I've been on the record as supporting the plan for BC Place stadium's new roof. It wasn't an easy decision for me, as I've always found the facility unfriendly in terms of non-sports entertainment, and oppressively large. However, as the Olympic & Paralympic ceremonies demonstrated, Vancouver has occasions when a stadium this size is needed.
Critics have argued that the money poured into the retrofitted BC Place (remember that it is now going to be an "outdoor" facility) should have gone to other needed causes, such as housing. The counterargument from supporters has been that our city needs a prominent, centrally located sport and entertainment facilty. From the City of Vancouver's standpoint, keeping BC Place running is a no-brainer as it generates jobs and taxes.
How we pay for the new roof has always been about the value of the real estate surrounding the Dome. The biggest wrinkle is however that any neighbouring development must be able to tolerate the noise and crowds BC Place generates. Circling the dome with condominiums is possible, but even with a convenant requiring tenants to suffer the noise of an open-roofed 60,000 seat stadium, you're just inviting a lot of complaints from residents within earshot. Condominiums are of course far more profitable than office developments.
Yesterday's announcement by the Province and Pavco that a large hotel & casino complex at first blush is a good alternative. Putting hotels, convention space and a casino in close proximity to the stadium (rather than permanent housing) makes sense. I was opposed (like the majority of Vancouverites) to Steve Wynn's proposed casino at Canada Place in the early 1990s, because no gaming facility apart from bingo halls existed in B.C. at the time. Today, casinos are located in and around Vancouver city limits, and like it or not we rely upon them for tax revenue.
Coun. Raymond Louie to his credit has struck a diplomatic tone on this project on behalf of the city. There are many decisions to be made on the project, but I must admit my initial thoughts on the building design put forward by the developer is not one I'm terribly excited about.
The building will be facing west, with the Smithe street offramp of the Cambie Street bridge running in front. It will be a very busy and perhaps lively part of the city where an empty parking lot currently exists. I see that from the street the first four floors are windowless, with some kind of fortress of solitude starchitect touches that will make the structure feel like a bit like a prison from street level. Surely designers can consider wrapping these floors in glass like the new Vancouver convention centre at Canada Place?
Also, the strange "waterfall" awning structure over the front door looks like it has been added to distract people from the grim exterior of those floors, and it adds nothing to the building's overall appearance. There looks to be a considerable green roof in place over the casino, but I'm not sure if it's enough to make the structure more appealing.
There are many hours of dialogue ahead about not only this building, but what happens right around the renovated stadium. Some will be critical of this complex just because there is an expanded casino within, and others will complain about the additional traffic. I'm just glad that the city is trying to make the restoration of BC Place work, and I look forward to constructive suggestions as we go to the public for their input.