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HomeMiscellanyU2 in Vancouver and Seattle: A tale of two stadiums

U2 in Vancouver and Seattle: A tale of two stadiums

Bob Mackin 

Thank God It’s Friday is not B.C. Place Stadium’s motto.  

When the roof ripped and collapsed under snow and sleet on Jan. 5, 2007 — after management refused to activate the snow-melting system — it was a Friday. 

U2 fans waited 90 minutes to get onto the floor at B.C. Place (Mackin)

When the Vancouver Winter Olympics opening ceremony on Feb. 12, 2010 was overshadowed by the cauldron malfunction, it was also a Friday. 

When mammoth lineups kept half the crowd outside the stadium on May 12, during U2’s opening act Mumford and Sons, that was, well… ditto. 

Yours truly was among those who spent 90 minutes in a line that snaked all the way around the Parq Casino construction site, after being assigned Gate E for the credit card entry to the floor. Staff finally cleared the line, with help from Vancouver Police officers, around 9:15 p.m., with no credit card check and no security pat-down. There was no time to buy a beer or visit a washroom. Only time to find a place to stand on the floor with minutes to spare before U2 began its Joshua Tree 30th anniversary tour.

B.C. Place management blamed the massive SNAFU on the rollout of the credit card entry system that the band insisted on using to prevent scalping. The same system was employed on a smaller scale, with little fuss, two years earlier when U2 opened its innocence + experience tour across the street at Rogers Arena. 

Sources tell theBreaker that the credit card system crashed on May 12. It was supposed to print-off seat locator slips. Staff had minimal training and were overwhelmed. 

There may have been fewer than 100 staffers working the show, with temporary workers and contractors picking-up the slack. Senior security staff had little support and some were verbally abused, pushed and elbowed by disgruntled fans. A senior operations manager was spat upon. 

U2 delayed its arrival onstage until the lineups were solved. The B.C. Place spin bought stadium management almost 48 hours grace. 

U2 played May 14 down the I-5 in Seattle and yours truly noticed that entry to the stadium was orderly and efficient. Most of the crowd was inside the stadium for Mumford and Sons. U2 played an extra two songs that weren’t heard in Vancouver (Bad and I Will Follow). The event began an hour earlier than Vancouver, and it was a Sunday, but stadium attendees were also faced with airport-style security lineups and additional bag restrictions. 

The biggest differences? The venues and their operations. 

B.C. Place is a 1983 stadium with a 2011 roof, public-owned and public-managed. The 2002-opened CenturyLink Field is managed by First and Goal, the parent company of the Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Sounders. 

There are as many NFL and MLS regular season games in CenturyLink a year as there are CFL and MLS games. B.C. Place is used to attracting fewer than 20,000 fans to most of its events. The Sounders are the biggest draw in the MLS, with crowds around 38,000. The Seahawks sell-out their 67,000 full-capacity. 

The last time B.C. Place hosted a near-full house for a single event was the March 25, 2016 World Cup soccer qualifier between Canada and Mexico. The announced attendance was 54,798.

Despite B.C. Place’s richer hosting history — nine Grey Cups, Olympics opening and closing ceremonies and a FIFA Women’s World Cup final — CenturyLink is better resourced and better equipped for major, contemporary events. It showed by the sheer amount of smiling staff with wayfinding signs. Unlike their B.C. Place counterparts, they were calm and confident. No confusion at the “Clink.”

The bungling at B.C. Place cost the stadium and city reputation-wise. It also harmed the bottom line for the perennial money-losing B.C. Pavilion Corporation that operates the facility. 

The thousands stuck outside were hungry and thirsty, but had to choose between watching the concert they paid to see or buying food and beer. Beer sales were cut-off at 10 p.m., leaving many full kegs. 

The only ones breathing a sigh of relief must have been the BC Liberals under Christy Clark. They cling to a 43-seat minority after the May 9 election. 

Had the latest B.C. Place Friday night faux pas happened three days before the May 9 provincial election, instead of three days after, Clark would be the ex-premier by now. The NDP, and maybe Greens, would have exploited the latest case of PavCo mismanagement and the Liberals’ rejection of regulating the event ticket resale market.

Eddie Vedder showed up in Seattle to sing with U2 on Mothers of the Disappeared, which was a bonus for a concert that was better than the tour kickoff in Vancouver. U2 added Bad to its pre-Joshua Tree set and ended with I Will Follow. 

Did you have a bad experience at B.C. Place on May 12? Email your complaint to PavCo CEO/B.C. Place GM Ken Cretney, and send a copy to theBreaker