I admit I was already a little dubious about the expenditure, but seeing it firsthand last Friday night confirmed it for me: the new and improved B.C. Place isn't worth the money.
I know, I'm supposed to be jacked about the new-look stadium, the one we all watched take shape on the Vancouver skyline, but I simply can't get past the half-billion dollar price tag. For me, it's not even the hefty cost as much as it is the return on investment, or lack thereof, that's associated with this government mega project.
Just so you don't think of me as a buzz kill, let me say I could rationalize the expense of last year's Winter Olympics given the worldwide exposure, the influx of tourists and the venue legacy the Games brought to the city.
But what's so different about this new and improved version of B.C. Place?
Yes, there's a fancy new retractable roof, which on Friday was a black hole that didn't accomplish a whole lot more than to let in the cold night air. I'm sure it will be great to watch a game next summer with the roof open and the sun shining, but that's a heck of a lot to pay for some ambiance.
The giant screen is a nice touch and the sound is apparently better, but that sea of blue plastic seats has become a patchwork of red and beige plastic seats, although now everyone's at least got a cup holder. There are other bells and whistles to be sure (new turf, expanded luxury suites, etc.), but where I have trouble with the expenditure is that B.C.
Place isn't going to be a whole lot different moving forward than its pillowy predecessor.
It's still going to be a sports venue first, although its two main tenants could play in a stadium half the size and not sell out on a regular basis. It will continue to host concerts and other shows, but the number of acts that require 60,000 seats is extremely limited and those winter trade shows aren't likely to make much use of an open-air concept.
We've dressed up what we already had, but we haven't materially changed the function of the building.
I guess you could argue we've added a Major League Soccer team and its 20 or so home dates, but the Whitecaps only drew 21,000 to their B.C. Place opener on Sunday, so I'm not so sure that's sufficient justification for a $563 million investment.
There's no doubt the upgrades bring the 30-year-old stadium into the new millennium, but it's a lot of dough to pay for the return this taxpayer-funded investment will produce.