Equal parts new beginning and a trip down memory lane, Empire Field returns to the annals of history at the end of Saturday’s Vancouver Whitecaps clash with the Seattle Sounders.
The 27,500-seat temporary stadium was erected on the same Hastings Park grounds as the historic Empire Stadium that hosted the Lions and Whitecaps from 1954 to 1983.
And though it was an entirely different building that produced its own historical moments, such as the Whitecaps’ first-ever Major League Soccer game, the setting of the stadium gave fans a first-hand taste of the venue that is ingrained in Vancouver sports history.
“It’s been a very nostalgic experience,” said Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi, who grew up a block away from the original stadium and also played there professionally. “It’s left a massive mark on Vancouver, from the miracle mile, the Beatles Lions and Whitecaps, (Empire) will have a permanent meaning to this city and will stand the test of time.”
The B.C. Lions have played their final game at the stadium, and the Whitecaps are preparing to do the same this weekend before moving to the newly renovated BC Place.
For Whitecaps fans, the team’s time at Empire has given supporters a chance to pay homage to generations past.
“Empire is our ancestral home and it was neat to revisit that,” said John Knox, the president of the Southsiders supporters’ club. “It gave us a taste of the experience our parents and their parents had when going to matches in Vancouver.”
While all eyes will be on the move to BC Place, Lenarduzzi and Knox hope fans take a moment to look back as well.