Big Air at Hastings Park for 2030 Olympics? A throwback to the PNE's ski jump (PHOTOS)

Jun 27 2022, 7:38 pm

Over the 12 years since Vancouver’s hosting of the Winter Olympics, more disciplines of existing sports have been added to the competition events of the Games.

One of those disciplines is the addition of “big air” under freestyle skiing and snowboarding, which was first introduced in 2018 at Pyeongchang, and it made its return in 2022 at Beijing (the man-made jump backdropped by industrial concrete cooling towers).

If Vancouver were to re-host the Games in 2030, Hastings Park could have the pivotal role of being the big air competition venue.

Earlier this month, the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) revealed its preliminary 2030 Games concept for the potential British Columbia bid, which calls for utilizing Hastings Racecourse for big air. A temporary ski jump would be built on the horse racetrack’s field, perpendicular to the existing 5,000-seat covered grandstand. When seated capacity is combined with standing capacity, the venue’s total capacity could reach 20,000.

While Beijing 2022 built a permanent jump structure, the Pyeongchang 2018 and X Games jumps use temporary construction, such as a scaffolding system.

The idea of placing any ski jumping sport in the city seems unusual, but there is actually some historical precedent at Hastings Park.

In 1958, a temporary ski jump was built at the former Empire Stadium as part of the PNE’s special programming that year to celebrate the centennial anniversary of British Columbia’s incorporation into a colony.

pne empire stadium ski jump vancouver 1958

Temporary ski jump installed at Empire Stadium at Hastings Park/PNE, 1958. (City of Vancouver Archives)

pne empire stadium ski jump vancouver 1958

Temporary ski jump installed at Empire Stadium at Hastings Park/PNE, 1958. (City of Vancouver Archives)

pne empire stadium ski jump vancouver 1958

Temporary ski jump installed at Empire Stadium at Hastings Park/PNE, 1958. (City of Vancouver Archives)

At the time, ski jumping was a highly popular sport in British Columbia, and such structures were also commonplace in the North Shore mountains including atop Grouse Mountain.

According to an archived 1958 article from the Vancouver Sun, a 25-man crew spent 13 days constructing a 50-metre-tall (165 ft) ski jump on the north end of Empire Stadium.

The jump’s structure was built of 22.5 km of tubular steel and had a landing area with a width of 12 metres (40 ft). A pair of machines were brought in to convert 300-pound blocks of ice into a snow-like substance for the jump and landing pad. The ski jumpers would glide down, slide onto the field, and into a pile of straw at the stadium’s south end.

The event was carried out as a three-day Centennial Invitational Tournament that brought in ski jumpers from around the world.

pne empire stadium ski jump vancouver 1958

Temporary ski jump installed at Empire Stadium at Hastings Park/PNE, 1958. (City of Vancouver Archives)

pne empire stadium ski jump vancouver 1958

Temporary ski jump installed at Empire Stadium at Hastings Park/PNE, 1958. (City of Vancouver Archives)

pne empire stadium ski jump vancouver 1958

Temporary ski jump installed at Empire Stadium at Hastings Park/PNE, 1958. (City of Vancouver Archives)

pne empire stadium ski jump vancouver 1958

Temporary ski jump installed at Empire Stadium at Hastings Park/PNE, 1958. (City of Vancouver Archives)

pne empire stadium ski jump vancouver 1958

Temporary ski jump installed at Empire Stadium at Hastings Park/PNE, 1958. (City of Vancouver Archives)

The 33,000-seat Empire Stadium was built a few years earlier in time for Vancouver’s hosting of the 1954 Empire Games, now known as the Commonwealth Games. It was the original home of the CFL BC Lions and NASL Vancouver Whitecaps, until the opening of BC Place Stadium in 1983.

In 1993, Empire Stadium was demolished from its advancing age and reduced use following the opening of BC Place Stadium.

Empire Stadium made a short one-year return between Summer 2010 and Summer 2011 when a new temporary home was required for the BC Lions due to the extensive renovations being performed on BC Place Stadium, including the new retractable roof. The $14 million, temporary, 27,500-seat “Empire Field” stadium was built on the same footprint, with the 2010 Games temporary grandstands reused for parts of the venue.

pne empire stadium ski jump vancouver 1958

empire field pne hastings park vancouver stadium 2010 2011

The temporary Empire Field stadium on the former site of Empire Stadium, 2010-2011. (Unitech Construction Management)

empire field pne hastings park vancouver stadium 2010 2011

The temporary Empire Field stadium on the former site of Empire Stadium, 2010-2011. Captured during a CFL BC Lions game. (Unitech Construction Management)

hastings park sports fields vancouver f

Sports fields at Empire Field of Hastings Park in Vancouver, 2021. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

After the removal of the temporary stadium, the municipal government took advantage of some of the site upgrades that were performed. Instead of the previous configuration of an undurable natural grass surface with baseball diamonds, the post-2011 design incorporated two full-sized synthetic turf soccer fields for public use, warm-up areas, and a 560-metre (1,840 ft) track with a rubberized surface for walking and running. Other uses on the footprint of the grandstands were also added, such as basketball courts, parkour, playground, a bike park, and a monument to “The Miracle Mile” distance running race held at the site during the 1954 Empire Games.

Empire Field could potentially be used as one of the official practice hubs for visiting national teams during Vancouver’s role as a host city of the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

For the 2030 Olympic Winter Games, other than staging big air freestyle skiing and snowboarding at Hastings Park, the COC is proposing to bring back figure skating and short-track speed skating at the Pacific Coliseum, host curling at the Agrodome, host nightly Olympic medal ceremonies and the Paralympic closing ceremony at the new 10,000-seat PNE amphitheatre, and transform the PNE fairgrounds into a festive live site with concerts, activations, exhibitions, and cultural showcases. Hastings Park would essentially serve as the “Olympic Park” of the 2030 Games held in Vancouver.

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