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Official Review by Jim Flannery, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Lethbridge Hurricanes began their history as the Winnipeg Jets in 1967 and have been in operation since. They changed their name twice while in Winnipeg before moving to Calgary and becoming the Wranglers in 1977. They remained in Calgary until 1987 when they relocated to Lethbridge and were renamed once again, a name they have stuck with now for more than a quarter century.
The Hurricanes took over the Lethbridge junior hockey scene after the Broncos moved back to their original home in Swift Current following a 12-year stay in Lethbridge.
Through it all, Lethbridge’s WHL teams have played at what is now known as ENMAX Centre.
Built in 1975 for the Canada Winter Games, the Sportsplex (as it was then known) was designed for a multitude of purposes. The stadium converts easily to a number of different applications such as curling, concerts, hockey, basketball, banquets, etc.
Beginning in 2010, the ENMAX Centre underwent a major facelift, with $34 million in upgrades. New features include new luxury suites, a new scoreboard and sound system, new press facilities, new locker rooms for the teams, and a new restaurant and lounge on the upper level of the north end.
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".
Part of the upgrade program was improving the concession stands. There are numerous choices spread around the facility and each stand has a slightly different selection, including a kiosk with mini doughnuts ($4.00), several locations that have fairly conventional concession fare, including hot dogs ($4.00), popcorn ($5.00 for a regular), and nachos ($5.00), and several which also offer Dominoes Pizza by the slice ($6.25 each). There is also a modest selection of beer on tap ($5.50), coolers, hi-balls and wine (all $6.25) available at the stands, but not much in the way of selection.
Upstairs in the Canadian Western Bank Lounge there is a row of seats right up front allowing fans to watch from the lounge's vantage point as well as a number of tables that give you a view of the ice surface. Further back, there are more tables for a real dining experience. The lounge opens two hours before game time, so this is an excellent option for pre-game dining in a very nice location prior to a Hurricanes game.
At the other end of the rink, District 5 Bar and Grill is set up with chairs and tables right near ice level, providing another option for adults wanting to get their drink on while enjoying the game.
As with most of the minor hockey arenas I've visited, the energy at the ENMAX Centre is fairly laid back. In Lethbridge this may also be in part because of the struggles the Hurricanes have been playing through in recent years, putting them out of the playoff picture for quite some time. There are cheers at the right times but the stadium, with only 2,500-3,500 people in it, is pretty quiet otherwise.
Another issue is the seating. After checking a number of different seating locations around the stadium, one thing that stood out, particularly in the corners, was legroom that can most charitably be called "cozy." In spite of the seats themselves being new and quite comfortable, the lack of legroom made it awkward to stay facing forward without having to slide your knees to one side or the other.
Additionally, there are a dozen or so seats in the upper decks of Sections "A" and "S" where about half of the view of the rink is completely blocked off by the new luxury boxes. You can still see the game on the video feed on the scoreboard, but it makes this handful of seats less than ideal.
Aside from those flaws, sight lines from everywhere else in the building are excellent and the venue's overall atmosphere is fun and inviting.
You really can't ask for a better location than that of the ENMAX Centre. Located right on Scenic Drive, one of the major thoroughfares for Lethbridge, the stadium is also just a couple blocks from Mayor Magrath Drive and most of the key shops and services in town. You are within walking distance of fast food, casual dining, bars, pubs, shopping; pretty much everything is right there.
From Burger King to Five Guys Burger and Fries to Boston Pizza to Mr. Mike's Steakhouse and Bar and everything in between, there is something for everyone.
If you're willing to drive five minutes north on Mayor Magrath, I highly recommend giving the Smokehouse BBQ a try (1104 Mayor Magrath Drive S.). Good food and impressive portions.
The fans are obviously dedicated, as they're continuing to come out to support their team even though they last made the playoffs in 2009. But it's a relatively small group of fans. With the stands only filled to 60 or 70 percent capacity, the place feels a bit empty.
