Temporary stadium no easy ride for Lions’ fans

"When it was overcast, the fans were snotty. All you heard was, why don’t they have a better facility? Or comfortable chairs? How about someplace where you don’t get rained on or covered in pigeon guano?"

– Bob Ackles, talking about Empire Stadium, in his biography, The Water Boy

With a respectful nod to late B.C. Lions president Bob Ackles, Friday’s blustery, autumnal weather was a reminder that a return to outdoor football and old-timey touches might take some getting used to for the modern fan.

The 27,500-seat temporary stadium at Empire Fields that will be used by the Lions for the 2010 season and possibly half of the 2011 Canadian Football League schedule is a throwback to simpler times. In truth, however, complications abound in the return to the dreamy football field of memory at the corner of Hastings and Cassiar, which was the team’s home from 1954 to 1983.

The move, made necessary by the $458-million refit to BC Place, will require thousands of fans to change the transportation patterns they’ve used for the past quarter century. According to TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis, about 30 per cent of fans traditionally took SkyTrain directly to Stadium-Chinatown station, a short walk from BC Place. Now, those spectators will have to consider taking alternate bus routes, carpooling, ride sharing, walking or cycling to football games.

As a cold wind and rain sprinkles stirred ghosts of Empire’s past, Jarvis, Pacific National Exhibition president and CEO Michael McDaniel and Lions president Dennis Skulsky held a joint news conference at parking lot 16, across from the stadium, stressing the need for new commuting habits.

"This isn’t on a rapid transit line," Jarvis said. "We’re certainly trying to remind people that buses moved people effectively in and out of here when figure skating was on at the Olympics. It worked. So we don’t want people to think the bus alternative isn’t effective."

The first test is scheduled for Sunday, June 20, five days after the facility is handed over by the PNE, when the Lions play the Edmonton Eskimos in a pre-season game. McDaniel said the stadium will have 150 Port-a-Potties and another 13 washroom trailers, fully plumbed with hot and cold running water, strategically located around the stadium.

McDaniel said the stadium will open two hours before game time so fans can learn the ins and outs of the new park, where it won’t be tough to maintain that old-time feel.

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Here are some bus routes suggested by TransLink to get to games at Empire Fields:

No. 10 from downtown Vancouver or Kootenay Loop

No. 135 from Burrard Station or Burnaby

No. 28 from Phibbs Exchange (North Vancouver) or from Gilmore SkyTrain Station

No. 16 from downtown or 29th Avenue SkyTrain Station to Hastings and Renfrew

Rideshare (visit: 杭州桑拿按摩论坛ride-share.ca to register)

Coast Mountain Bus Company provides "special event" shuttle buses to 29th Avenue Station after each game

Want Google’s help finding a way on Transit? Click here and replace the default departure point with your address.

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