When the world’s top soccer stars hit the pitch in Vancouver for the FIFA 2026 World Cup, they’ll be doing it in a freshly renovated stadium.
B.C. PavCo, the Crown corporation that owns the stadium, has released a request for proposals seeking a construction manager to oversee a list of a dozen upgrades.
The first phase, planned for 2024, would include the installation of VIP suites and a hospitality space, concession upgrades, washroom renovations and elevators.
In 2025, renovations would expand to include a banquet room and lounge, dressing rooms, a merchandise store, a premium entrance and a connection to the Parq Hotel and Casino.
“This is a huge chance for us to improve infrastructure … and that could include improvements at BC Place,” Tourism Minister Lana Popham said.
Popham said she hadn’t spoken with PavCo management about the renovations or FIFA requirements yet, adding that there are still a number of issues to be ironed out first.
Those details are expected early in the new year.
“We don’t know how many games are going to be played here yet,” she said. “One big outstanding piece is contribution from the federal government. We have yet to hear from them.”
The province has also yet to sign off on any changes, which would need approval from the Treasury Board.
It will mark the second major renovation of the ageing stadium in the 21st century.
BC Place got a half-billion dollar facelift following the 2010 Olympic Winter Games which included the installation of a retractable roof, replacement of seats and seismic improvements.
The latest round of improvements are expected to cost much less, but the price tag remains unknown.
“We’re concerned with what seems like a ballooning tab with absolutely no accountability from the province, from the city, from BC Pavilion Corp. with how taxpayer money is being spent,”said Carson Binda, the B.C. director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
Last year, the province estimated hosting its share of the World Cup could cost up to a quarter-billion dollars, with $40 million earmarked for venue upgrades.
That figure also includes security costs and replacing the stadium’s artificial turf field with natural grass.
While Popham cited one forecast showing the event could bring a billion dollars into the province over the ensuing five years, Binda said he wants to see the math.
“They haven’t released dollar figures of how much the renovations to BC Place are going to cost, they won’t show us any financial projections other than a vague, ‘It’s going to bring in a billion dollars worth of revenue,'” he said.
“FIFA makes off like bandits whenever there is a world cup … while leaving taxpayers in the host countries with massive tabs.”
The province said it hasn’t signed any contracts with FIFA, and that officials from both the hosting organization and the governing soccer body will continue to do stadium sight checks.
Popham said any upgrades will need to have a long-term benefit for British Columbians.
“When everybody goes home we want to make sure our province is better for it,” she said.