renovation in Vancouver, B.C., Sep. 30, 2011. (BEN NELMS/Reuters)
VANCOUVER - It was a roof-raising day on either side of the Rocky Mountains.
On the same day the Edmonton Eskimos and B.C. Lions met for the grand reopening of BC Place, there was a spectacular contrast between the two towns -- Vancouver and Edmonton -- where Mayor Stephen Mandel finally had enough of current Vancouver resident and Oilers' owner Daryl Katz and did a little hell raising himself.
Back home, the day after Katz had produced his latest in his heavy-handed (starting with the hostile takeover of the team in the first place), moves following veiled threats involving Hamilton, Quebec City, even Enoch moves and had set a Halloween trick or treat deadline for getting a deal done, the contents of a letter from Katz to the City of Edmonton regarding imposing the deadline made Mayor Mandel publicly question if the deal could now get done.
It was $100 million of quietly promised provincial money away from being a done deal and Katz' negotiating style virtually prevented the province, which had without a peep of protest produced $350-million to build a museum downtown, from being a done deal. Involved is a state-of-the-art NHL arena which would take Edmonton from 29th in the league to near the top and totally transform a downtown in the same way.
And it can't get done?
Then you have Vancouver and the opening we witnessed around that Edmonton-B.C. football game Friday night, one which you now have to wonder if we'll see in a year or two in a downtown Edmonton arena.
They spent $563 million of taxpayers money to remodel, to renovate an existing stadium -- without the public bloodletting like we're watching back in Edmonton at this very moment about a $450-million brand new game changing venue for the image of a city.
After spending an additional $14 million to house the Lions and Vancouver Whitecaps for the better part of two seasons in temporary Empire Field, you'd figure the return of the team -- on a five-game winning streak, yet -- would be precious and it would have been sold out months in advance.
But as opening kickoff approached, with a manifest of 52,465 seats, about 2,000 less than expected by the time they put them all in, there was a serious question if they'd even match the CFL's biggest crowd of the season, 45,672 in Edmonton for the Labour Day rematch against Calgary.
It ended up at somewhere between that and the sellout number which was the Lions largest regular-season crowd in 21 years.
Only about half of them were full when they pulled the cord on the big parachute and opened the stadium to the sky.
It was an impressive sight, especially if you were sitting low in the stands and the 38-foot video board -- second largest in North America to the Dallas Cowboys.
It really was quite the sight. But when it was over the happening received only polite applause.
But this is the Olympic city where a hydraulic malfunction flawed the opening ceremonies. And pretty much the rest of the opening was flawed.
The multi-million sound system had volume galore but as was the case in the old BC Place, it was nearly impossible to understand the P.A. announcer.
The teams took the field, the RCMP in their full red serge ceremonial dress uniforms surrounded the stage.
And the wait began.
After about 20 minutes an on-field announcer informed the crowd that the wait was for the game in Winnipeg to end.
Another five minutes later the announcer informed the crowd the delay was "because we believe this event is worth putting on national television."
Sarah McLachlin sang the national anthem. Commissioner Mark Cohon flipped the coin. And that was it.
The game which was scheduled to begin at 7:30 here, it began at 8:01.
One thing for sure. If Edmonton manages to get the downtown arena built, the opening ceremonies will blow the roof off of this one.