The B.C. Lions will play their 2010 home games in the sun, sleet and rain in a 27,500-seat temporary open-air stadium built on the former site of Empire Stadium in East Vancouver, officials announced yesterday.
The $14-million venue (part of which will be reused from temporary Olympic venues) will play home to the B.C. Lions and, in 2011, the Vancouver Whitecaps, while a new retractable roof is installed on B.C. Place.
The venue will not be called Empire Stadium, however, but will be named later in a sponsorship deal.
It will be constructed in a mere 10 weeks, beginning after the 2010 Games in March, and should open in mid-June.
It will feature covered seating on the sidelines, suites, as well as media facilities, concessions and washrooms.
The artificial turf from B.C. Place will be used instead of grass.
Despite not having the historic name, representatives of the B.C. Lions and the Vancouver Whitecaps waxed nostalgic during a press conference at the site.
“We look at 2010 as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said George Chayka, the Lions’ vice-president of business.
“It’s the first time we’ve played outdoors here in British Columbia in 27 years. We have a generation of fans, 30 years and younger, that have never seen a game outdoors.”
Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi, who grew up blocks from the PNE, scored a shootout goal in 1974 during the Whitecaps’ first game at Empire.
“Absence does make the heart grow fonder,” Lenarduzzi said. “On a cold, wet night, (Empire) wasn’t a great place to be, but it seems people have forgotten those things. Sometimes the elements make for a better game.”
The ’Caps, who will play their 2010 season at Swangard Stadium in Burnaby, will make the jump to Empire for the first handful of home games in their inaugural 2011 Major League Soccer season.