The BC Lions expect over 30,000 fans for Saturday’s CFL home opener against the Elks

The Leos will open the upper bowl at BC Place for the first time in nearly eight years as a sold-out crowd is expected for their regular season opener

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The duck-faced brunette, posing casually next to the words ‘Green is the new orange’ on the billboard in front of BC Place Stadium, infuriated Dennis Skulsky.

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One can just imagine the former BC Lions president spitting out his infamous enraged, red-hot victory guarantee after the Saskatchewan Roughriders planted their flag downtown during the 2014 Canadian Hockey League season. soccer.

The Lions would win the game against Saskatchewan, he said, or Lions fans could get free tickets to another upcoming game.

“It’s about making a statement,” Skulsky told provincial sports reporter Lowell Ullrich.

“It’s our backyard.”

The Riders got what they wanted in this game – a hard-fought 20-16 win – while the Lions also got what they wanted: a full house.

A billboard installed outside BC Place Stadium by the Roughriders in 2014.
A billboard installed outside BC Place Stadium by the Roughriders in 2014. Photo by Vancouver Sun /PNG

There were 31,196 fans packed into BC Place for that August contest, one of three times the Lions opened the upper bowl for games that year. The last game that happened that season was their regular season finale against the Calgary Stampeders, a soft 33-16 effort that 33,752 Lions fans watched on Nov. 7.

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Since that autumn evening long ago, the upper basin has remained covered.

Perhaps it was the lackluster 50-17 spanking in Montreal by the Alouettes in the crossover playoff game, their third straight playoff series, that ultimately squandered the cash the team had on winning the league title. Gray Cup at home just three years earlier in 2011.

Attendance fell off a cliff the following year, falling from an average of 28,011 to just 21,290 in 2015 – the third largest drop in team history. In 2019, the last non-pandemic restricted season, an average of just 17,803 people made it through the turnstiles, a distance of 2022 from the 16,872 the team averaged its first season – in 1954.

While historically the Lions attendance graph resembles the swings in win probability you would see in the last two minutes of a CFL game, it has trended down, down, down since 2012. Which makes what the Lions have done – fueled by the enthusiasm, money and energy of new owner Amar Doman – all the more remarkable to start 2022.

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Saturday’s home opener against the Edmonton Elks isn’t just sold out — the top bowl is open for the first time since their game against Calgary in 2014. And demand is straining BC’s ability Room to contain as many.


NEXT GAME

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Edmonton Elks vs. BC Lions

7 p.m., BC Place Stadium. TV: TSN. Radio: AM 730.


“We’re going to have to limit it to 10 or 12,000 on top of nearly 30,000 below because we can’t staff it fast enough,” Doman said, adding that he’s seen a generous increase in sales of subscriptions, but would not. know the final figures only after the weekend.

“This landslide has really started to happen in the last three days, and Pavco is doing everything it can to adapt, but if we wanted to open everything up, the fans would have a bad experience. They couldn’t get hot dogs, beers…and we can’t make that happen. We need to be able to handle this huge crowd properly so they have a good experience.

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“And that’s a good problem to have. I figured if we got close to a full sell-off on the lower bowl, I’d be happy. We now have over 5,000 more committed and it looks like we will easily make five more. Couldn’t ask for more.

There will be blocks of tickets that have been given out to groups, leagues and schools, and some people will be just there to catch a One Republic pre-game concert – fresh off the success of their single ” I Ain’t Worried” out of the Top Gun soundtrack – but for the first time in years the casual fan is buying tickets to a Lions game.

Their interest hit the afterburners with stories like the historic start of a B.C.-born quarterback in Nathan Rourke, arguably the league’s most exciting point guard in Lucky Whitehead, the eternal and eternal Bryan Burnham, or an owner who is in the community, pressing flesh and talking with fans at his kids’ flag football games.

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Lions fans watched their team lose 20-16 to the Saskatchewan Roughriders at BC Place Stadium on August 24, 2014. Then-Leos president Dennis Skulsky guaranteed a win after a backboard The Riders' cheeky display was installed near the stadium.
Lions fans watched their team lose 20-16 to the Saskatchewan Roughriders at BC Place Stadium on August 24, 2014. Then-Leos president Dennis Skulsky guaranteed a win after a backboard The Riders’ cheeky display was installed near the stadium. Photo by Mark van Manen /PNG files

Through no fault of his own, late owner David Braley was unable to wield so much influence in person, as his health issues forced him to lead the team by proxy.

“The property of the absent is the property of the absent. If we had bought the Alouettes, how can I manage the Alouettes from here? It’s community football, a community fanbase,” Doman said.

“We have to be there. It’s amazing the momentum (I see),” he added, noting the resurrected interest from flag leagues and young tackles.

“A lot of these kids haven’t been exposed to the CFL or the BC Lions. believe me, they are now. We’re going to have a few thousand this weekend. Children who have never been in the building before, with their parents and friends, maybe grandparents.

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“We come from all angles locally, and that’s what this team needs. It’s a beautiful brand, it just needs to shine again.

And unlike Skulsky, Doman doesn’t need to guarantee a win on Saturday. With people talking again about the BC Lions, it’s already done.

jadams@postmedia.com

twitter.com/TheRealJJAdams

IN NUMBERS

The upper bowl of BC Place Stadium has not been open since the Canada Rugby Sevens tournament in March 2020. The only other non-tenant sporting event to reach this level of attendance was the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The Vancouver Whitecaps haven’t broken the barrier in their Major League Soccer era, capping at a sell-under 27,863 balls for a Sept. 15, 2018 game against the Seattle Sounders. But more than 48,172 people watched David Beckham and the LA Galaxy play an exhibition against the USL-level Whitecaps on October 3, 2007.

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Content of the article

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    New BC Lions starting QB Nathan Rourke struts in preseason finale


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Charles P. Patton