General Motors Place, opened in 1995, is the home for both the Canucks and Grizzlies, and
is situated along the edge of downtown and right next door to BC Place Stadium, home of
the CFL British Columbia Lions. The topography of the neighborhood is such that the
arena is located at the bottom of a hill, yet access to the downtown core is easy for
pedestrians, who can walk across any of two bridges which leads them to an entrance at
the 300 level of the building. In addition, there is a subway line which is right adjacent to
the arena. The area is typical of any Canadian city - clean, bright, with hotels, pubs and
attractions within walking distance, kind of a smaller version of Toronto.
Upon entering the arena (we walked in at the 300 level), our first attention was drawn to
the abundance of glass, providing plentiful views to the outside. Concourses are laid out
into two primary levels - the 100s and the 300s, with neon signs marking the sections as
well as the marquees of the concession stands. There is a separate small concourse for
the suite level right above the 100s.
Laid out in two levels, the bowl is colored in wine red seats, and is centered by an 8 sided
scoreboard with 4 jumbotron boards and colored dot matrix boards, as well as changeable
ad panels above and beneath the boards themselves. Along the sidelines are stationary
ad panels, dot matrix boards, and scrolling out of town scoreboards displaying NHL and
NBA scores. Probably the most dramatic signature piece of the arena bowl are two huge ad
panels advertising Molson Canadian beer. They hang high above each end zone, have a
black background with red and blue neon graphics, and can change configurations from
hockey to basketball depending on who's playing. Very cool!!!
The "Air Canada" club (this has got to be a Canadian NHL arena thing!) is located along one
sideline in the 100 level. The "club" itself takes up a portion of the 100 level concourse,
therefore total access around the lower level is impeded. Other than a sparse seating
area and the same old concession stands you can find in the rest of the arena, there was
nothing else to this premium area. Pretty ordinary! Up at the top of the arena is the "Orca
Bay Grill". Straddling across the entire sideline, one can buy tables for four with a view of
the playing surface. There is also a full service bar and additional seating areas as well as
a merchandise stand. Cool memorabilia on the walls.
The concourses and concessions
Here is our biggest gripe with the place. The concourses are tight and congested, and the
traffic flow around the building is impeded, partly because the 100 level doesn't have full
access around the bowl due to the location of the club concourse. Second, there are NO
escalators, and only two tight staircases to take you from the 100s to the 300s. At the end
of the games, these stairwells were mobbed with people trying to get upstairs and to the
bridges to walk downtown, What a terrible design!
Nothing on the menu stands out here, but there is an in house microbrewery, Rickard's,
which straddles all three levels of the building, and fans can view exhibits on each level
which explain the art of beer making. Rickard's beer is produced, kegged, and then sold
right in the building, and there are pubs adjacent to the glassed in vats on each level. At
the Grizzlies game they were passing out 6 oz samples of Rickard's Gold every third
section. If one wanted to, one could just keep walking, sampling, tossing the cup, and
could get crocked after one pass around the 300s! There is a terrific two level team store
down in the 100s (Grizzlies merchandise was 40% off).
The coolest thing the Canucks do is bring out a saxophonist, of all things, during a couple
of TV timeouts, to play songs like "Tequila". He walks up and down the stairs in the 100s,
and this is about the only thing that got the hockey crowd jacked up on this night. Kind of
reminded us of the electric violinist in Montreal.
Former Canucks great Stan Smyl is the one Canuck whose number is retired. The ONE
banner that is missing here is Vancouver's crowning achievement in hockey, that being
the Vancouver Millionaires 1915 Stanley Cup championship. Also to be noted is a
handsome display wall honoring the 30 greatest Canucks, and was done to commemorate
the franchise's 30th anniversary. The display is located in the 300 level, and was so well
received that they decided to leave it up.
Save the Grizzlies!
The game we attended was the first Grizzlies home game since the "formal"
announcement that the franchise had asked the NBA to relocate to Memphis. Needless to
say, emotions were running high. The fans and the people we spoke to expressed their
frustrations about the owner's duplicity, the lack of success on the court, the weak
Canadian dollar, and that Vancouver was never given a chance to succeed as an NBA city.
With a large Asian population, the team markets heavily to this demographic base. The
Grizzlies also have the distinction of being the first team to broadcast its play by play in 3
different languages - English, Spanish and Mandarin! On the night we attended, Grizzlies
fans were pumped - the team absolutely demolished the Knicks, the electricity and
enthusiasm was really exciting, yet a poignant reminder that moments like these may soon
come to an end in Vancouver. And in the midst of all this was the rumor that a local
investor was on the horizon to save the day and keep the Grizzlies here in town.
Fan Support 7
Concourses/fan comfort 6
Bonus: Three level brewery 2; Serenading saxophonist 1; 30 year Canucks display 1