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Riot police officers at Hamilton Street and Georgia Street after in Vancouver, Wednesday, June 15, 2011. (Rafal Gerszak for The Globe and Mail/Rafal Gerszak for The Globe and Mail)
Riot police officers at Hamilton Street and Georgia Street after in Vancouver, Wednesday, June 15, 2011. (Rafal Gerszak for The Globe and Mail/Rafal Gerszak for The Globe and Mail)

Celebration

Vancouver makes sure the Grey Cup will be nothing like the Stanley Cup Add to ...

When Vancouver hosts the Canadian Football League’s championship game in November, there won’t be any giant outdoor television screens broadcasting the live action. In fact, the Grey Cup festival’s general manager says crews will be tearing the fan zones down by kickoff.

Vancouver City Council will meet Tuesday to review a report on the Grey Cup festival. The report, prepared by city staff, recommends council approve a $250,000 budget to cover the festival’s engineering and policing costs. Following a June hockey riot that left millions of dollars in damage, the report also says the Grey Cup festivities will go through a “rigorous” risk-assessment process.

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Scott Ackles, the Grey Cup festival committee’s general manager, said in an interview Monday he expects the event to go off without a hitch. Plans are still being finalized and more details are not expected to be released until next month. But Mr. Ackles indicated the atmosphere at football events on city streets will be nothing like that at the so-called live sites opened during the Canucks’ Stanley Cup run.

“You won’t be able to watch a game on the street. And, to put things in perspective, the sun goes down at 4:12 p.m. in November. It’s going to be cold, it may be raining. The street, or the fan zones, certainly there are going to be outdoor areas … but it’s a completely different event than the Stanley Cup playoffs.”

This year marks the first time since 2005 that Vancouver has played host to the Grey Cup. Festival planning has been in the works for two years. But as he watched the Stanley Cup riot unfold on television, Mr. Ackles knew the football event’s playbook would come under far greater scrutiny.

“We’ve got well-marked festival areas,” he said. “We’ll have event security and, of course, there will be a detailed communication plan with Vancouver police. And we have 650 volunteers at all of our different sites. … We’re not asking people to come down to watch a game, we’re asking them to come down and engage in the fan zones where there are many sponsored activities and events for all ages.”

While there will be video screens at the different fan sites, Mr. Ackles said they will not show the game. They’ll be programmed with content linked to the festival’s performers and sponsors, and dismantling of the venues will start at the same time as the game.

He said those elements of the plan were put in place long before the riot, when more than 150,000 people descended on downtown Vancouver to watch the Canucks lose Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final to the Boston Bruins.

Although Vancouver police requested that fans be required to obtain tickets to zones set up for the Canucks’ playoff run, the city said there was not enough time to put such a system in place. Mr. Ackles said some of the Grey Cup fan zone events will require tickets, while others will not. All of the areas licensed for alcohol are indoors, he said.

The provincial government, the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Police Department all ordered reviews of the June 15 riot. One of the city’s recommendations was that it get out of organizing events such as fan zones, leaving such matters to outside parties.

The report ordered by the province and written by John Furlong and Douglas Keefe recommended the city move quickly on developing a new planning tool for large events such as the Grey Cup. If an event’s risk level is moderate to high, the city advance planning unit and an oversight committee now build a public safety plan. A city spokesman said the Grey Cup has been deemed a moderate risk, though that could rise.

Mr. Ackles said he doesn’t think there will be any trouble. Although the festival will draw families and some youth, he said the core Canadian Football League fan is 30 years of age or over. The average age of those arrested during June’s riot was 24.

The festival committee announced details on its concert series last weekend. Mr. Ackles said ticket sales for bands, such as the Odds, have been “outstanding.”

The economic impact of this year’s Grey Cup has been estimated at more than $100-million.

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