Getting wild on the west coast

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:05 AM ET

Maybe this means we can all hold out hope for 2007 in Toronto.

Grey Cup regulars pretty much have had it with both Toronto and Vancouver after the most recent experiences in the two cities - which used to be the only places Grey Cups were held.

But Vancouver is about to play host to a Grey Cup and there is every indication it's going to be a spectacular success.

Toronto, for the first time since the 1989 disaster, was recently awarded the Grey Cup in 2007. Maybe ...

Well, let's enjoy this one first.

The reputation of Vancouver as a Grey Cup host city, once terrific when the big game went west for the first time in 1955, took some serious hits in recent hostings.

But this year, the left coasters look like they have a huge hit, barring about two pages of want ads offering Grey Cup tickets for sale if the Lions don't get there.

Unashamedly reworking the Edmonton 1997 'Party In Your Parka' theme to make it 'Party On The Pacific,' everything about this one has had the look of success from the beginning.

Bruce Keltie and the Spirit of Edmonton committee know a good Grey Cup when they see one coming.

"This one looks like it's going to be fabulous,'' said the Spirit of Edmonton chairman.

"They were down to single seats two months out. For the past few Grey Cups in Vancouver, it's been real quiet. But there's been a big change since they won the rights to play host to the 2010 Olympics. This may even qualify as a test event on the party side.''

What happened in Vancouver, as is evident with the Lions on the field, started with hiring good people. The B.C. Lions became a solid football team again with the hiring of Wally Buono from Calgary and the return of long-time Lions leader Bobby Ackles from a couple of decades in the NFL.

Ackles, who started out as the original B.C. Lions waterboy, went out and found himself four movers and shakers from the community who would come to call themselves The Waterboys. Tom Malone, Jamie Pitblado, Moray Keith and former Edmontonian Dennis Skulsky were recruited in 2003 to build the Lions brand and relationships in the community and to operate as team ambassadors - sharing their business acumen with the club - much like the people on the board of directors of a community-owned club like the Eskimos. Ackles rose to G.M. of the Lions back in the days when all the teams in the west were community-owned.

It was an obvious extension to involve The Waterboys as a key component to the Grey Cup committee.

Ackles then tapped his own son Scott, who has spent two years as VP of business development at EventCorp Services to become general manager of the Grey Cup committee.

As a rule, a successful Grey Cup hosting usually is telegraphed by whether or not there is a Grey Cup parade on the schedule.

This one has a Grey Cup Parade, complete with title sponsor Save-On-Foods.

If you look at everything on the schedule, you'll notice everything on the agenda has serious sponsorship attached to it.

- The River Rock Casino Resort Celebrity Classic golf tournament.

- Rogers CFL Player Awards.

- Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP Official Grey Cup Festival Reception.

- Molson Canadian Commodore Concert Series presented by The Province.

- Molson Canadian Party On The Pacific Headquarters.

- The Vancouver Sun FanFest presented by Save-On-Foods.

- Scotiabank Grey Cup Gala.

In the tradition which began with Shania Twain at the Edmonton 2002 Grey Cup, top Canadian talent has been attracted to provide half-time entertainment.

The Grammy-winning No. 1 band Black Eyed Peas will perform three songs as part of Canada's most watched sporting event.

And of course, great Grey Cup or not, the Spirit of Edmonton always manages to be party headquarters.

This year The Spirit will reside at the Sheraton Wall Centre running Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. in a room licensed for 1,000.


Videos

Photos