VANCOUVER, B.C. — After a $563 million renovation, BC Place has practically everything a soccer fan could want in a stadium. And Vancouver Whitecaps fans took notice.
Aron Ainscough, who lives eight blocks away from the Whitecaps’ new downtown home, joined his brother Adrian and his nephew Jacob on Sunday for their club’s first soccer match at the refurbished BC Place as the rival Portland Timbers visited. (The club played their first 13 matches at Empire Field.) The trio of Vancouverites were all smiles, almost incredulous at what the stadium looked like on the inside.
“They brought this stadium into the 21st century when it was stuck in the early ’80s,” Aron said.
The Ainscoughs have been season ticket holders since the ‘70s, when Aron and Adrian were still little kids. They even remember the first-ever match at BC Place in 1983 when the Whitecaps opened the facility. Given their history with the club, they appreciated what this move meant.
“We still take public transport here, but being downtown is way better for the team and it’s more convenient,” Adrian said. "It’s more of a destination."
The Ainscough brothers talked about the “open spaces” of BC Place, which make Empire Field’s dimensions seem claustrophobic by comparison. Space was a common theme among Whitecaps supporters on Sunday.
“Compared to the last two stadiums [Empire Field and Swangard Stadium], this one’s a lot bigger and a lot more open — lot more room,” said Duncan Holewell, another fan. “It’s going to be more of an attraction for fans here. To interact here it’s a lot better. You feel more closer to the action and I can be a lot more into the game.”
Holewell made a 40-minute trek on the Vancouver SkyTrain on Sunday, but doesn’t mind the commute. He says it’s a far cry from Empire Field, which is located in “a shady part of town” in East Vancouver, according to Holewell. He feels downtown represents a closer destination for a lot more fans, who may not have felt completely comfortable heading to Empire Field.
Holewell and his friend Daryl Atkinson arrived early to take it all in. In addition to the spectacle offered by the video board which, at 68 feet by 38 feet, is second in size in the world to only Cowboys Stadium, they were keen on seeing the retractcable roof, one of the most spectacular features of the stadium which needed just 20 minutes to open up just before kickoff.
“The place is spectacular. This feels like a soccer stadium,” says Michelle Tremblay, who traveled 600 miles from North Vancouver Island with her husband, Mike, and daughter, Madison. “It’s unbelievable here. It’s huge and bright. It’s amazing.”
The daylight and the colors were also the first impression for Dave Rieder, who became a Whitecaps season ticket holder ahead of the 2011 expansion season. Rieder brought his buddy Martin Bayly, an expat from England, who has attended his fair share of Premier League matches.
“It’s my first game here to see the Whitecaps,” Bayly said. “I’m pretty impressed how close we are and how we can see the whole field. This is a pretty cool set-up.”
“I was thinking that now we’re at BC Place we’d be farther from the pitch, but this is awesome,” says Rieder.
A retractable roof, a stunning video board, great views, bright lights and vivid colors – all with the convenience of being in downtown. So what’s missing?
“More wins,” Atkinson says. “We want to see more goals. They need to watch out for the turnovers!”
As Whitecaps defender Alain Rochat found out — his turnover led to Portland’s game-winner — that’s one thing that the move to BC Place couldn’t cure on Sunday.