Next Sunday the BC Lions will kick off the second game of their 56th season back where it all began, at Empire Field in East Vancouver. With the dome at BC Place deflated and renovations well underway, the 2010 season will take place outside on turf where the team played from 1954 to 1982.
I had the chance to catch up with Jamie Cartmell, Director of Communications for the Lions fresh off of training camp in Kamloops this week.
Q: Are there any special preparations for the team with regards to having an outdoor field this summer?
A: “With regard to preparation for the season, our training camp is pretty much the same. Half our games are on the road and outside of Toronto, and none are played in a dome. Playing outside this season at home is not a significant factor for the club from a on-field perspective. Even if weather conditions become a factor, itâ€™s the same for both clubs.”
Q: What is the overall sentiment about having your home turf not only outside but in such a legendary location?
A: “Our veteran players are very, very excited about playing outdoors and they are keenly aware of the historical significance of returning to the grounds of the former Empire Stadium. Itâ€™s actually an exciting two-year stretch because when you think about it, weâ€™re pretty much outdoors for good now (weather permitting) with the new retractable roof going on BC Place in 2011. From a business standpoint, itâ€™s a fantastic marketing opportunity to bring together three generations of Lions fans: those who grew up at Empire, those who grew up with BC Place and a new generation of fans that will come to know the new BC Place.”
Q: The Twitter updates from the sidelines and practices are great – was a formal social media plan for the organization put in place or was it something that just started?
A: “Our use of Twitter is part of an overall social media plan. The plan itself was developed after attending one our annual league-wide meetings in early 2009. At that time, the Twitter phenomenon was just starting to take off in cyberspace â€“ a great example is the grassroots support that Obama generated for his campaign via social media. Seeing that kind of success inspired our club as well as our peers throughout the CFL to start using social media to provide fans with behind-the-scenes access to our team and to our players â€“ now, our fans see everything from a player being taped in the dressing room pregame, to a pregame prayer circle to a celebratory post-game locker room photo.”
Q: How has the social media interaction been received by the public?
A: “We started tweeting and Facebook-ing in early 2009 and the fan response to Lions social media has been extremely positive â€“ we receive a great deal of positive feedback from our fans who love the ability to stay up-to-date with whatâ€™s going on, literally by the minute. Our use of social media has played a significant role in appealing to the younger demographic who arenâ€™t getting their news in traditional ways (i.e. newspaper, radio, television) – this generation of fans appreciates the convenience, accessibility and immediacy that social media provides. The creation of our Twitter and Facebook pages has also resulted in increased traffic to our website, bclions.com, as we utilize social media to promote content we produce for the site as well as build excitement for our games, promote contests and engage fans on a meaningful level.
Social media seems to evolve on a daily basis. We continually try to develop innovative ways of engaging fans using social media â€“ one example is a live Twitter Q and A we did with our general manager and head coach, Wally Buono, just prior to the annual Canadian Draft. BC Lions Twitter followers were encouraged to follow Wally on his Twitter page (@coach_brillo) and tweet him their questions over the period of an hour on a weekday morning, which he immediately answered. The response to this Q and A was tremendously positive â€“ fans loved the ability to â€˜chatâ€™ with our head coach in a personal manner.”
The BC Lions first game is this Sunday, while the home opener is Sunday June 20th at Empire Field where they will square off against Edmonton.
Single game tickets start at $35, which is a heck of a deal considering the venue, the view, and chance to watch the 5-time Grey Cup champs do what they do best.