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Inside the CFL: Let the fun begin

Ted Michaels, CFL Editor

Vancouver, BC (Sports Network) - It promises to cap off a great week.

The 99th Grey Cup game, to be held in Vancouver, is a sell-out.

The last few tickets were snapped up 129 days from the big event, and it took just 30 days to sell out since tickets went on public sale.

That surpassed the previous mark for selling out a Vancouver Grey Cup, set on Oct. 7, 2005.

The capacity crowd of 52,511 will cheer on the CFL's top two teams in Canada's newest stadium, the renovated BC Place, on Sunday, November 27.

"Now that the game is sold out, we can focus on all the events and festivities that we can engage our community and our fans across the country on," Scott Ackles, general manager of the 2011 Grey Cup, told Inside the CFL.

When people across North America hear Vancouver, they think of the successful 2010 Winter Olympics. Ackles said they want to use some of what worked at the Games in the Grey Cup celebrations.

"Our committee has been at this since January 2010. We all experienced the Olympics and what a wonderful event it was. It's something that will be a part of Grey Cup Festival 2011," Ackles said. "It actually started in 2005, when we held the Grey Cup (called) Party in the Pacific. We've taken the '05 template and blown it up a little bit bigger, taking some of the pieces from the Olympics as well.

"We had some things that we did in 2005 that we'll raise to the next level. We had (Vancouver native) Pamela Anderson leading our Grey Cup Parade. It's those shining moments that we want to do better."

This year, as part of Grey Cup week, the Vanier Cup will be played on Friday, November 25. The game is the national championship for Canadian University football.

"The Vanier Cup and its events like the coaches breakfast and the player awards will be a part of the week," Ackles said. "In fact, we're integrating the CIS player awards into the CFL player awards. Getting as many people into BC Place to watch the Vanier Cup is one of our major tasks."

Once the Olympics were over, the $563 million taxpayer-funded renovations on BC Place Stadium started. The stadium, which opened back in 1983, is slated to re-open September 30, when the BC Lions host the Edmonton Eskimos.

"BC Place stadium is going to be the premiere sport and entertainment facility in Canada, bar none," said Ackles. "Everything from new seating for every fan in the building, to the new roof structure, to the new speakers, hi-def video boards, the new field surface, the new concession areas.

"This is not just a new roof renovation, this is a renovation of the entire building. When one talks about Grey Cup week, there's another key component -- economic impact."

Ackles said the impact is huge -- between 80 and 100 million to the city and the province.

"You're always looking to promote both the city and the province, in terms of tourism, sport and culture. This is Canada's largest sporting event, celebrating Canadian culture," Ackles said.

Fans arriving in Vancouver will be entertained for four days leading up to the game.

"Typically, there's a ribbon-cutting event on Wednesday to open the week," Ackles said. "The Gibson's Finest player awards will be held Thursday. The team and street parties will start on the Friday. Right now, we have 25 events planned."

About the only thing that would make the week perfect for BC Lions fans would be to have the home team in the big game. The odds aren't with the Leos.

Since 1960, only three teams have won the Grey Cup while hosting the game: Hamilton in 1972, Montreal in 1977 and the Lions in 1994.

Notes:

In these days of naming rights, the rumors persist that BC Place will have a new name. Telecom giant Telus is apparently poised to advertise on the new scoreboard, which will be hung at center field, as well as other marketing ideas.

Ted Michaels is the host of the Fifth Quarter, on AM 900 CHML.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Ted Michaels at ted@900chml.com.

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