While walking down downtown Vancouver’s Georgia Street on Saturday afternoon with a throng of Vancouver Canuck fans, I was struck by the complete overhaul of BC Place. 

Before covering Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals next door in Rogers Arena, I took a few minutes to survey firsthand the giant “masts” sticking out from BC Place as part of the new retractable roof structure. And with the new steel cable system now in place to support the yet-to-come roof, Saturday was a great time to make an impromptu visit to the site.

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Courtesy BC Lions

As part of a complete $563 million renovation of the 63,000-seat BC Place, the building’s owners, PAVCO (BC Place Pavilion Corporation) ripped off the old air-supported Teflon-fabric roof, leaving the balance of the structure in place. In the roof’s stead comes the largest retractable roof of its kind.

While the seating bowl will gain a permanent coated fiberglass covering, the area covering the playing surface will boast a Tenara-fabric roof. The two roofs will have air pressure between them when they overlap.

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Courtesy PAVCO

Cue the masts and steel cables.

As part architectural focal point and part engineering requirement, 36 masts now protrude around the top and outside of the structure—the first thing you see when walking down Georgia Street. Built on top of the existing superstructure, each pair of masts links two cables, creating what amounts to 18 separate suspension bridges in a ring-like formation to support the retractable roof, which can pull into a space over the large video scoreboard in the center of the stadium. Each mast is 154 feet tall and 656 feet long.

When done, the new roof will take 20 minutes to open or close, not that it matters to spectators, since all seats in the stadium sit under cover.

By eliminating the energy needed to keep the old roof supported, PAVCO expects a 25 percent energy savings, representing about $350,000 per year.

But it hasn’t been all fun and games in Vancouver since construction kicked off in April 2010. Local media reports the steel contract awarded to an out-of-province group has cost contractors in the $458 million fixed-price bid by PCL Constructors Canada Inc. because of the sheer size and complexity of the job. Of course, local steel workers say the outside group low-balled the bid and B.C. workers could have accurately judged the cost and scope of the project.

Either way, the steel work hurdle has been cleared and the next step toward opening in September includes adding improved lighting and sound systems and the installation of the four-sided videoboard suspended from the roof’s support structure.

Along with the new roof, all the common spaces at BC Place have been upgraded, including concessions and toilet areas (always a fun spot to get something new and shiny, right?). New blue-green glazing aims to brighten the dreary BC Place and the exterior plazas will soon get upgraded. Expect to see new stadium seating and an all-weather playing turf too.

When opened in September, BC Place will once again house the CFL’s BC Lions football team and become the new home of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC, the city’s expansion MLS squad.

Maybe I’ll have to take in a Whitecaps’ game at the new site, all in the name of work, mind you.