Empire Stadium Reborn: Why The CFL BOG Will Insist It Sucks

Tobi WritesAnalyst IJanuary 6, 2010

26 Nov 2000:  A general view of the McMahon Stadium in Calgary, Alberta, Canada during the Grey Cup 2000 game between the British Columbia Lions and the Montreal Alouettes. The Lions defeated the Alouettes 28-26.Mandatory Credit: Craig Klem  /Allsport
Craig Klem/Getty Images

From 1954-1982, the British Columbia Lions of the CFL played in an outdoor stadium called Empire Stadium .  Empire Stadium was a huge stadium on opening day, seating 32,375, but fell into disuse after BC Place was finished in 1993.  Empire Stadium sat in the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) site at Hastings Park.

It was torn down in 1993.

Empire Stadium is poised to rise from the dead like a mythical phoenix from the flames

This turn of events probably greatly displeases the other 7 members of the CFL Board of Governors.

(click here for a picture of the proposed temporary stadium from news1130.com )

With the renovations occurring at BC Place, the Lions will need a place to play in the 2010 season.

It seems the plan is to put up temporary seating around the field that currently sits where Empire Stadium once towered.  27,500 temporary seats  are scheduled to be installed.  (27,500 is the announced total, but the Lions have averaged larger crowds than that recently.)

According to the Lion's VP of business, George Chayka, the majority of seating would be covered and the site would have plenty of restrooms and concession areas.

A quote by a Lions’ season ticket holder from this article caught my attention. The season ticket holder was very much looking forward to the team returning to an outdoor stadium, adding "...I wonder what it will be like going back in the dome [in 2011]. They run the risk everybody will like it so much that they’ll complain about going back.”

Certainly there will be complaints from some.  The layout is very good and in today's world, the fans always complain about domes.

The more curious question to me is what will this new Empire Stadium be?

The Lions certainly have a vested interest in pushing the government to make it as nice as possible with covered bleachers and artificial turf as well as being capable of holding most of their fan base (they generally draw in excess of 32,000).  12 Luxury boxes, media facilities, lighting and scoreboards, and video boards would be in place, as well.

The Lions are hoping not to take a bath in their time away from BC Place and a well done temporary home would be a key to achieving that goal.  There also seems to be a desire to use the site like Montreal does Molson Stadium to artificially create demand by limiting the ticket supply.  There are no plans for adding seating if the team makes the playoff game , for example.

The government probably hopes to keep costs on this temporary site down as it is just that—temporary.

The other members of the CFL BOG have undoubtedly have slightly different views.  They likely want this instant stadium to be as expensive as possible or annoyingly cheap feeling and uncomfortable for the fans.  Why?  Because when word gets out that you can build a 27,500 seat CFL sufficient stadium with luxury boxes, restrooms, and concession stands on any soccer field—albeit one of a temporary nature—for $14.4M, it would hurt their demands for government money and concessions for palatial homes for the existing teams.

Windsor's Mayor has likely already tried offering to build a similar "instant stadium on a budget" to lure in a CFL team and was rejected, likely in part for this reason. 

If this temporary stadium goes up and is in that kind of price range, other cities might try offering it as well with the idea that they build a temporary stadium that is designed to be easily reworked into a more permanent facility over time.

And let's be clear, stadiums can be built inexpensively, especially if there are favorable sites.  Saputo Stadium in Montreal was built in 2007 on an existing soccer facility following a very similar plan for $14.1M. While it is a permanent facility, two of it's three grandstands are more or less temporary seating.

Norfolk State's Dick Price Stadium is a 30,000 seat stadium built in 1997 that cost $12.2 M. 

Basically, it isn't a huge secret that a 30,000 seat stadium can be built inexpensively—especially if the framework is in place.  (Afterall, that is very much in line with the conversion of Hornet stadium from a 6,000 seat stadium into a 26,000 seat stadium to host the CFL's Gold Miners back in 1991—and that was before the boom of the temporary seating and stadium industry.)

What is newsworthy is how little it takes to build one that is acceptable to the CFL today—even though New Empire Stadium is, admittedly, being built and designed as a temporary facility.

That doesn't help the CFL BOG.  They don't want to add teams in cheap stadiums.  They want communities to build expensive high dollar stadiums for new potential members so their existing members can ask for government funding for their existing stadiums. 

Having offers like the one from Windsor only creates a public black eye when the BOG have the commissioner turn it down.

What kind of Stadium the New Empire Stadium (or Empire Field as it is being called) becomes will be immensely interesting.  Will it remain a 14.4M project or will costs swell? 

Will The CFL BOG be able to keep the facility modest?  Will it be seen as rickety garbage by the fans of Vancouver like Hornet Stadium was seen by the fans of Sacramento, or will they love it?


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.