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Archives: BC Place stadium opens to the public

This day in Vancouver history: June 19, 1983

The world’s largest air-supported domed stadium opens beside False Creek. Built in advance of Expo 86 at a cost of $126 million (roughly $267 million in today’s dollars), B.C. Place is able to seat 60,000 people. Covering 10 acres in total, with a circumference of 760 metres (2,500 feet), the roof was held aloft by air pumped by 16 giant fans.

The venue was the brainchild of Erwin Swangard, president of the Pacific National Exhibition, who proposed an open-air multiplex in 1978 to succeed Empire Stadium, the aging legacy of the 1954 British Empire Games. Premier Bill Bennett had another idea after hearing recommendations for a downtown site near the Cambie Street Bridge, and plans for “Bennett’s Bubble” were unveiled in early 1980. The provincial government bought the site from Canadian Pacific Railway’s Marathon Realty for $60 million and went to work on the concrete donut that was eventually topped by a puffy white roof when it was first inflated in November 1982.

B.C. Place opened on-time with a televised pageant. Bennett presided at the 11 a.m. opening ceremony and paid special tribute to Alvin Narod, the project’s master builder, who had died earlier that year.

 

The Vancouver Whitecaps played the first sporting event in the province’s biggest venue the following day, defeating the Seattle Sounders 2-1 in a North American Soccer League game.

 

The dome roof was deflated in 2010 and a new retractable roof added as part of a planned $150 million renovation that instead saw costs balloon to $514 million.

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