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Inside the CFL: Quite the homecoming

Ted Michaels, CFL Editor

Vancouver, BC (Sports Network) - Talk about a housewarming.

Since 1983, visiting CFL teams used to hate playing at BC Place Stadium.

While Vancouver itself is a beautiful city, the domed edifice usually took its toll on a team, because of the stuffy air, neutral colors and dim lighting.

Friday night, the newly refurbished BC Place Stadium held its first event.

A crowd of 50,213 saw the BC Lions beat the Edmonton Eskimos 33-24. It was the 10th-largest regular season crowd in Lions history and the largest since 1984.

And while the fans went home happy with the win, they were ecstatic about the Leos' new home.

Almost four years ago, it was decided that the BC Place Stadium had to be renovated.

The air-supported roof meant there was no fresh air circulating, no natural light and especially in the summer, the place felt like a sauna.

Provincial and local governments decided to ante up the total cost of $563 million for the project, which started in February 2010, as soon as the Vancouver Olympics ended.

For two seasons, the BC Lions and Vancouver Whitecaps of the Major Soccer League played their home game at Empire Field, a $14.4 million temporary facility, built on the site of the old Empire Stadium.

The residents of Vancouver and lower BC saw the cranes, the huge new roof and all the activity, and wondered what the end result would be.

They got their answer, and then some.

The first thing that everyone talked about was the new cable-supported retractable roof, which can be opened or closed in 20 minutes. The opening in the roof is 100 meters by 85 meters, or, the same size as the field.

The roof is supported by 18 support masts, each of them almost 50 meters tall, or, 14 stories. The fabric roof section retracts into the center of the opening, where it's hidden inside of a pod above the videoboard.

The new roof is a lot more energy efficient than the old BC Place roof, saving 25 percent on energy costs, which works out to $350,000 per year. And an additional $100,000 a year will be saved on maintenance costs.

In total, a staggering amount of steel was used in the renovation: 18,000 tons of steel, 76,000 square meters of fabric and 35 kilometers (21 miles) of cable.

Up next in the "wow" category, was the new videoboard.

The 100,000 pound unit hangs at center field with two video screens, each measuring 68 by 38 feet facing each sideline, with two more facing the end zone, measuring 32 by 21 feet. To put that in perspective, the video screen is the second largest in North America (Cowboys Stadium in Dallas is the largest.)

To add to the fan experience, there's 50 new suites, a club section with padded seats and a total of three lounges. In addition, spectators will have added comfort, sitting in 22 inch seats, up to five inches wider than the previous ones.

The renovation project directly created 3,500 person years of employment.

Moving forward, ongoing employment increases for BC Place will add 100 person years annually, meaning an even bigger economic impact on British Columbia, possibly as much as $100 million every year.

With a loud, raucous crowd behind them, and their opponents gawking around at the facility, the Lions, currently the hottest team in the CFL right now with six straight wins and a 7-6 record, could well be on their way to playing the Grey Cup game in their new home.

The 99th Grey Cup is scheduled for November 27 in Vancouver.

Notes:

Heads could roll after Friday night's 32-26 Montreal victory in Winnipeg. A controversial pass interference call against the Alouettes gave Winnipeg two attempts to win the game from the Montreal one-yard line. Both attempts, quarterback sneaks by Alex Brink, were turned back by the Als defense. Sources have told Inside the CFL, that the pass interference penalty should not have been called.

With a 3-10 record, and their playoff hopes running on fumes, it appears that changes are coming in Toronto. Look for Jim Barker to remain as GM of the team, but he'll hire a new head coach.

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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