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New roof on BC Place built to handle whatever the skies throw at it

B.C Pavilion Corporation Chair David Podmore looks up at renovations continuing on the roof of B.C. Place Stadium in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday March 2, 2011.

Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

On a day when Vancouver was bracing for gale force winds, BC Pavilion Corporation chair David Podmore was asked how a new $458-million roof would hold up against the kind of gusts weather forecasters were predicting for the afternoon.

"It will be fine," he said on Wednesday, adding that the roof had been designed to handle whatever city skies drop on it, including the occasional load of heavy, wet snow. "It's really designed for Vancouver weather conditions."

The roof is designed to support up to seven million kilograms of snow, contains some 18,000 tonnes of steel and features 36 masts, each 50-metres long, that will support a tent-like roof. It is part of $563-million worth of upgrades to the stadium.

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At the moment, the masts at BC Place are barnacled with construction platforms, which will disappear once the project is complete.

"People are saying, 'I didn't realize that it would look so cluttered,' " Mr. Podmore said on Wednesday, as he showed the work-in-progress to a group of reporters and high-school students, who attended as part of a provincial science program. "But the grey platforms attached to those masts will disappear."

Currently, the platforms are part of a construction site that features dozens of workers, oversized machinery and kilometres of cables strung between a support structure in the middle of the stadium (that will eventually be removed) and masts on the side. The structure has been likened to the spokes of an upside-down umbrella. The province bills it as the largest retractable roof in the world.

The refurbished BC Place, which is operated by provincially owned PavCo, will be home for the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League and the Vancouver Whitecaps Major League Soccer franchise. It is scheduled to open on September 30.

The stadium was built in 1983 and has played host to events from rock concerts to trade shows. In early 2007, part of the roof collapsed under heavy snow, triggering a "controlled deflation" that focused attention on the aging roof.

In 2008, the province told PavCo to pursue plans for a new roof to be installed after the Olympic Games. A contract was announced the next year.

In supporting the project, the provincial government has maintained it would cost less money to add a new roof to BC Place than build a new stadium.

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To help pay for the upgrades โ€“ including costs associated with the new roof โ€“ PavCo has arranged a lease with Las Vegas-based Paragon Gaming, which wants to build a $500-million hotel and casino complex on land next to BC Place.

That proposal is controversial, with opponents questioning its cost and long-term social and economic impacts. The city has yet to approve the Paragon project.

Referring to complaints that the new roof won't be able to close quickly if it rains, Mr. Podmore said the roof takes about 20 minutes to open or shut โ€“ and that such decisions will be made before games begin.

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About the Author
National correspondent

Based in Vancouver, Wendy Stueck has covered technology and business and now reports on British Columbia issues including natural resources, aboriginal issues and urban affairs. More

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