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Official Review by Jim Flannery, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Since the Medicine Hat Tigers’ inaugural season of 1970-71, they’ve won two Memorial Cups and five Western Hockey League titles, making them one of the most consistent performers in WHL history. Not surprisingly, they’ve produced a ton of talent, graduating 99 players to the NHL, including Jay Bouwmeester, Rob Niedermeyer, Chris Osgood, Lanny McDonald, and Kelly Hrudey.
Until the fall of 2015, the Tigers spent the entire history of their franchise playing in the Medicine Hat Arena, located just east of the city’s downtown core. The Tigers relocated to the brand new Canalta Centre at the start of the 2015/16 season — after 45 seasons in the arena, it was time to move into a more modern facility, one that was specifically designed to Memorial Cup specifications in the hopes of luring the CHL championship to Medicine Hat in the near future.
The Canalta Centre has room for 3,000 more fans, includes 22 luxury suites, 350 club seats on the south side between the blue lines, a lounge, and state of the art technology throughout. But more than that, as the Tigers continue to settle into their new rink, it is feeling more and more like home.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
There are four main concession stands at Canalta Centre, one in each corner of the arena. The northwest and southeast concessions offer pretty standard fare. The bacon cheeseburger ($8) is tasty. You can also find hot dogs ($5), fries ($4) candy and chips, pop in a bottle or from the fountain ($3.50).
There is also a selection of alcoholic drinks available at these concessions. You can get Molson Canadian, Coors Light, Pilsner, or Heineken for $6, Strongbow Cider for $7.75, or wine for $7.
The northeast and southwest concessions offer a different menu that includes Boston Pizza by the slice ($4-$6, depending on toppings) as well as some of the other standard concessions (hot dogs, candy and chocolate and so on). Skinny's BBQ's pulled pork sandwiches are also available here for $7, but if you really want the Skinny's experience, head to their stand near the southwest corner for the beef brisket sandwich ($10).
Additionally, there are several locations around the arena exclusively selling adult beverages, including the Canadian Hockey House lounge area on the south side. Between periods the lounge fills up with fans looking to enjoy a cocktail and some conversation away from the ice.
On the east end, between the two main concession stands, are two smaller set-ups selling popcorn and little donuts.
Finally, on the north side you'll find a Swirls Ice Cream kiosk offering soft and hard ice cream for patrons looking for a cool treat ($4.20 for a medium soft serve; $4.80 for a medium hard ice cream).
One consistent aspect of junior hockey arenas around Alberta and Saskatchewan is that the buildings tend to be fairly subdued for most of the game, but get much louder and more energetic as soon as something exciting happens in the game. At the Canalta Centre things are much the same. You get the sense that the place is locked and loaded to erupt when the Tigers score, but that energy level does seem to come and go. It's pleasant and friendly, but not quite edge-of-your-seat intense.
The banners that used to decorate the arena downtown are now located on the east end of Canalta Centre. Lanny McDonald's retired number is hanging from the rafters and the many, many championship banners the Tigers have earned over the years run the entire width of the roof at that end of the ice surface. All this history does a good job of helping make this place feel like the home of the Tigers.
There was some controversy when the location of Canalta Centre was originally announced. Located in the Box Springs Business Park, a developing industrial area called on the west edge of Medicine Hat, the arena is about as far away from the city proper as it can get while still remaining in the city limits.
The area itself is largely empty prairie land, with a few warehouses and store fronts slowly starting to pop up. Therefore, if you're looking for somewhere to grab a bite before or after the game, your options are extremely limited.
In fact, there are really only four food options in the immediate area, and by "immediate area" I mean less than a 20-minute walk. The busiest spot is the Boston Pizza located at 2500 Box Springs Rd., a little more than a half kilometre away. A Keg franchise has opened right next to the Boston Pizza as of 2016. A little farther away you can also find The District Bar and Grill (103 - 2201 Box Springs Blvd.), which emphasizes locally sourced food suppliers and craft beer (the Black & Blue burger is quite good). Finally, if you're looking for something quick and simple, an A&W can be found in the Petro Canada gas station a little further west at 2900 Box Springs Blvd NW.
