Canadian Consulting Engineer

Vancouver’s BC Stadium roof collapses

January 8, 2007
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

The inflated dome roof of the B.C. Place Stadium in downtown Vancouver tore and deflated last week. The 60,000-seat...

The inflated dome roof of the B.C. Place Stadium in downtown Vancouver tore and deflated last week. The 60,000-seat stadium is to be one of the main venues for the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games in Vancouver. The stadium is scheduled to host the opening ceremonies.
On Friday, January 5, the stadium’s roof suffered a seven-metre tear which travelled up one side. As the air leaked out from between the fabric membranes, the roof sank and water started pouring down from the hole.
According to a CBC report, a worker inside the stadium at the noon hour noticed the roof was sagging. Then as a gust of wind caught the torn fabric, he heard a sound like “elephants running through your living room.”
The weather at the time was snow mixed with rain. There were no reports of injuries.
The Vancouver Organizing Committee for the Olympics, VANOC, issued the following statement the same day: “BC Place has a highly experienced team of professionals and we have every confidence in the ability of their engineers to rectify the situation. It’s a terrific facility that has a rich history of hosting some of B.C. and Canada’s most memorable moments and we look forward to hosting our Ceremonies in BC Place for the 2010.”
The condition and maintenance of the stadium roof had been discussed in the B.C. legislature last May. The 60,000-seat stadium was built in 1983. Guy Gentner, the New Democratic MLA, had said the roof was in a bad state, but the B.C. tourism Minister had replied that it had another 15-20 years of service. She confirmed that it costs more than $300,000 a year to maintain.
The stadium’s double membrane roof covers 10 acres and when it was built it was said to be the longest such span in the world. It was designed so that only one fan was required to maintained the internal pressure of 225 pascals when the building is unoccupied. The fabric is Teflon-coated fibreglass. The design won a Canadian Consulting Engineering award in 1983 for Phillips Barratt, Engineers & Architects.
Ironically, a few days before the incident at the BC Stadium, another trouble-plagued large stadium in Canada, the Big-O in Montreal, announced that after over 20 years, the debt for its construction had been finally paid off. The Big O was built for the 1976 Summer Olympic Games, but its $1.5 billion price tag was only paid off in mid-November. Its enormous retractable roof has had a number of structural problems over the years. There are now plans to cap it with a permanent roof.


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