BC Place’s Roof as Litmus Test

Broadly speaking, Vancouverites (and, really, people everywhere) feel one of two ways about the Olympics:

  1. They’re a huge, heinous waste of taxpayer dollars.
  2. They’re a celebration of the city, province and nation which, through infrastructure investment and international exposure, brings new wealth to the region.

The more left of centre you are, the likelier you are to be in Camp #1. I like to think of myself as near the centre, and this conversation highlights that position. I haven’t done enough reading. However, looking at previous Olympics in North America, it seems that both outcomes are true, depending on who you ask. The key facts that I wrestle with are:

  • The money available for the Olympics wouldn’t necessarily be available to house the homeless or increase the police force.
  • It’s incredibly difficult to accurately measure the benefits of an event this big, which impacts so many sectors in the short, medium and long term.

We can see this discussion on a simpler, smaller scale in the current grumblings by the BC NDP about BC Place’s new roof. The roof will apparently cost CAN $365 million, and the NDP is running a marketing campaign against the expenditure. It’s worth noting, of course, that neither party are strangers to absurd over-spending (how now, PacificCat Explorer).

Here’s the NDP’s position, and here’s the BC Liberal’s response (I note that the NDP is winning the search engine optimization battle). To be honest, I can’t even grok this simpler issue. What’s the value of the roof’s refurbishment? How long will it extend the life of BC Place, and much event-related and spin-off revenue will that generate? How many jobs does the project and the subsequent expansion create? What’s the value of an MLS franchise to the city?

On the other hand, what would $365 million mean to the Downtown Eastside? Knowing that $1.4 billion over the past nine years has barely made a dent in that neighbourhood’s problems isn’t particularly encouraging.

It’s easy to say “I like sports, and therefore the Olympics and the roof replacement are a good thing”. It’s much, much harder to be a good citizen and dig up the empirical data that makes an unbiased case one way or another. I’m sorry that I haven’t done that in this blog post, but time marches ever onward and all that.

What do you think? Should BC Place get a new roof?

Photo by Chris Coleman.


  1. So, if there’s no new roof, then what? Knock the stadium down? Or knock it down some years in the future, but sooner than it would have been knocked down otherwise? Neither of those sound like very good options.

    I admit to short-circuiting my analytical brain on the Winter Olympics. I’ve always enjoyed them as an event — when I hardly like any other sports at all — so I’m happy to have them here next year. Probably for no good reason.

  2. I was listening to a fellow talking on the radio about a retractable roof on BC Place and his points were:

    BC Place was never designed to have a heavy roof – it would cost more to upgrade the stadium to take the weight than it would to tear it down and build a new one.

    And 70% of the people who come to sports events in Vancouver live EAST of Boundary Road. It might not be a bad idea to take that into consideration when we start blowing hundreds of millions on a stadium that serves fans who have to drive for an hour or more to get to it, let alone pay heaven and earth to park nearby.

    As well, he pointed out that with the new Convention Centre finished, the major trade-show events (auto show; boat show; home show) have 2 places to choose from – meaning that BC Place no longer has a monopoly on that sort of a rent-paying gig.

    Personally speaking, I think it’s a white elephant. I think we should tear it down and build something a bit more reasonable, size and expense-wise.

  3. I have no idea what the numbers are like for replacing BC Place itself, which might be an idea. It seems too big for what its regularly used for. The only two times I’ve seen it full have been for a U2 concert over 10 years ago and a Grey Cup. The next time I saw U2 it was at GM Place and the venue was more appropriate in every way I can think of. But perhaps there is something I am missing. Certainly extending the life of BCP makes sense if it’s cost-efficient but the venue itself seems really awkward and always has.

  4. If a new BC Place roof stops them from building a ridiculous, unnecessary waterfront stadium for soccer, I support it.

    1. Keeping in mind that the proposed stadium will be used for other events (rugby, live music, etc), what makes it ridiculous and unnecessary?

  5. I think they should forget this retractable roof and instead cover it with the two Fast Cat ferries. Those things have to be good for something.

  6. That is interesting how you sum up the two camps. My experience was the kind of the opposite – I am right of centre (small government, lower taxes etc), and I am in camp #1, as were most of my similiar thinking friends when it was Olympic voting time in Vancouver a couple of years back. The pro-Olympic friends I had were either a) in tourism directly or indirectly benefiting or b) left of centre and interested in the ‘legacy’ which was hyped as being a big reason to hold the Olympics. Of course now we hear there will be no money for a legacy. Taxpayers on the hook yet again…

  7. WorksafeBC ignored that BC Place failed to have proper procedures to ensure heat was used during the winter. The manufacturer recommended that heat be used to avoid ice forming on the roof. BC Place did not use heat on a regular basis.

    There were no pocedures in place to ensure that the required heat was used to protect the roof.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: