What the hell is going on here???????????????????
Developer pitches idea for smaller stadium
Says Vancouver doesn't need a massive BC Place
A Vancouver developer wants to knock down BC Place Stadium and use part of the site for new condos.
But event planners say demolishing the 24-year-old stadium would hurt the city's chance to capitalize on increased convention business as the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre begins to attract larger events in anticipation of its expansion site's opening in 2009.
"We would like to look at moving the stadium," says David Negrin, vice-president of development for Concord Pacific. "Our vision is to create a smaller stadium, because we don't need 80,000 (seats.)" Negrin says Concord Pacific would like to acquire part of the BC Place land from the province and see a new, smaller stadium built on the remainder of the property. Concord is preparing to develop two parcels of land that it already owns near the stadium.
Provincially owned BC Place recently had its roof repaired and reinflated after it was torn in a snowstorm, holds about 60,000 seats. Its future has been a hot topic of public debate since one of the roof's panels flapped like a sheet in the wind the first Friday morning in January.
The stadium is slated to be the site of 2010 Winter Olympic opening and closing ceremonies as well as nightly medal presentations. It also serves as the home of the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League and hosts tradeshows, corporate and community group meetings, concerts, high-school football games, minor soccer tournaments and other events.
The facility stages an average of 220 events per year, many of which are repeat annual activities. BC Place management has already booked some events for 2011 and beyond.
Concord Pacific, which has developed much of the False Creek area following Expo '86, is also building four condo towers near the stadium. That project includes a Costco store, which has already opened.
Negrin says Concord has not developed any specific plans for BC Place. However, an area business owner, who requests anonymity, says he has seen blueprints of a proposed Concord Pacific development on stadium land.
"There was a plan we had five years ago down in (what's) called 6C area - a park down there," says Negrin. "But that was over seven years ago. We've done nothing (new.)" He says the proposed smaller sports venue should be built on part of the BC Place rather than be moved elsewhere.
"I believe you take Robson Street right down to the water (False Creek), and on the east side (of BC Place), you build a stadium, like a 30,000(-seat) outdoor stadium," says Negrin. "It would take care of soccer, it would take care of football, and (event) venues, and then the other side is for developers to develop. Then, that way, it makes it affordable to (develop.)" Some estimates have pegged the value of the BC Place land at $400 million. But Negrin says a new stadium should be built near the present dome's location.
"I don't think we should be moving our sports district outside of the downtown core, because GM Place (home of the Vancouver Canucks of the National Hockey League) is there right now, there's the theatres all down there - the Ford Theatre and everything," says Negrin. "You also have BC Place. That's just a personal opinion."
The Vancouver Whitecaps soccer club, which operates men's and women's professional teams, is also proposing to build a 15,000-seat stadium along the downtown waterfront in Burrard Inlet adjacent to Gastown.
"I don't believe a stadium should be down in Gastown," says Negrin, stressing that is his own - and not the company's - view. "I think that's the wrong place. That's waterfront property. Leave that for development."
He says the Lions and Whitecaps should collaborate on a new facility that they could both use, even if that means holding a soccer game for 10,000 people in a 30,000-seat facility.
"Why build two stadiums? I think that's foolish," says Negrin.
But the Lions, who are interested in managing BC Place if the province doesn't want to, have declined to get involved with the Whitecaps.
Lions president and general manager Bob Ackles contends the proposed soccer stadium is too small for the football team's purposes.
While Concord Pacific would like to demolish BC Place, event planners say the stadium can expand the city's international-meetings market even further after the convention centre expansion is complete.
Barbara Maple, president and CEO of the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre (VCEC) declines to discuss Concord Pacific's desire to tear down BC Place, saying it's not her issue to talk about.
But when asked if she would like BC Place to retain its current size, she replies: "It's worked well for us - yeah."
Maple says BC Place has enabled VCEC to offer another event venue to its clients. The VCEC has used BC Place for bigger banquets, parts of events that couldn't fit, or when they were looking for an off-site venue.
Both BC Place and the convention centre are operated by BC Pavilion Corp. But the two venues have separate management teams.
Maple indicates BC Place is needed to help grow Vancouver's convention market now that the convention centre expansion site has started to attract larger international meetings.
"It's not about sharing the business or trying to keep the same business - we're trying to grow the market for Vancouver and British Columbia, so that all of us get a bigger market share," says Maple.
In a speech during an invitation-only dinner for meeting planners and other guests, Maple says the VCEC has contracted for 50 events for 2008 and beyond, including 27 at the expansion site. All of the booked events have an economic impact of $874 million.
In an interview with Business Edge, she says the early bookings prove that the provincial and federal governments made the right decision in funding the expansion, which has had to contend with rapidly rising construction costs.
Maple says the response of the market has been positive. But the convention centre still has to grapple with issues including new passport rules for U.S. travellers and taxes.
Sarah Lowis, president of North Vancouver-based Sea to Sky Meeting Management, says there's no doubt about what the demolition of BC Place would mean to the convention market.
"It'll be a loss," says Lowis.
She says BC Place suits the "meetings of a bigger scope" which VCEC management and Tourism Vancouver are trying to attract. Her company is organizing the World Congress of Physical Therapists at BC Place, which is expected to attract 3,000-4,000 people, in June.
"The current (VCEC) venue cannot accommodate it," says Lowis. "So it was a natural that we had to go to BC (Place) Stadium."
The stadium will still be needed for conventions once the convention centre's expansion site, which will serve as the Olympic broadcast centre, is open, she adds.
"I can still see (BC Place) serving its purpose when the bigger conventions come, because we'll soon outgrow the expanded facility," says Lowis.http://www.businessedge.ca/article.cfm/newsID/14636.cfm