Baseball in B.C. Place: a thing of the past?

Will B.C. Place Stadium be fit to host the Toronto Blue Jays and their Langley-born third base sensation Brett Lawrie for an exhibition game someday?

The stadium is undergoing a $563 million renovation for a Sept. 30 reopening and its floor and lower bowl will remain convertible for baseball. But Major League Baseball needs to approve the new centre-hung, high definition scoreboard. The giant video "shoebox" will be suspended from the housing for the retractable roofing fabric.

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"We have asked MLB for a ruling on the scoreboard and required height but as yet we have not received a position," B.C. Pavilion Corporation president Warren Buckley told the Courier. "None of the components of revitalization precludes us hosting a baseball series but we would have to upgrade some of the outfield components. In addition, we would of course have to amend the (synthetic) turf for the bases."

Andy Dunn, president of the single-A, Northwest League Vancouver Canadians, said there have been talks with the parent Blue Jays about playing exhibition games at B.C. Place.

"I do have some concerns about compatibility, however once we see it open and operating we'll have a better feel," Dunn said. "Right now my concern would be height of the scoreboard. They are putting in a seamless turf (for soccer and football). If you're putting in a seamless turf, how do you lay warning tracks, how do you lay infield? It can always be fixed if you threw enough money at it, but at the end of the day would it be economically feasible to try to pull it off?"

Tony Oliva hit B.C. Place's first home run off Juan Marichal on Aug. 12, 1983 in an old-timers' game that preceded the Pacific Coast League Canadians' 10-9 loss to the Phoenix Giants. Singer Gloria Loring and comedy legend Bob Hope also entertained the triple-A league's record 41,875 crowd.

The dome hosted several Canadians regular season and playoff games and MLB exhibitions, but failed to attract a full-time tenant. Molson Brewery backed Vancouver's baseball bid at a time when the San Francisco Giants and Montreal Expos were looking for new homes. Vancouver was shutout, while Denver, Miami, Phoenix and Tampa Bay eventually got expansion teams.

The Blue Jays, Expos, Seattle Mariners and Colorado Rockies played in an April 1994 weekend exhibition at B.C. Place and the Mariners scheduled a May 1995 return to host the Baltimore Orioles in four regular season games. But that series was scuttled by MLB labour troubles.

The Mariners used their appearances at B.C. Place to market the team regionally and put pressure on the Washington State government to fund a new stadium in Seattle. The club moved in 1999 from the Kingdome to the $517 million Safeco Field, which has a "garage-door" style retractable roof.

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