Sports arenas

Fans ready to return to sports arenas across British Columbia

The BC Lions will be able to hold 50% of their capacity, and the Whitecaps are highly likely to return home to BC Place Stadium this season as well.

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Cardboard cutouts and sweater-adorned seats could be replaced with real fans at sporting events in British Columbia this fall.

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The reopening of Stage 3 announced Tuesday by the provincial government allows 50% capacity for indoor and outdoor events, meaning the BC Lions could potentially have more than 13,000 socially distant fans during their visit. Home opener at BC Place Stadium on August 19 against Edmonton. The elks.

It’s also immediate good news for the Fraser Valley Bandits, who are looking to once again welcome fans to watch the Canadian Elite Basketball League for the first time since their inaugural season. The professional basketball team had their bleachers lined with more than 300 jerseys from local teams and beyond instead of supporters in their home opener last weekend.

The Vancouver Canucks still expected to play in front of the fans next season, but with their first preseason game following the scheduled full reopening of Stage 4 on September 7, they could potentially play in front of a full house at the ‘fall.

Their neighbors across the street on Griffiths Way, the Vancouver Whitecaps, will also welcome the news, having played most of last year and all this season in American cities.

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The Caps have previously declared their intention to stay in Salt Lake City at least until the end of July and also face the additional hurdle of ratifying cross-border competition. But the federal government relaxed its travel requirements on Monday, allowing those who are verified to be fully vaccinated to waive mandatory quarantine. The border is limited to non-essential travel until at least July 21, but with the precedent already set by allowing the Stanley Cup playoffs to cross the border, it seems inevitable that other professional sports teams will be granted. the same exemption in the future.

“Today, I am pleased to announce that on July 1, we will begin the third stage of our plan to restart after the longest public emergency in Canadian history,” Prime Minister John Horgan told media on Tuesday. .

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“I believe he is sure to take the next step forward. It means we can go cheer on our kids at the football game, in the gymnasium arena, we can go to a friend’s house for dinner, we can plan this wedding, we can go to the theater, we can go to a concert. We can re-engage in what makes life so important.

The Caps have five more dates in July at their temporary home at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, and then will play three away games in August, meaning the earliest possible return would be August 21 against Los Angeles FC at BC Place.

The Whitecaps haven’t played at home in front of fans since February 29, 2020, which would be 539 days – almost a year and a half – if they played in August against LAFC.

The Lions have been at home even longer, and their home opener against Edmonton will mark 657 days since their last game.

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The Lions will have a priority list for season ticket holders to purchase seats for the August 19 game against the Edmonton Elks, and seating arrangements will follow provincial guidelines. Their training camp begins July 10 in Kamloops.

The Lions said their current capacity is only for the lower bowl, meaning they could accommodate around 13,000 fans, not the stadium’s total capacity of 54,500. The Whitecaps are also reportedly close to that number, with around 11,000 fans allowed in their seating setup.

“It’s a pleasant surprise for sure,” said Leos president Rick LeLacheur. “The plan we filed was for a limited amount – up to 5,000 in the first game – so hopefully we can double that. I’m sure there will be some details that we will have to follow, and we’ll work with BC Place and Coastal Health and the provincial health office to make sure we’re following all the rules in place. We look forward to that. ”

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The CFL’s financial woes have been well documented, and the specter of the league’s collapse has cast a shadow over its future in 2020, so getting butt in the seats – and money in the coffers – is a big deal. huge development for the team.

“Yeah, we didn’t have a lot of income, period,” said LeLacheur, when asked about the financial benefits of the news.

“Everyone knows the CFL is a doors-based league so it’s very encouraging to be able to start over and be able to sell tickets. Hopefully we will get that extra income, and together with the fans, it will help our players win some games. “

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The FIBA ​​Olympic basketball qualifiers in Victoria – Canada faced Greece in their first game on Tuesday night – had already predicted a 10% participation, but will likely increase that number under the new guidelines and with Canada desperately hoping for positive results at their Summer Games. to push.

Pacific FC, the Canadian Premier League soccer team in Victoria, joined the rest of the league for a bubble tournament in Winnipeg. But once completed, the team will return to Langford and play 16 more games, against regional teams to reduce travel, although the number of matches at Starlight Stadium has yet to be announced.

The Vancouver Canadiens shared Ron Tonkin Field with the Hillsboro Hops this season in Oregon, residing in the suburbs of Portland due to border restrictions. They too are bound by the same border constraints as the Whitecaps, and President Andy Dunn has expressed his desire to return home as soon as conditions permit.

If cross-border travel were allowed after July 21, the first team on the register to play visitors would be… the Hillsboro Hops.

jadams@postmedia.com

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