Put your money where your mouth is: Lions owner Amar Doman plans to bring fans back ‘on my own dime’

Photo courtesy: B.C. Lions

Amar Doman has owned the B.C. Lions for less than 90 days, but he already has a clear vision for the future of the franchise.

Whether it comes together is still to be determined after the local businessman officially purchased the team from the estate of David Braley in August 2020.

“When I take a look at the B.C. Lions, which I had for six-and-a-half years negotiating with Mr. Braley that long, there was never any change in my desire, despite how the team was doing or the attendance — this is an asset,” Doman said on Sportsnet 650 radio.

“Out here in the west over the years, David Braley was a great owner, a great governor for the league, but he lived in Hamilton and let’s face it: when you don’t have local horsepower it can get disjointed from ownership. That happened over the past number of years and David was sick and he couldn’t get out as much.”

While Braley made his permanent home in Burlington, ON, Doman was born in Victoria and is now a resident of West Vancouver. Braley passed away in October 2020 after owning the Lions for 23 years. Though B.C. experienced a strong resurgence from 2004-2012, attendance has declined by more than 30 percent over the past decade as the team’s relevance in the marketplace has languished.

“This is something we really want to get the community around again, it doesn’t come overnight. There is absolutely nothing else on my mind except getting fans back in the building, creating excitement and I’m going to provide that,” Doman said.

“I don’t think the issue is with the fanbase, it’s with us not promoting. We have to get out and do our job, get people in, get things affordable. It’s going to take somebody like me who is a doer and our management team with the B.C. Lions to do this.”

Doman dreams of filling BC Place up to its 54,500 capacity once during a Lions game and hopefully more from there. First he wants the lower bowl to consistently be filled with fans. Vancouver has become a hotbed of support for the Seattle Seahawks, but Doman doesn’t see the NFL as competition to the CFL because the markets, traditions, and games are different.

“This is a piece of Canada, a piece of B.C. — the CFL is such a storied league and it has such loyalty to it. Right now it’s a bit invisible, COVID really sucked the life out of a lot of different leagues, but there’s no reason why when we come back strong next year that we can’t have a lot of things in order,” Doman said.

“We want to have a strong fanbase rebuilt back up over the next couple of decades. I’m going to invest in it and not wait for it to happen. There’s a lot of immigrants in town, they’re looking for things to do on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, but they’re not going in there for whatever reason. I want to introduce them to Canadian football, come in and have a look at what’s going on, give it a shot just like the NHL.”

The Lions are studying various ways to get fans to come to games at BC Place and entice them to return. Top of the list for Doman is the possibility for tailgating prior to games in parking lots with live bands. Rallies at the Vancouver Art Gallery or in Surrey he believes can help create excitement with players and cheer team members attending.

“I’ll be investing in those things, and frankly no disrespect to anyone, but those things we’re not invested in for the last number of years. There’s no problem with the football game, it’s getting the eyeballs on it. That’s tricky because there’s smartphones, and there’s this, there’s that,” Doman said.

“We do need to get some more of the young fanbase in. I’ve already met with the head of UBC Athletics, I’ll be meeting with SFU, there’s a lot of things that I want to do. A lot of people have drifted out, we know what the attendance numbers are — I’ll bring them back on my dime.”

There are no quick fixes in Doman’s mind, but he believes the younger crowds seen in markets such as Ottawa, Saskatchewan and Calgary can be replicated in B.C. and tie those potential fans in with the loyal group that already exists.

“It’s our job to get people back looking at the product,” Doman said. “It won’t be easy, but we’re going to get there.”