New BC Place roof will ‘be fine’ in high wind, says PavCo chair

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Mike Howell
Van. Courier

B.C. Place’s new retractable fabric roof cost $240 million. Photograph by: Dan Toulgoet, Courier

VANCOUVER – The old roof on BC Place Stadium was no match for powerful winds three years ago when the air-supported dome ripped open and forced workers to deflate it for repairs.

High winds were on David Podmore’s mind Wednesday when he led media, politicians and high school students on a tour of the stadium, which is getting a new $240 million retractable fabric roof.

The obvious question: Will the new roof be able to withstand a powerful windstorm such as the one today that cancelled ferry sailings, knocked out power to Lower Mainland residents and shut down Grouse Mountain?

“It’ll be fine,” said Podmore, the chairperson for BC Pavilion Corp., the provincial Crown corporation that owns the stadium. “The building is designed for Vancouver weather conditions and it’s designed for the more extreme conditions.”

The winds forced workers at the stadium to shut down the operation of cranes in the inner bowl, preventing any heavy lifts. Podmore said safety legislation prevents such work when winds gust beyond 24 kilometres per hour.

The stadium will be home to the B.C. Lions and Vancouver Whitecaps. A decision will be made prior to a game whether the roof will be opened or closed. Podmore said it was unlikely the roof will be opened or closed during a game if there was a change in the weather.

“If you think about a convertible car, it wouldn’t be very bright to drive down the highway at a 100 kilometres an hour and open the convertible roof on your car,” he said, referring to a windstorm. “It’s not a sensible thing to be doing.”

Though Vancouver doesn’t get a lot of snow, the new roof is designed to withstand heavy snowloads. Podmore said the roof cannot be left open year-round and allow snow to fall on the field because the stadium regularly hosts trade shows, concerts and other events.

The stadium was used an average of 210 days a year before construction began and the expectation is to add 40 more days of events. Renovations, including cost of the roof, total $563 million.

The new cable-supported retractable roof will be the largest of its kind in the world. But it will not fully retract to the outer rim of the stadium, meaning spectators will always be covered from rain and snow.

The roof will retract enough so the playing surface will be exposed to the elements and, on a sunny day, reveal more than 7,500 square metres of blue sky. The roof will take approximately 20 minutes to open or close.

From inside the stadium, Podmore pointed out where louvers will be installed at the upper edges of the building to allow for ventilation and natural light. All of the 36 masts, which arrived at the stadium in three pieces, are now in place high above the stadium.

A cable network resembling a series of suspension bridges runs from the 240-tonne masts to a centre node on top of a temporary seven-storey steel structure at midfield. This is where crews fasten the cables and where a large scoreboard will hang.

The field, which was a muddy mess, will be covered in FIFA-approved artificial turf. Podmore said turf was chosen instead of grass because grass is difficult to maintain, particularly when it has to be covered to accommodate trade shows and concerts.

The B.C. Lions will open the stadium Sept. 30.

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