BC Lions post disappointing attendance numbers in home opener

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      “Nothing rhymes with orange.”

      That’s the marketing slogan the BC Lions chose to run with this year and—along with some admittedly snappy artwork of some of the organization’s main figures—it can be seen on billboards and buses across the province.

      The striking design of the advertising material and the slogan, which apparently represents uniqueness, were the first components of the team’s push to increase fan engagement after a lacklustre couple seasons at the box office.

      (Though, it must be said, none other than Eminem has proved the slogan itself false.)

      The second part of the Lions’ push to return to relevance in Vancouver involved the on-field product. Veterans like Solomon Elimimian, Emmanuel Arceneaux and Rolly Lumbala were jettisoned. Long-time quarterback Travis Lulay called it a career. And bench boss Wally Buono became vice president of football operations after 15 seasons spent as head coach or general manager or both.

      The team hired a new coach in DeVone Claybrooks and brought on new, exciting players like wide receiver Duron Carter and arguably the league’s best quarterback (and former Lion) Mike Reilly.

      It was all supposed to translate into an invigorated Lions club that could have considerable success both on and off the field. An improvement on a 9-9 2018 season, which saw the Lions get decimated in the semi-final by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats by a 48-8 score, was a priority.

      But of more importance was becoming relevant again in a market in which they’d been passed by soccer’s Whitecaps and challenged by baseball’s Canadians as the coveted professional sports ticket of the summer in Vancouver.

      The team reported their highest renewal rate on season-ticket sales since 2012 after the Reilly signing, and said new sales were up 200 percent year-over-year.

      Unfortunately, it didn’t translate into sparkling opening day numbers last Saturday when the BC Lions kicked off their season with a 33-23 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

      That’s not promising. But it’s not exactly surprising either. Even with the on-field additions and the splashy marketing, it’s hard to ignore the fact that the Leos have seen declining box office numbers since that 2012 campaign. That year, the club averaged 30,366 fans. Average attendance has gone down every season since, save for a slight bump in 2018.

      Clearly, Lions brass was hoping last year’s increase was going to become a trend. And though one Saturday obviously won’t tell the story of this Lions season, it wasn’t a good start.

      But hey, that doesn't mean the team should stop trying to innovate.

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