Welcome To The Future

Messier Art Rogers Place

Messier Art Rogers PlaceSay what you will about the Oilers – and Lord knows, I have – despite a decade of on-ice incompetence which is virtually unparalleled in modern sports (that sounds like an exaggeration, but it isn’t), they’ve off-ice success can’t be questioned. I, like 57,000 others, went to check out Rogers Place this weekend, and like most people, was blown away.

The unfortunately named Rogers Place may only seat an additional 1600-1700 fans, but it feels immensely bigger than Rexall (I would venture a guess it’s 30-40% bigger, all told). At times it feels like a museum – curved walls, massive concourses, lighting built into the ceiling, and metallic writing highlighting which massive corporation sponsored which area.

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Open space; a concept not invented back in the 1970s.

Rogers Place incorporates a number of features used at other modern arenas throughout North America, but easily the best aspect are the massive windows encasing much of the building. Unlike Rexall, which was just a massive circle of concrete, Rogers grants us a view of Edmonton’s rapidly improving skyline (but if you feel homesick, you can walk 180 degrees to see familiar dirt parking lots).

Editor Note: Kurtis and I delved into this on our podcast, check out North of 49).

Surrounding Areas

Nearly as impressive as the building itself is the surrounding area (I suppose this is referred to as the Ice District, narrowing beating out Katz’s Korner). It’s still under construction, but the inevitable hustle-and-bustle in the area will be unlike anything an Edmonton downtown has ever seen. (Sidenote: Many will foolishly see this as a validation for giving a billionaire a ludicrous amount of taxpayer money. While I, too, am thrilled about the arena, I would be much more thrilled if the city actually, you know, owned it, and, you know, reaped the benefits. This also ignores how $400-500M will improve any area, regardless what’s being built. While the City arguably needed a new arena, and inarguably needed to improve the downtown, there are wiser ways to do this, and if you don’t believe me read the dozens of studies that are yet to be refuted). (Correction: The City *technically* owns the arena, but they don’t see much of the windfall. I regret the error, and my apologies to Paul, Liam, and my father.)

I particularly enjoyed watching Edmontonians stumble off the LRT, as volunteers guided them towards the arena. It reminded me of tourists being ushered along, unable to comprehend Edmonton’s new, frenetic downtown, and struggling with novel concepts like “foot traffic.”

In-Game Experience

The seats were unfortunately closed off to the public, but looking on from the concourse a few things are clear:

  • The video screen is tremendous. Fans will love it (I, however, didn’t enjoy it when it beamed up unofficial Oilers PR man David Staples, telling us for the billionth time how great this arena will be for us and how Daryl Katz is the one true king/messiah).
  • Like most new arenas, there really isn’t a bad seat in the house. I haven’t been able to confirm this, but I believe the seats were built up, rather than out. Unlike at Rexall, you really feel like you are looking down on the ice.
  • The surrounding seating areas – lounges and what have you – are pretty incredible.
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You can smell the optimism.

The Downside

Your options to get to and from games are as follows:

  • Walk.
  • Drive to the LRT. Take the LRT.

There is no third option.

The City of Edmonton will claim there are 18,000 parking spots within walking distance (Sidenote: I would love to know what “walking distance” is defined as… I suspect most Edmontonians will disagree with that assessment come January). But making your way around Edmonton’s two-lane downtown roads should be a non-starter.

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The beginnings of a 69-storey tower. In Edmonton.

But outside that, there’s not much to complain about. The building itself is beautiful. The area is teeming with potential. Go check it out.

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