Tailgating is a passion for members of the Tailgate Empire. It is something that we look forward to all winter. When the summer finally arrives, we constantly look for a reason to tailgate. Should we go to training camp and tailgate? When is the first pre-season game? A love of food and Canadian Football is what brings us together. The camaraderie and respect for the tradition keeps us coming back.
Tailgating in Vancouver started from humble beginnings for us. We were about a dozen people barbequing in the lot at Georgia and Beatty until the security there sent us on our way. By the time we left that spot there were probably 30 or so regulars looking for a place to carry on our pastime. We settled on a great spot under the Cambie Street Bridge and had a great time there. The Tailgates really started to grow and with the growth came a lot of issues. Mostly new tailgaters that didn’t respect or weren’t educated to the rules that we followed. Rules like putting your beverage in a cup, packing out your garbage, and only using propane BBQ’s.
This ultimately came to a head at the 2007 Western Final against the Riders. This was probably the largest downtown tailgate Vancouver had ever seen. The Roughrider fans were in full force and so were the Lions fans. We estimated 5000 people were there that day. Unfortunately at the end of it there was so much garbage left behind that even Global News had to show what a mess was made. I remember shaking my head when I saw the news report. I was not shocked at all when we showed up for the first pre-season game of 2008 and were turned away by the operators of the parking lot.
In search of a home once again we began the 2008 season. We found a great spot beside the Costco on Expo Blvd. It was a privately owned lot and there were no real issues there. Unfortunately like most pieces of property downtown it was eventually being used for a construction project. A nomadic tailgate group we were. It is really tough to plan a tailgate when you don’t know if you’re going to be asked to leave. Hard to understand why you can grill up some wieners in any other public space in this great province, but if you do it before a football game you are considered a nuisance.
After some lobbying from one of the Empire members we were granted a home by the great folks at Easy Park. It’s about a 15 minutes walk from BC Place but as long as we paid for any spots being used and continued to be the respectful group that we had always been, we could set up at Quebec and Terminal. We like this spot as it does have some benefits, but the distance to the stadium is the only real downfall.
Then the bombshell was dropped. The Liberal government was going to completely renovate BC Place Stadium. This was excellent news for the football fans of BC. Empire Field would become the temporary home of the BC Lions and off to East Vancouver we would go. The temporary stadium was built and with it an Empire of Tailgaters would emerge.
Really, tons of kudos has to go to the PNE, who operate Empire Field. After initially denying tailgaters a home, they put their heads together and came up with a set of rules for tailgating at Empire and have even supplied portable toilets and trash cans. This forward thinking and quick response has really helped tailgating in Vancouver turn into one of the can’t miss activities of the summer. The people who operate the PNE deserve a lot of praise.
With all the fun times at Empire Field, we look ahead to September 10th. It will in all likelihood be the last tailgater at Empire. A lot of thoughts run through my head when thinking about it. It will be sad to see it go, but it is a great reason to celebrate the great history and the fun times had at the corner of Hastings and Cassiar. I encourage everyone to come down early and be a part of it. We are planning a breakfast menu because of the early start time. Crepes, French toast, bacon, sausages and other types of goodness will be on hand.
Our hope would be that the BC Lions see the value of this great pastime that so many of their season ticket holders have come to enjoy. We would be thrilled if a local lot can be found to make BC Lions pregame tailgating the envy of CFL Fans across the country. As cities in the U.S. have know for years, the PNE setup has proven beyond a doubt that with some common sense rules, washroom and garbage options, tailgating is a very fan friendly event that produces great pregame fun and builds friendships as well as new fans.
Another chapter in the Tailgate Empire has yet to be written and we will continue to produce great meals and good times! Be sure to check back and see where we are and what we are doing as we look forward to the Grand Re-opening of BC Place Stadium.
Happy tailgating from all of us in the Tailgate Empire!