B.C. Place is “cheerier” after $563m reno, but does it pay?

Vancouver’s newly renovated, soon-to-be-corporate-renamed B.C. Place reopened this weekend for games by the B.C. Lions and Vancouver Whitecaps, and initial reports were positive: With a new retractable roof, scoreboard, lounges and suites, and redone concessions concourses, the stadium is “a lot cheerier looking,” according to one longtime fan, and — inevitably — “world-class,” according to The Province newspaper.

Which it had better be, considering that the province (the province this time, not the newspaper) spent $563 million upgrading the place. That’s up from an initial estimate of $60 million, according to British Columbia assembly member Rob Fleming. Yes, retractable roofs are expensive, and there’s also some retractable seating to convert the place from football to soccer use, but it still seems a hefty price tag for a building where most of the original steel and concrete remains in place.

As for what B.C. will get for its investment, the province projects an extra $40 million a year in economic activity, which would be enough to pay off the $563 renovation cost … except that that’s only economic activity (i.e., money changing hands in the local economy), not actual tax receipts, so any benefit to taxpayers is likely to be exponentially lower. Also, economist Dennis Coates thinks even these figures are hogwash. So enjoy your fresh air, Vancouver sports fans; you’re paying for it.


13 comments on “B.C. Place is “cheerier” after $563m reno, but does it pay?

  1. $563 (CDN) is still a better deal than any of the proposed Minneapolis football stadia. Solution: now that engineers know how to retrofit a teflon-roofed stadium of this kind, a Metrodome reno might seem more plausible. Sure, it’s a crappy deal for taxpayers, but it’s better and more interesting than building a new box in the ‘burbs…

  2. Anderson just nailed it. If anything this was a great deal for the taxpayers when the alternative was a 1.2 billion (CDN) replacement stadium that likely would not have been downtown. They got 30 years of use out of the original BC Place, and they’ll get another 30 years or more out of this current rendition.

  3. Minneapolis ain’t Vancouver. I highly doubt that BC Place contraption would hold up under an intense Minneapolis snowfall.

    It’s a cool look, for sure, but it appears to be something for moderate climates only.

  4. I have a question, how does the estimate go from $60 million dollars to $563 million dollars? That is an increase of $503 million!

    Neil is exactly right in calling this a poke in the eye versus a sharp stick, the good news is it is about 600+ million dollars cheaper while the bad news is that it is still over a half billion more dollars.

    I’m not familiar with bonds what will be the principal and interest on 563 million for thirty years?

  5. Man, you go 40 miles, er, 65 km over the border, and you start running into words like “lineups” and “cheerier.” WT… Wait, better not use that one, some Canadians might understand that colorful use of the language. I’ll start over: What the heck?

    And what the heck is that kid doing in a Phillies’ shirt? Holy mackerel.

    I better stop. My cousins live there. I love Vancouver; it’s a great city.

    $60M to $563M sounds ridiculous to me, but we have to remember that construction in Vancouver will cost more than it does in, say, Texas, and $60M was a stupidly-low estimate. Starting over in Vancouver would have cost twice as much. A more relevant question would be, Who sold the bonds, and was Goldman Sachs involved there, too? If the answer to the latter question is yes, then… RUN AWAY while you still can!

  6. I’m not one to defend stadium boondoggles, and this one certainly qualifies.

    However, fair is fair. The original $60m number thrown out was for the complete replacement of the original air-supported teflon roof. That was one of the options the BC Gov’t considered (briefly).

    Instead, they opted for the grand plan… a retractable (though plenty of people will tell you it can’t actually be retracted or opened during bad weather, only before or after) roof similar to the one on the Allianz Arena in Germany, new concourses (the old ones were, well, bare concrete… no, I’m wrong, they had sealer on them as well), new dressing rooms, new seats new new new.

    And it is nice, by all accounts. But let’s not lose sight of the original scope of the project: They got 25 years out of the original roof (part of the facility’s original $125m construction cost) and could have gotten 25 more out of the next one.

    Instead they chose a massive upgrade. And that’s ok, if it can be paid for by new revenues (which plainly it can’t).

    Dan, their alternative wasn’t a $1.2Bn new stadium, it was simply replacing the roof and spending a few million on concourse and dressing room upgrades.

    And, of course, their $365m budget went to $420m, then $455m, then $511m, now $563m (and counting… I know several people who believe the final cost will be well over $600m) – all without any meaningful change in the scope of work.

    Now, that’s planning!

  7. Allianz Arena does not have a retractable roof in the normal sense of that phrase. It has a permanent open air center and covered seating. The roof that covers the seating has retractable blinds that can protect from sun and rain (if that is what you mean).

    I also find it odd the “more interesting way to waste money” defense of stadia construction (but not in a good way as it is morally and logically wanting).

  8. Apologies, FMS, I confused my Bank/insurance sponsored sports facilities… it is the Commerzbank stadium (or Waldstadion, to those of us over a certain age) that has the design on which BC place’s new roof is based.

    Not sure I get your final sentence, though. Care to expand on that?

  9. I suspect Floormaster Squeeze (would be a fantastic name for a janitor who raps) may be referencing my smartalec comment above on the suitability of this technology to Minneapolis. An even better solution would be to retrofit the Metrodome into an open-air stadium, but first send three or four FeLions to my place with a box of beers and several hours to kill.

  10. Just in time, BC Place workers have voted to go on strike.

    www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2011/10/03/bc-place-job-action.html

    But looking in that story brings up another link:

    www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2011/09/30/bc-place-reopens-retractable-roof.html

    Look in the comments. People appear to be unhappy about this. Go figure.

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