Still, the people who are there clearly know their hockey, as most Canadian audiences do. They cheer at the right moments, boo at the right moments and appear engaged throughout the game.
Parking at the ENMAX Centre is outstanding, with ample free parking available in the lots surrounding the stadium. There is also reserved parking for fans attending the luxury suites. Getting in and out of the parking lot is a snap, with traffic clearing out quickly and easily following the game (we were back on the streets from the middle of the lot within five minutes).
With the stadium situated on a major artery, next to a second major artery, getting to and from the ENMAX Centre from anywhere in Lethbridge will be a quick trip. After the game, I was able to get to the extreme north end of town in less than 20 minutes.
If you're looking to bus in, there is a stop right in front of the stadium, again making getting to and from the venue simple.
With game-day tickets available for $21 a seat for adults, $18 for seniors. $16 for students and $11 for youths, pricing for walk-ups is excellent, providing great value for your viewing dollar. There aren't many better deals out there for this level of competition and entertainment. An excellent value for your money.
The two dozen luxury boxes are leased by ENMAX for three-year periods and have been a hot item, as they are completely sold out.
Season ticket sales for the devoted fan go on sale in the spring, with early bird deals as well as loyalty pricing for returning season ticket holders.
ENMAX Centre has a number of great touches to add to the experience of taking in a Hurricanes game.
The Hurricanes have a souvenir stand in the northeast corner of the main concourse where fans can pick up hats, tee-shirts, jerseys, and various knick-knacks, all at fairly typical prices.
A nifty feature that I've seen in many junior hockey arenas is standing room spots all the way around the perimeter of the concourse, which are sold in the same manner as the seats. Apparently many fans prefer to watch games from these standing positions, rather than the seats, so this gives the audience one more unique viewing option.
As a facility and franchise with very close ties to the community, ENMAX Centre makes several community tables available around the concourse, allowing community-based fundraisers and awareness campaigns an opportunity to bring their message to the fans.
The Hurricanes also have a mascot, Twister, to keep the kids in the audience entertained and to help out with various promotions and giveaways during the game.
Also of note, among the upgrades to the facility are the new scoreboard and sound system. The scoreboard provides a hi-res video feed of the on-ice action which is readily visible to everyone in the stands. The excellent sound system beams music and public address announcements to the audience and has characteristics that put it on par with the systems in NHL-quality stadiums around North America.
I attended "Country Night" at ENMAX Centre which featured the live music provided by Trevor Panczak. Although having a live band at games is apparently only a once or twice a year feature, I found it to be a real treat and would love to see more of this.
On the west wall of the concourse is the Hurricanes Hall of Fame, with the names of all the award winners who have earned accolades over the years.
I'm always happy to see recycling bins at stadiums and ENMAX Centre is no exception, allowing the fans to be green while enjoying a night out.
When all is said and done, this is a great place to see the stars of tomorrow doing their thing. If the team can find ways to draw more fans to games with creative marketing strategies, it'll bring the energy up in the building and make it that much more entertaining.
Member Review by calgaryjimbo on Feb 24, 2012
Built in 1975 for the Canada Winter Games, the ENMAX Centre is now home to the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes. Designed for a multitude of purposes, the stadium converts easily to a number of different applications, for curling, concerts, hockey, basketball, banquets, etc.
Since 2010, the ENMAX Centre has been undergoing a major facelift, with $34 million in upgrades. New features include new luxury suites, a new scoreboard and sound system, new press facilities, new locker rooms for the teams, and a new restaurant and lounge that should be completed by the end of March, in time for the Ford World Women’s Curling Championship.
The 2011/2012 season is the 25th for the Hurricanes in Lethbridge and the 44th overall for the franchise. The team got off to a slow start this year, losing every game in October. This has somewhat impacted the number of fans in the stands, but with the renovations to the building wrapping up, the franchise is confident that there are good things ahead.
2041 Mayor Magrath Drive South
Lethbridge, AB T1K 2S2
1104 Mayor Magrath Drive
Lethbridge, AB T1K 2P8
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