My procrastinating knows no bounds some times. This was meant to be posted Friday night or Saturday but better late than never and the blog will be picking up a bit more regularity from now on.
I blogged on June 21st about my initial impressions of the new Empire Field following the Lions pre-season game with Edmonton.
So, now that we’re two full games into the CFL season, what’s gameday like at Empire, what can the Caps fans expect and what’s needing changed?
It has to be said that the Lions game with the Riders on Saturday 10th July was a logistical nightmare for the stadium.
The first full house it had coped with, a sweltering hot evening and hot and thirsty fans don’t make for good bedfellows.
The tailgating issue had been sorted but it’s what was going on inside the stadium that was causing all of the problems, with huge lines for food, beer and soft drinks all over the stadium.
Venders were getting pounced on as soon as they left their filling stations and not making it anywhere near the stairs to sell to the punters that decided that watching the game they’d paid for was more important than missing a whole quarter to get an overpriced beer.
People were waiting in lines for water, only to get to the front and find out they had none left. Walking your way around the stadium was met by logjams at every turn. Drunken idiots with beer cup snakes were out in force and the fighting didn’t stay behind at BC Place.
It wasn’t a good night. The Lions sucking also didn’t help. The fans were crotchety but fair play to the PNE, they listened and have made changes.
Last Friday’s game was a marked improvement. Beer lines are still bad but improved, food lines better, but I saw people around me missing a lot less of the action than they did the game before.
Washroom line ups are still horrendous though. The portapotties at the back of the east stand weren’t too bad, but getting in and out of them was like playing human frogger. I’m sure I wasn’t the only person to open the door and whack it into someone passing by! There’s not a hell of a lot of room there.
There’s still a lot of improvements needed before the Caps take residency.
Make the most of having the beer garden so handy whilst you can and I really advise you to get your food in pre-match.
If you want to walk around the stadium at half time to see some buddies then I’d forget it. We’re going to have the players entering from the Southside and when they’re coming out, screens are now going up and people are backed up. There’s also not a lot of room there either.
Getting out was surprisingly quick though after the games and we’ll be in a prime spot for a quick exit should you choose, or you could just stay behind and cheer on the team of course!
If you want to avoid the sun beating down on you for night games, then avoid the east stand – as unfortunately my season ticket is torturing me with just now.
The disabled section in front of the West stand baffles me. They are so low down they must not be able to see much at all in a CFL game, especially with the superhigh advertising boards. They’re also all lined up in numbered stalls. It’s like some bizarre race is about to take place. My money was on number 33. He had the advantage of an electric wheelchair.
By the time the Caps get to Empire, I expect most, if not all, of the problems to be ironed out.
During my half time walkabout on Friday, what interested me was the fact that the rows in the Southside start at Row J. Whether this means they can be lowered for us to be right down at pitch level, I don’t know, but it’s looking promising or it at least has potential.
It’s a great place to take in a game though no matter what the initial teething troubles.
The noise of feet banging on the metal all around the stadium is phenomenal and deafening. We really have the potential to create one of the loudest and most intimidating stadiums in the whole of the MLS. What was a bit worrying was the fact that the Lions had in one of their gameday info emails that whilst it was ok to stamp your feet, the stadium can’t cope with everyone jumping up and down!
I guess we’ll be testing out the sturdyness of it next year. One person who tried bouncing on a Southside bleacher said it was like being on a trampolene!
There’s something magical though about standing out in the open, taking in a game as the sun sets.
When the sun was going down and the field was bathed in the floodlit glow, the stadium abuzz with noise, you could almost feel all the memories the site holds. You could almost touch the history.
Here’s to a lot more next year. I can’t wait.