Stadium Deflation Leads to Future Debate

When B.C. Place Stadium deflated after a large hole was torn in its air-supported roof during a storm January 5, it made national news. The last week has seen the work to repair the roof and find the cause of the rip and deflation given extensive coverage. Now the debate over the future of the stadium has started.

Initial journalistic investigation
into the deflation laid the blame at stadium director of operations Brian Griffin’s feet for not ordering a snow melt and doubling the air pressure contrary to roof management guidelines in a last ditch attempt to stabilize the roof which was flattening. Sources of the article claim an avalanche of snow, ice and slush caused by the increased air pressure sheared a hole in the roof, initiating the deflation.

In the initial official engineering report on the cause of the deflation, human error, weather conditions and undetected fabric damage to the roof panel were listed as causes. When the roof was detected as slightly inverted and speaker columns were hanging low, a worker turned on one additional fan to correct the problem. A second worker, in an apparent miscommunication, started eight other fans, causing an over pressurization, which along with the weakened panel and wind conditions, caused the tear in the roof. The roof was then deflated. A change to air-control systems is recommended to prevent too many fans causing over-pressurization and is being implemented immediately.

B.C. Place Stadium has long been a proud part of Vancouver’s skyline, but this accident has re-opened the debate over the future of the stadium. There have been suggestions that the stadium be retired after the 2010 Winter Olympics slated for Vancouver. Developers have long had their eyes on the stadium property, worth potentially in the hundreds of millions of dollars for condominium development. The stadium on the other hand is worth perhaps only $50-75 million as a stadium. Those for the redevelopment of the stadium site advocate a new open-air stadium for Vancouver, and some purists point to the lack rain on B.C. Lion game days since the stadium was built as a need to return to an open-air stadium.

The stadium is around until 2010’s Olympics and due to small annual operating losses, the B.C. government may consider selling the stadium to private interests. David Braley, owner of the B.C. Lions, is one who is interested in purchasing the stadium and is in negotiations. The B.C. Pavilion Corp., current managers of the stadium, may not be willing to transfer management to private enterprise until after the 2010 Olympics, and gaining control before the Olympics would likely be a requirement of any private investor. The B.C. Lions only contribute at most 12 events a year to the stadiums 200+ dates a year, with the remaining being mainly trade shows that only the floor is used for and concerts. Without another major sports tenant to attract large crowds, it is very unlikely any money will be put into the stadium publicly or privately to radically change it with a retractable roof or other such suggestions from the public. A MLB team for Vancouver is very unlikely, along with the Seattle Mariners or Toronto Blue Jays playing any games at B.C. Place. Even so, the booming B.C. economy will likely lead to high public approval of a publicly funded stadium after 2010. Currently, commenters throw around their estimates on stadium upgrades or new construction in the hundreds of millions as cheap. There is no fathomable understanding of the amount of money they are proposing. It is all just about millions in the age of billion dollar government budgets.

If B.C. Place is slated for destruction and a new stadium built, the B.C. Lions will be in a tough position. A new stadium likely means either needing to put money towards the construction or pay increased lease costs, possibly for a stadium that is larger than what they need or want.

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