VANCOUVER, BC - It’s amazing how time flies.
On June 19, 1983, BC Place officially opened its’ doors to the public. A day later, June 20, it hosted its’ first ever sporting event: Vancouver Whitecaps FC versus Seattle Sounders FC in North American Soccer League (NASL) action.
“Oh, I can detail each goal for you,” joked Whitecaps FC president Bob Lenarduzzi, who played in the game for the 'Caps. “The thing I remember most is the interview I had before the game for CTV.
June 20, 1983: Whitecaps FC open BC Place with 2-1 win
“My response was if someone had said to me I would be playing in front of 60,000 people, that would be fantastic within itself, but if they had said to me as a young boy I would be playing in front of 60,000 in Vancouver, I would’ve said no that’s not going to happen.”
The ‘Caps ended up winning that match 2-1 on two goals from Peter Beardsley, who went on to play for several English clubs including Manchester United, Manchester City, Newcastle United, Liverpool and Everton after his time with Vancouver.
The stadium has come a long way since that famous bout between the Pacific Northwest soccer clubs. In its first 30 years of existence, it has hosted eight Grey Cup finals, visits from the Pope and Queen Elizabeth II and most recently, the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics. In two years time, BC Place is also scheduled to host the final of the 2015 Women’s World Cup.
Whitecaps FC at BC Place
Years after that first 'Caps match at BC Place, BC Place once again became home for the club. However, before that permanent move came another big match at the old dome. November 7, 2007 marked the first time David Beckham played in the stadium in a friendly between his Los Angeles Galaxy side and the ‘Caps that ended 0-0 in front of 48,172 fans.
A couple years later Whitecaps FC sought a move to Major League Soccer (MLS), and a venue was needed that would suffice the club's increased attendance. In came BC Place with new designs to make the longtime Vancouver landmark into a soccer-specific stadium.
“It’s now a better atmosphere because we’ve tailored the building more towards soccer than it would’ve been back then,” praised Lenarduzzi. “Back then the field was designed for football, so the seats stopped deep. One of the benefits of being asked to go back into BC Place was that we could ask for some accommodations that were soccer specific. The seats that are behind the goals are retractable, so the fact that they’re right up behind the goal really enhances the experience, and the second tier roof makes it a more intimate atmosphere.”
Since becoming the 17th team to join MLS in 2011, BC Place has been a wonderful host for the ‘Caps. Vancouver spent the first six months of the 2011 season playing their home matches a temporarily built Empire Field, before a return of Whitecaps’ soccer to BC Place on October 2, 2011.
The Blue and White have since defended their home field advantage extremely well since their re-debut at BC Place; in all competitions Whitecaps FC hold a home record of 16W-5L-11D at their home fortress.
BC Place has been especially kind to Vancouver this season. The 'Caps are unbeaten at home in nine games thus far (5W-0L-4D) with a chance to improve upon that on Wednesday versus Chivas USA.
When asked to name the highlight of the franchise’s two-and-a-half years at BC Place, 'Caps legend Carl Valentine - who was also in the side that played that first match against Seattle in 1983 - decided to go with something that hasn’t transpired on the pitch.
“The highlight for me has been the fans in the stadium. Every time you go there they create such a wonderful atmosphere; there’s been games where we’ve struggled but they’ve still really gotten behind us,” the legend said. “For me they’ve been the most consistent thing since we’ve been at BC Place. If you’re not entertained by the game, you’re certainly entertained by the fans: the singing and the chanting.”
From Beardsley’s delightful double in 1983 to Kenny Miller’s spectacular performance versus New England this past weekend, BC Place has been a tapestry of Whitecaps FC history.
So, Happy 30th Birthday BC Place! Here’s to another 30 years of unforgettable memories for us all.