Rogers Place is Raising the Bar

The new Rogers Place arena in the heart of downtown Edmonton will not only have an NHL atmosphere that will rival any arena in North America, but it will also set the bar for the city’s future growth.

Members of the media gathered this morning on the outdoor balcony of the 28th floor of the EPCOR Tower, overlooking the Rogers Place construction site. Updates were provided on the progress of construction and just how iconic this $480 million project really is for the city.

“It’s tremendously gratifying,” Executive Vice President of the Edmonton Arena Corporation Bob Black said. “It was a real journey for us through the negotiations with the City of Edmonton and we’re absolutely grateful that we’ve gotten to the point where we’re actually now into construction. It couldn’t be more gratifying to be in my office, which is in the Bell Tower, and look down on the site and see the absolute beehive of activity.”

ICON Venue Group is managing the project and their Senior Vice President, Dan Vaillant was in Edmonton to discuss the progress.

“The nice part is we’re in the ground,” Vaillant said. “We’ve been under construction now for about three months. So far, so good. It’s going well, excavation is done, we’re pouring concrete columns out there right now and the next thing people will see happening is the form work will start being put into place that supports the event level.”

Vaillant and ICON have been involved in the production of some of the more recent and innovative sports facilities in the world. As for NHL arenas, they’ve been on board with Pittsburgh’s CONSOL Energy Center, Arena in Glendale, AZ, the Prudential Center in New Jersey and the Pepsi Center in Denver, CO. Rogers Place may leave them all in the dust.

“It’s going to be second to none from the standpoint of being a game-changer for NHL arenas,” Vaillant said. “This one has it all — it has the community rink attached to it and a seamless connection to the LRT (Light Rail Transit). The Winter Garden is going to provide people with an area for them to gather before the game or before a concert for that matter. I think that’s so important in a climate like Edmonton where you’ve got harsh, cold winters. You don’t want to be standing outside waiting to get into the building.”

Including the arena, the underground parking, community rink, LRT link and Winter Garden, the project spans 1,110,900 square feet.

“It’s a pretty significant undertaking,” PCL Construction Manager Mike Staines said.

Staines and the Edmonton-based construction group are taking on more than just their average construction gig. The footprint they’ll leave on the city itself will be the spark that ignites more growth in their hometown.

“It doesn’t get any bigger,” Staines said. “It’s in our hometown, it’s the major home of the NHL franchise in Edmonton, it’s everything that people talk about. Just the fact that (the media) are here today, it’s a very important part of our business. It’s what we want to be a part of, especially in our hometown and we’re proud of it. We’re very proud that we’re involved and we know that we will be proud of it, along with everybody associated with it and Edmontonians when we’re finished.”

The arena itself will be a unique addition to the community. The architecture of the building brings a new-age feel to downtown Edmonton and stands out from the rest of the nearby buildings. It’s almost ahead of its time in some ways, pushing the city to aspire to reach new heights.

“We think the great architecture has its own spin-offs, it has its own impacts and from our perspective, Daryl Katz’s vision from the very outset of this project was to create a great piece of architecture and that’s not the common approach with arena construction,” Black said. “But we feel for this to have the true effect of being the strong catalyst of downtown that it has to be great and we’re satisfied we’ve achieved that.”

Where some newer arenas and venues camouflage themselves into the community, Rogers Place will be different. The team working on the project is looking to create an iconic piece for Edmonton’s future.

“We shared that vision from the outset,” said Rick Daviss, the City of Edmonton’s Executive Director on the project. “There are some arenas that they want to blend into the fabric of the community. We felt that it was important to make a statement and be bold and to bring this city around it and to really step up the architecture around it and make it a different, unique place where people will want to come and spend some time and enjoy the ambience. It’s something that we haven’t had the opportunity to do in the city that much and I think we’re succeeding.”

The hockey, concert and event venue will be a social hub in Edmonton. It will be reachable by seven LRT stops within walking distance and surrounded by 12,000 parking spots within a 10-minute walk of the arena. The covered walkway over 104th Ave will provide easy access even in the winter.

“We’ve got the great, good fortune of being able to assemble this land right in the downtown core,” Black said. “It’s within two blocks of the retail core of downtown, it’s two blocks from the financial core of the downtown and within two blocks of the warehouse district where the residential core is and then of course only two blocks from city hall, the civic precinct and the arts district. It’s really an uncommon opportunity to be able to assemble this kid of land, right in the heart of everything. We worked really hard in the master planning to make sure this project has that catalytic effect and it’s set up to achieve that.”

“Really, in terms of not just hockey arenas but architecture and a people place, this is going to be an activity centre for people to come whether there is an event on in the arena or not,” Daviss said.

Rogers Place will seat 18,641 for Edmonton Oilers games and the capacity can be altered to fit 4,000-5,000 for small events and 20,734 for bigger, centre stage setups. 52% of the seats are in the lower bowl, which compares to 37% at Rexall Place. This configuration will provide Oilers fans with a more intimate and energetic atmosphere at the games while bringing the fans closer to the action. Rogers Place will provide fans with wider concourses, unique and premium food and beverage options, and will boast the world’s largest HD arena scoreboard, along with other technological advances.

“It will definitely be the most customer-friendly building that I’ve seen anywhere,” Edmonton Oilers President and COO Patrick LaForge said. “Every part of it is attuned to the customer’s needs. Mingling and mixing for the business guys, proximity to the centre of the ice for the fan, the best viewing opportunity and most technologically advanced of any arena that it might compete with in the NHL or likewise in North America. Today’s world is apps and convenience and knowledge so we’ll be leading edge in that area, incomparable to any other facility.”

Rogers Place is on schedule to open at the start of the 2016 hockey season. There is still a lot to do when it comes to construction. The ground is now excavated and concrete is being poured. The next major milestone is to start putting the steel structure in place. There are more decisions to be made along with more announcements and updates, but Monday’s media session provided some insights into how it will all play out.

“Until this thing is built and fully operational there will be no rest,” Black said. “There will be decisions to be made during the course of construction, there will be challenges that arise during the course of construction. That is the essence and nature of a construction project. But we have a great working relationship with the city, we’ve got a strong team working well together and we’ll meet every challenge that arises.”


Chris Wescott