The Canadian Football League has been an up and down place for the British Columbia Lions. They have not enjoyed the cult-like success of other western teams like the Saskatchewan Roughriders or Winnipeg Blue Bombers. They are without a "Labour Day" rival, which is a CFL staple. They have struggled for survival at times.
When you step back and look at the Lions, you see some of the greats of the CFL. From coaches Don Matthews and Wally Buono, to builders like Bob Ackles to current owner David Braley. The Lions featured some of the great quarterbacks of the league, including arguably the best current CFL quarterback Travis Lulay, as well as CFL legends Damon Allen, Joe Paopao, Joe Kapp, Dave Dickenson, Matt Dunnigan and Doug Flutie. They also featured one of the greatest kickers in CFL history, and perhaps the most beloved Lion in Lui Passaglia. They have brought home the Grey Cup in 1964, 1985, 1994, 2000, 2006, and 2011. Two of those victories (1994 and 2011) came in their home stadium.
In 2011, the Lions were re-introduced to B.C. Place Stadium, which had undergone a $570 million renovation, which features a retractable roof unlike any other. The return to B.C. Place and recent success has rejuvenated the Lions, and put the roar back into the CFL club.
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You will find a decent food selection at B.C. Place. All of the traditional fare can be found at either the LionsGate Grill or Dawson Dogs, which are found throughout the main concourse. Sodas are Pepsi products and beer selections feature Budweiser, Bud Light, Stella Artois, Alexander Keith's and Kokanee. You can find a few more unique stands, which include Montreal Smoked Meat, curry and fish and chips. The selections at Stevenston's Fish and Chips are excellent.
With the renovations to B.C. Place, there is a renewed energy in Vancouver for the CFL. The gates open only an hour before kick-off, which is horrible, but the Lions do put on a pretty decent street party in Terry Fox Plaza before the game. There is live music, as well as various games and promotions. All of this occurs under the watch of possibly the most deserving athlete ever to have a bronze statue erected in his honour, Terry Fox. It is a great meeting place before the game.
Once inside, the renovations will be immediately noticed. The concourses are brighter and there is more natural light. The seating bowl features the new retractable roof, which was open for the date of this review. Even closed, there is natural light that gets into the seating area, unlike the Rogers Centre, home of the Argonauts. In the centre of the roof, hangs the second largest scoreboard in North America. It is only out-sized by the videoboard at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas. The Lions do a decent job of showcasing their best within the seating bowl. There are the 6 Grey Cup Champion banners which hang above the second deck, and the Lions greats are recognized around the back of the first level.
The in-game production is solid. Nothing over the top or too fancy, but the game is accentuated enough to make it enjoyable.
Right next door to the Vancouver Canuck's home, Rogers Arena, B.C. Place can be found in the False Creek area of downtown Vancouver. In the immediate area you will find a few neat things to occupy your non-sporting time, including the Telus World of Science and the Edgewater Casino. If you are catching a game during the summer or fall months, you may want to walk along the bay, but beware, as I'm not sure there is a city in North America that promotes cycling as much as Vancouver. There are bikes everywhere, and the paths for pedestrians are shared with the cyclists, skateboarders, and roller bladers.
As far as pre and post-game drinks and grub, you will want to be careful and stick to the areas that you are familiar with. A wrong turn can lead you in the direction of the famous "Skid Row," which is probably where you do not want to be. You may want to try the Players Chophouse, Cafe Firenze, Back Forty and Moxie's Classic Grill.
B.C. suffers from some of the same issues that the Argonauts suffer from. B.C. Place is just too big for regular season CFL games. The Lions average over 29,000 fans per game, which is in the upper echelon of the CFL. However, with a capacity of over 50,000, there are lots of empty seats on the upper level. The design of the stadium is better than the Rogers Centre, and the lower level is fairly well populated. The Lions feature a few more "Superfans" than I have experienced in other CFL locations. The drums come out, and they are vocal for their team. It will be interesting to see what happens with the Lions once the lustre of a "new" stadium wears off and/or the football team becomes a little less successful.
Traffic can be a problem in Vancouver. B.C. Place is located near the Georgia Viaduct on Pacific Boulevard. The parking around the stadium can be pricey, and will be more scarce than if you are taking in a Whitecaps game. Public transit is available if you are interested and it will help you avoid traffic issues and numerous cyclists.
Inside, the renovations included expanded washrooms, and there is plenty of room in the concourses as well.
B.C. Lions tickets are pricey. With the lowest ticket going for $43 in the endzone, you are looking at a bit of an investment to head to a Lions game. I had a seat in the endzone corner that went for $53. It is curious, but the upper deck tickets are more expensive than the endzone. Concession prices are decent and parking can be on the high side. Overall, you will have a good time. It won't kill your pocketbook, but it won't be cheap either.
An extra mark for the significant place that Vancouver has given Terry Fox. With the plaza named after him, and a fantastic bronze statue (four actually), Vancouver and B.C. Place has shown the importance of this Canadian icon, who arguably did more for cancer research than any other person, ever!
An extra mark for the honouring of CFL legend, coach Wally Buono. In his first year in semi-retirement, the former Lions coach was honoured, and the fans reacted to his presence appropriately ... with thunderous applause.
An extra mark for the BC Sports Hall of Fame, which is located in BC Place, and features a significant Terry Fox display.
An extra mark for the defending Grey Cup Champion Lions, who won the 2011 Grey Cup in their home stadium.
An extra mark for a very successful renovation of B.C. Place Stadium, which was once similar to the Metrodome in Minneapolis, or the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis.
A trip to Vancouver is a wonderful thing. Part of that trip should be a venture to B.C. Place Stadium to see the British Columbia Lions. It is worth your money and you will definitely have a roaring good time.
Having been a part of the Vancouver skyline since 1983, BC Place Stadium is a staple in the heart of downtown. Formerly the world's largest air-supported dome, BC Place has undergone some drastic changes. It now boasts a retractable roof, held up by cables and crown-like masts built all the way around the stadium, and the largest scoreboard in Canada of its kind, second in North America only to Cowboys Stadium. The roof opens 100 metres by 85 metres, the size of the field, and retracts in above the scoreboard in the centre.
The newly-renovated stadium is home to the BC Lions of the CFL, who played their first game back at BC Place on September 30, 2011 after a year and a half of playing at the temporary Empire Field.
118 Robson Street
Vancouver, BC V6B 2M1
180 West Georgia Street
Vancouver, BC V6B 4P4
920 Beatty St
Vancouver, BC V6Z 3G6
808 Beatty Street
Vancouver, BC V6B 1C1
Gate A of BC Place
Vancouver, BC V6B 4Y8
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