Don't let the claims of being established in 1974 fool you, the Vancouver Whitecaps FC are a relatively young endeavor. Playing in their 2nd year in Major League Soccer (MLS), the Whitecaps are claiming lineage back to the days of the Whitecaps in the old North American Soccer league (NASL). With the increased prominence of soccer in North America, specifically the successes of Toronto FC and Seattle Sounders FC, expansion to the Canadian West Coast seemed natural. In only their second year, the Whitecaps have not disappointed. Calling BC Place home, the Whitecaps are riding over $1 billion in renovations, and success on the field to bring in strong crowds.
The changes to BC Place are quite significant. Formerly an inflated roof dome comparable to the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, the Silverdome, or Hoosierdome, BC Place has replaced the roof with a retractable vinyl, giant scoreboard, and numerous interior improvements to alleviate the harsh concrete look.
Getting out to see a Whitecaps game should be something that any soccer aficionado strives for. You won't be disappointed as the Vancouver Whitecaps are a soccer experience that rivals the rest of the MLS, with the opportunity to get even bigger and better.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Food selections at BC Place are decent, and the prices are okay as well. The traditional fare is available at either the LionsGate Grill or Dawson Dogs main concession stands. Burgers, hot dogs, fries, and candy are all available. The refillable popcorn tub for $9.50 may be an option that interests the hungry or the sharing. A couple of more unique options include the Montreal Smoked Meat stand, the IJ Curry stand or Stevenston's Fish and Chips. Soda products are Pepsi, and beer includes Budweiser, Bud Light, Stella Artois, Alexander Keith's, and local favorite, Kokanee.
In a very different venue than the other Canadian Soccer Venues (BMO Field and Stade Saputo), the Whitecaps put together a pretty good production. The seating bowl in BC Place is pretty good all things considered. The major renovations at BC Place have provided new seating, new flooring, new forms of natural lighting and a new retractable roof.
The opening in the top of the stadium, along with the new window panels just beneath the roof provide plenty of natural light, and give the dome a fairly decent outdoor feel on a nice day. The brand new centre-hung video screen is beautiful, and the second largest in North America, only behind Dallas' Cowboys Stadium. The picture is clear and crisp as any HD TV there is. The Whitecaps use the board solely for live video of the game and replays. There are no statistics on the videoboard save for a simple score in the bottom corner.
The Whitecaps use a unique system to artificially reduce the capacity of BC Place. There are banners that are hung from the upper deck to a ring around the videoboard. This gives BC Place the illusion of a smaller venue that is fairly effective. The sightlines are good from pretty much anywhere, giving the fan ample opportunity to enjoy the game.
Once inside and in your seat, it is obvious that the Whitecaps are really a young franchise, with no real banners to speak of throughout the stadium. There are some sections covered with tarps that have the Whitecaps logo as well as "established 1974," but that's all.
The Whitecaps opening ceremony is excellent. It is a fairly elaborate production involving live drummers, banners and flags. It is simple, in that it lacks a real glitz, but it is very well done and adds to the match. The Whitecaps chant has the potential to be very dramatic once more fans understand and participate. The opening ceremony, of course, ends with the fantastic soccer tradition of both teams entering the pitch side-by-side, each with a little kid.
BC Place is located next to the Rogers Arena, home of the Vancouver Canucks, in the False Creek area of downtown Vancouver. Across the bay is the Telus World of Science, which is a good excursion for those who are bringing children to Vancouver. You are also across the road from the Plaza of Nations and Edgewater Casino.
There are a few spots which are good for pre or post game fair, but be careful, as a wrong turn can put you in a part of Vancouver which you probably don't want to be in. A couple of spots you may be interested in include the Players Chophouse, Cafe Firenze, Back Forty, and Moxie's Classic Grill.
The story of the fans is really the tale of two sections.
The supporters for the Whitecaps are amongst the loudest in the league. While not being overly populous, both the Southsiders and Raincity Brigade offer a variety of chants and songs, and add much to the atmosphere at BC Place. The supporters start off the game strong, singing and chanting and don't stop. Some of their highlights include the cute (shouting out a big BOOOMM when goaltender Joe Cannon connects with a goal kick); to the cheeky (yelling out YOU FAT BASTARD when the opposing goaltender makes a goal kick) to the ugly (a loud and emphatic F*** YOU [opposing team]). Like them or not, they are passionate and loud for their team.
On the other side of the stadium, the complete opposite can be found. Quiet fans, getting excited at those predictable times, who are not really going to go out of their way to bring the team up.
In both cases, fans of the Whitecaps show up. Averaging over 19,000, the Whitecaps are among the top half in attendance among MLS teams. With the Whitecaps being relatively new, and curiosity about the newly renovated stadium still fresh, it will be interesting to see what the future holds for the fans of the Whitecaps, but for now, nothing but praise can be given to the west coast fans.
Getting around Vancouver is not fantastic. Traffic is consistently an issue. BC Place is located on Pacific Blvd., near the Georgia Viaduct. There is parking available around the stadium in various surface lots for a bit of a price. I parked on the other side of the bay and paid $17. When arriving at the stadium, be careful! Vancouver has, perhaps more than any city, encouraged cycling. There are cyclists, skateboarders, and inline skaters everywhere, so be aware when driving. For those interested in public transit, the [Skytrain] is available and goes right near the stadium.
Inside the stadium, there are ample, renovated restrooms, and the concourses are designed for much larger big event crowds, so maneuvering for Whitecaps games is relatively easy.
Tickets for the Whitecaps range from the affordable $20 up to $75, excluding club and lodge seating. Be sure you are careful in selecting seats to avoid supporter sections if you are not interested in standing for the game, and what traditionally goes on in the supporter section. With decent concession prices and average parking prices, a trip to the Whitecaps is an affordable excursion, even if you are bringing a family.
An extra mark for the monument to Canadian icon, Terry Fox, who as a young man attempted to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research ... on one leg.
An extra mark for anthem singer, Marie Hiu who invites the patrons to sing O Canada along with her, and the crowd obliges.
An extra mark for the province of British Columbia for redesigning BC Place, and keeping soccer in mind, as opposed to soccer being just an afterthought.
An extra mark for the tourist destination of Vancouver, and all of the attractions the city has to offer. It truly is a great place for a vacation.
The success of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC is following the trend of the increased popularity of the MLS. It should be on the short list for travelers who follow the MLS and North American soccer. It will be interesting to watch the growth of the Whitecaps, and the possibility that they become popular enough to open the upper deck, and really get BC Place booming!
A bit of research will tell you BC Place Stadium was built in 1983 and was, for the last couple years of the team's life, home of the original Vancouver Whitecaps of the North American Soccer League. There aren't any other NASL-vintage stadiums in Major League Soccer so the first-time visitor to Vancouver might expect to visit an old but character-filled building, a place that could tell stories of the hallowed footsteps of Carl Valentine, Peter Beardsley, and Bob Lenarduzzi.
Not quite so. Starting in 2010 BC Place underwent a billion-dollar refit which included a $500-million retractable fabric roof and countless interior and infrastructure improvements. Today's BC Place bears almost no resemblance to the old stadium, with twenty-eight years of history hidden behind a brand new modern faĂ§ade.
It's a real improvement. While the Vancouver Whitecaps played only a handful of games at BC Place in 2011, that handful was enough to impress almost every fan making the trek from their temporary home at Empire Field. It doesn't stand at the top of the world but BC Place today is probably the best facility for soccer in Canada.
808 Beatty St
Vancouver, BC V6B 1C1
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