Bob Lenarduzzi, president of the Vancouver Whitecaps (AP)

(WFI) The retractable roof to be installed on Vancouver’s Olympic stadium after the 2010 Games won’t be ready until July 2011, so a Major League Soccer expansion franchise will debut at a historic ground.

The Vancouver Whitecaps were granted a franchise in March 2009 on the condition that the club would play under a retractable roof at the renovated 1983-built, provincial government-owned B.C. Place Stadium in downtown.

Construction delays and financing troubles temporarily derailed planning.

B.C. Pavilion Corporation chairman David Podmore found an alternative with a $14.4 million temporary stadium for 27,500 on the site of Empire Stadium, which hosted the 1954 British Empire Games and was demolished in 1992.

Podmore said that Switzerland-based Nussli Special Events would supply and build the temporary rectangular stadium, which will fit inside the so-called Empire Bowl.

He said eight companies bid for the contract. Nussli’s Vancouver general manager Martin Blackburn said 25-30 percent of the seating and equipment would be reused from 2010 Olympics venues.

The original North American Soccer League Whitecaps debuted at Empire in 1984.

Whitecaps’ president Bob Lenarduzzi said the situation is similar to 1983 when the original Whitecaps moved in June to the new $126 million dome. Lenarduzzi was the only player who turned out for the Whitecaps for all 11 seasons.

The Vancouver team will make their MLS debut in 2011 in a temporary 27,500-seat stadium (Whitecaps)

“We’re on parallel paths, trying to prepare for next season and for 2011,” Lenarduzzi said.

Empire, which held 32,375, was site of the famed Miracle Mile between England’s Roger Bannister and Australia’s John Landy at the climax of the 1954 British Empire Games.

Its 1992 demolition was a catalyst for a mid-1990s study by an amateur sports group that concluded Vancouver should seek a summer or winter Olympics in order to improve sports facilities and replace the outdoor stadium.

Portland plans stadium revamp for MLS
The Portland Timbers, who will join Major League Soccer in 2011, unveiled renovation plans for their 83-year old PGE Park this week.

PGE Park will undergo a $31 million renovation that will see it upgraded to MLS standards.

The revamp includes removing baseball dugouts to create a football-specific stadium. The improvements are designed to create a venue that can function year-around.

Renovations will begin in January and finish before the start of the 2011 MLS season.

Construction will stop for the Timbers’ 2010 United Soccer Leagues season and the minor league baseball season of the Portland Beavers.

Renovations include:
* Raising seating capacity from 16,000 to 20,000;
* Playing area surrounded by stands on all four sides to meet MLS requirements;
* Upgrades to press facilities;
* Improved/new amenities: Expanded open plaza, a new 1,000 square foot team store, more restrooms and a 5,200 square foot restaurant;
* A new privately-owned sports rehabilitation clinic.

Written by Bob Mackin and Sam Steinberg
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