On the upside, with a relatively small city like Medicine Hat, the drive to more dining and entertainment options is really only 10 minutes or so. But plan to make that 10-minute drive.
The fans at Canalta Centre are fairly relaxed for most of the game. However, they get loud when there's a big hit, big save, or big goal. Looking around the seating bowl, people appear engaged on the game and, like other Canadian hockey crowds, they know their game.
Medicine Hat crowds have a reputation for being dedicated to their Tigers and seeing all the people proudly wearing their black and orange confirms it. Clearly these are fans who love their team and that's always nice to see.
Getting to the arena is pretty easy, although, it's a bit of a drive for most people. There is ample free parking around the building and the parking lot is designed well enough to allow vehicles to get in easily and for the lot to empty in a reasonable amount of time after games.
The concourse appears at first glace to be quite wide and roomy, with plenty of space for the crowd. This is indeed the case at the ends of the rink. However, due to lineups for Swirls, community events tables, and the Canadian Hockey House queuing into the corridors, both the north and south sides logjam rather badly when fans are milling around between periods.
Lineups for the ladies washrooms between periods can also be surprisingly long, considering how new this building is. One might think that enough washrooms were installed to accommodate the crowds, but this might not be the case.
Single game tickets to see the Tigers cost $18.50 each for adults, $12.50 for youths (13-17 years old), and $8.50 for children 12 and under. Considering that you're going to see a team that is consistently among the WHL league leaders in a brand new barn, that's a pretty great deal.
The Tigers souvenir stand is located just inside the main entrance on the west end of the building. It is simply a table alongside a shelf full of caps, pucks and other goodies and a shirt rack full of jerseys, sweatshirts and tees, in front of the Tigers office space, so it seems a little temporary and lacks the selection found at some other WHL venues. Still they must do pretty good business here, considering how many fans are seen around the rink wearing Tigers gear.
The Tigers mascot, Rroary, has an awesome name for a mascot tiger and spends the game in the stands pumping up the crowd and high-fiving the kids, providing some family friendly entertainment away from the ice.
One excellent feature is that there are glow-in-the-dark strips on the leading edge of the stairs in the stands, adding to fan safety without being overly distracting or intrusive. This is a great idea that other arenas could learn from.
The video screen over centre ice is huge and state-of-the-art, with high definition video that is clear from all areas of the arena and tack sharp.As with most WHL arenas, the top of the lower bowl features standing room viewing locations around most of the rink, with the remainder of the area reserved for wheelchairs and mobility-challenged fans. The north side of the concourse had several tables set up promoting several local causes and businesses, including the Canadian Mental Health Association. This helps keep a community focus at the event.
It's always interesting and exciting to check out a new building and Canalta Centre is no exception. The building is clean and fresh and looks like it has the potential to continue to mature into a really excellent venue for the Tigers. It will be interesting to come back here again in future seasons to see how things progress.
Member Review by calgaryjimbo on Oct 30, 2015
Until the fall of 2015, the Medicine Hat Tigers spent the entire history of their franchise playing in the Medicine Hat Arena, located just east of the city’s downtown core. Since the team’s inaugural season of 1970-71, they’ve won two Memorial Cups and five Western Hockey League titles, making them one of the most consistent performers in WHL history. Not surprisingly, they’ve produced a ton of talent, graduating 99 players to the NHL, including Jay Bouwmeester, Rob Niedermeyer, Chris Osgood, Lanny McDonald, and Kelly Hrudey.
The Tigers relocated at the start of the 2015/16 season. After 45 seasons in the Arena, it was time to move into a more modern facility, one that was specifically designed to Memorial Cup specifications in the hopes of luring the CHL championship to Medicine Hat in the near future. The Canalta Centre has room for 3,000 more fans, includes 22 luxury suites, 350 club seats on the south side between the blue lines, a lounge, and state of the art technology throughout.
2500 Box Springs Rd
Medicine Hat, AB T1C 0C8
103-2201, Box Springs Blvd NW
Medicine Hat, AB T1C 0C8
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