Has Vancouver become Canada’s number one sport city?

Vancouver is fast becoming Canada’s premier sport city for event hosting, edging past other major locations because of ideal geography, solid facilities, and community support.

Take Davis Cup, in Vancouver for a second time, landing on the campus of the University of British Columbia. The Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre is an indoor facility, which in Canada is always necessary for winter tennis events, and is an ice rink the rest of the year. It holds 7,000+ for tennis. ‘The Doug’ hosted preliminary hockey games during Vancouver 2010.

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Full disclosure: I lived in Vancouver for almost a decade from university through to my first media jobs so I’ve been able to see the city evolve from being an excited Olympic host to collecting regular national and world-class events.

It’s always tough to chase the unquantifiable measure of public appetite for sport events in a city. I wonder if it even matters. It is fair to say the Vancouver Olympics were a positive experience for many Vancouverites, those who walked the streets and contributed to the festival-like atmosphere.


Fans pack downtown Vancouver after Canada’s 3-2 win in the men’s hockey gold medal game, February 28, 2010.

The Games must have left an impression, but more tangibly the facilities and mechanisms to get big events to come to Vancouver. ‘The Doug’ at UBC is one facility, and BC Place where the Vancouver 2010 opening and closing ceremonies were held, is another. Starting in May 2010, the roof received an upgrade (part of a $514-million building renovation) and sure it sometimes leaks but stands out as a world-class spot.

Memorably, the 2012 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament was held in January of that year. Over 22,000 people watched Canada beat Mexico 3-1 in the semifinal to assure an Olympic spot. Afterwards the players ran endless laps around the field with the maple leaf, the majority of fans stuck around, perhaps still smitten by watching Olympic dreams unfold.


Christine Sinclair signs autographs for fans after Canada’s final game loss to the US in the 2012 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying tournament at BC Place. Canada assured their London 2012 Olympic ticket by making the final.

PavCo is a BC crown corporation responsible for BC Place and the Vancouver Convention Centre. They have a business team assigned to get events in their buildings, with a focus on sport. The City of Richmond does the same for the Richmond Olympic Oval. ViaSport British Columbia is the province’s sport organization and was created as a Vancouver 2010 legacy. With a streamlining process finished in the years after 2011 it may be one of the best organized provincial sport groups in Canada, with employees dedicated to attracting events.

If Vancouver is viewed as remote compared to Canada’s more classic power centres, North American professional leagues clearly don’t think so. The CFL’s Grey Cup was in Vancouver 2011 and 2014. The NHL put a Heritage Classic in Vancouver in March 2014, with the Ottawa Senators visiting the Canucks. It was outdoor, sort of, at BC Place. I shouldn’t forget, the Vancouver Whitecaps and BC Lions also call BC Place home.

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There’s more: Vancouver’s location on the western edge of Canada is probably viewed positively by international event organizers. It’s proximity to other Sevens World Series locations in Asia or Australia/New Zealand probably helped land the city its own sevens event. This summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup has scheduled five group games, two round-of-16 contests plus a quaterfinal and most notably the final, in Vancouver.

This summer’s other big event is the Pan American Games, held all over the Greater Toronto Area. It’s clear the conversation about Canada’s great sport cities, Toronto, Montreal…Calgary may have to save breath for ‘the city of glass’ on the west coast which has been taking its fair share of the spotlight for going on six full years.