Saturday, July 11, 2009

With Vancouver Whitecaps moving in to BC Place stadium for their inaugural MLS season in 2011, renovation work has already started at the venue, as it readies itself in part for hosting the opening, closing and victory ceremonies at next year's Winter Olympics.

I have to admit to having a little apprehension at first when the news came out that the Caps weren't going to be getting (for now at least) their own waterfront stadium and would be groundsharing in the dome with the BC Lions of the CFL (throwball).

Not a big fan of watching football in domes. I took in three games in Detroit's Silverdome during the 1994 World Cup and it was sweltering in there, although the enclosed roof did hold in a lot of noise and atmosphere, akin to the good old fashioned sheds that I love.

With the new BC Place to have a retractable roof, the guarantee that it wouldn't be an artificial pitch and the release of renederings as to what the final stadium will roughly look like (Photos), I was swayed and am looking forward to seeing the Whitecaps first match there in two years time.

For Vancouver, it marks a return to BC Place, which was their home stadium from 1983 till 1984, when the team initially folded after the collapse of the NASL.

The Caps opened the stadium the first time around on Monday 20th June 1983. Reading the programme from that night there's an interesting tale about how the stadium came into being.

With a crowd of over 100,000 celebrating the Whitecaps 1979 Soccer Bowl win, the jubilant crowd started heckling the Mayor of Vancouver at that time with chants of "we want a stadium!". He became flustered and came out with the immortal lines "I'll guarantee you this...that because of the Whitecaps' fine victory in New York yesterday...we will definitely have a new stadium in Vancouver within the very near future! I give you that guarantee.".

Although the Mayor, Jack Volrich, didn't actually have any firm plans at that point, it marked the start of the ball rolling on BC Place. It was just a shame it took four years and the Caps only got just over one year's use out of it. But now they are returning "home".

As you can see from the renderings link above, the new stadium is certainly going to be state of the art.

I was at the BC Lions game last night and couldn't help but let my mind wander around the stadium, picturing what it's going to be like to watch the Whitecaps in there in 2011. There's been talk of a possible standing terrace for the Southsiders, so was trying to figure out what my view is going to be like and the best place to hang my new flag!

You forget sometimes how vast the stadium is. Even with a crowd of just under 27,000 last night, the stadium looked pretty empty, with a lot of noticeable gaps in the lower bowl, which will be all that the Caps will have (initially at least!).

The toilets have already been revamped and what a difference! They look cleaner and seem larger and the queues seem to move quicker. So there's a start. There's also this bizarre, but cool looking, round water fountain to wash your hands slap bank in the middle of the toilet! It has about a dozen or more tap outlets. Yeah ok, that's not the most interesting story you'll ever read in this blog!

Many fans have been worried that BC Place will not feel like home to the Caps and you'll be inundated with a colour scheme of Lions orange as soon as you enter the stadium.

Although it will only the Caps temporary home, as they still keep their own stadium hopes alive, it has to be remembered that they will be playing more games in there than the Lions.

So far, we don't have anything to worry about, as the tiling on the new toilets are all blue and white (with a little green). No orange in sight!

The food concessions also seem to move quicker now and the fact that there are numerous stand alone carts throughout the concourse throws up the real possibility that the Whitecaps will be able to offer their own take on proper football food and not just crappy hots dogs and burgers. That's what Toronto have done after canvassing fans views.

All in all, it's starting to get quite exciting, as the countdown continues. It will be interesting to see the progress move on over the course of the next two years.

For now, I'll just keeping dreaming of the possibility of pies and bovril whilst cheering on the Caps!

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