By Chris Wescott – RogersPlace.com
“It’s absolutely unique,” said Bob Black, Executive Vice President of the Edmonton Arena Corporation.
Construction on Rogers Place is just over a year in and citizens of Edmonton have begun noticing steel framework being erected over 104th Avenue downtown. That is the site of the Winter Garden, a completely unique and programmable space that will serve as the front door to Rogers Place when it opens in the fall of 2016.
> WINTER GARDEN FACTS
The Edmonton Arena District (EAD) is Canada’s largest mixed-use sports and entertainment development. The district will be a dynamic, mixed-use destination that will help transform and revitalize downtown Edmonton. The EAD will offer an integrated mix of retail, office, hotel, residential and entertainment venue space. The Winter Garden is just one part of that space.
The Winter Garden is the “tail” of the oil drop design that makes Rogers Place such a uniquely shaped arena.
“It’s part of the iconic design suggestive of an oil drop that is so intrinsic to the team and to the economy of Alberta,” said Black. “Spanning over 104th Avenue, the busiest east-west vehicular corridor in the downtown, the Winter Garden will be the primary entrance for Rogers Place.”
Representatives from the City of Edmonton, Edmonton Arena Corporation and PCL Construction Management met with the media on Wednesday to share renderings and new facts about the Winter Garden.
It is anticipated that 30,000-35,000 vehicles will pass underneath the Winter Garden daily. According the Arena Corporation’s “pedestrian movement analysis,” 70-75 per cent of patrons to the new arena will enter through the Winter Garden. It is also estimated that 1.4 million people will pass through the Winter Garden per year, according to Black. The bridge over 104th Avenue will span 1,800 square metres.
The Winter Garden will connect Rogers Place with the Edmonton Arena District. It will serve as a gathering place for people in Edmonton, and across Western Canada.
“The Winter Garden has been a very interesting element of the arena project,” said Rick Daviss, Executive Director of the Downtown Arena Project . “Initially, there was a concern that we were taking people off the street and into an over-head pedway in the new facility. Really, it’s quite the opposite. What we’re doing is we’re bringing people from the new facility, across the Winter Garden in a safe fashion, down onto a plaza where they’re going to be able to have a gathering place and they’ll be down at street level. It’s really an exciting project. We didn’t want to make it a standard pedway, we wanted to make it exciting.”
The Winter Garden, a $56.5 million project, will be a 34,000 square-foot structure with 24,000 square feet of programmable space. That programmable space will be home to many events, both public and private.
“It will be used in conjunction with the arena at times, it will be used on its own at times, it will be used in conjunction with the plaza at times. So we think that it gives us tremendous versatility in terms of the types of events we can host in the Winter Garden, and that it will be a really vibrant hub of activity in the downtown core,” said Black.
All three project leaders made it very clear that if you think it is just a pedway with access to the arena, you’re mistaken.
“We are actively developing the programming vision for the Winter Garden and are very excited for its capacity to be a venue for events, large and small,” said Black. “These will include pre-game tailgating events, sponsor activations, corporate events and ceremonies, music, sports, arts and cultural events. Fundamentally, the Winter Garden will be a people place and a vibrant and active hub in the arena district. It will bring people together, it will connect north and south and it will be one of the great meeting places in all of the city.”
The Winter Garden is expected to be a one-of-a-kind iconic piece of architecture in Edmonton’s downtown.
“When you look at the beautiful curvilinear lines, the natural light that will pour in through the glazing on either side of it, it will really be a signature piece of architecture,” said Black. “But it also is a grand entrance to the arena and a space that will be very actively programmed.”
According to PCL Project Manager Mike Staines, 4,000 tons of steel have been erected at the arena construction site to date. As for the Winter Garden, steel has fully crossed 104th Avenue and they will continue construction on that piece through the summer. The entire building is expected to be enclosed by next winter.
The Winter Garden will be open at all hours the LRT system is running. It will open in conjunction with the arena, the LRT station and the community rink in 2016.
When it does open, Edmontonians and patrons to the downtown arena district will see what makes the Winter Garden so unique and why it may set the bar a little higher for future arena projects across North America. While some of the newer buildings around North America stop at a state-of-the-art arena, Rogers Place will add a new twist. It truly is a front door worthy of such an exciting project.
“It’s absolutely unique. I think that, as with many things in the arena, the Winter Garden will set a new standard,” said Black. “It will set a new benchmark for other arenas in the future. We have worked really hard on the programming of this particular arena to make sure that it is a best-in-class facility. The Winter Garden is going to be a big part of that. I rather suspect that other arenas around North America will look with great envy upon the Winter Garden. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see future arenas elsewhere incorporating a feature like the Winter Garden.”