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Official Review by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Nestled almost exactly halfway between Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta, the residents of Red Deer share a healthy split of allegiances between the two major Alberta cities’ NHL clubs. Both the Oilers and Flames are well represented in Red Deer, however, when it comes to junior hockey, there is no question as to who is king. The Red Deer Rebels have been members of the Western Hockey League since 1992. Founded by Terry and Wayne Simpson, the Rebels have seen quite a few future NHL players walk through the doors and also enjoyed some team successes. The ultimate team successes for the Rebels came in 2001 when the Rebels, led by future NHL players Jeff Woywitka and Colby Armstrong, saw Doug Lynch score the biggest goal in Rebels history, an overtime goal to defeat Val d’Or in the Memorial Cup Final.
Red Deer is the third largest city in Alberta. At a population of 90,000 it is the perfect kind of city for junior hockey. Home for the Rebels is the ENMAX Centrium. Built in 1991, the Centrium looks like a rather large facility for the city, with a capacity of 6,000 for hockey. The naming rights for the Centrium were purchased by energy company Enmax Consolidated. The Simpsons would sell the Rebels to former NHL player Brent Sutter, who follows an increasingly common Canadian Hockey League formula, acting as majority owner and head coach. The Centrium is located on Westerner Park, Red Deer’s local fairgrounds, which is owned and operated by the non-profit Westerner Exposition Association.
The Rebels have done a great job in developing an identity for themselves in Central Alberta and developing NHL caliber talent. They also boast one of the best logos in all sport. If you are in Alberta, then the Rebel Alliance, then a trip to the Enmax Centrium to see the Red Deer Rebels will be a worthy experience.
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".
Food options at the ENMAX Centrium are about what you would expect from a junior hockey facility.
Burgers ($4.75), hot dogs ($4), grilled chicken, chicken fingers, fries ($3.50), onion rings, poutine, chocolate bars, chips, licorice, candy, nachos and soft serve ice cream are all available at the various concession stands. Pizza is provided by local favorite Buster's Pizza and a variety of concoctions are available ($6). The quality of food items are decent and the prices are what you would expect for junior hockey. For something a little more unique, give the cheese smokies a shot.
For beverages, a pretty good variety of Pepsi products are found throughout the Centrium ($2.50/$3.50/$4.50). Other drinks are available, including coffee, cappuccino, hot chocolate, Gatorade, iced tea and bottled water. The Centrium offers a decent selection of beer including Budweiser, Bud Light, Shock Top, Alexander Keith's IPA, Corona, and Stella Artois ($6.75). Mike's Hard Lemonade, Smirnoff coolers and Keith's Cider are also available.
The ENMAX Centrium offers a great atmosphere to watch a Western Hockey League game.
Approaching the Enmax Centrium immediately surprises patrons. The sheer size of the arena from the outside makes it feel as if you are heading to a major league event. As compared to many other Canadian Hockey League venues, the Centrium just looks like one of the biggest, outside of the NHL or former NHL venues. The exterior features brown brick and siding which is nice enough looking. The front of the Centrium offers a nice meeting area with ticket windows. The exterior has loose brick and the longhorn skull logo in a very smart looking exterior. There is not much in the way of glass for the arena itself but that is to be expected considering the age of the building. The entry is where you will find the honoured players who played for the Rebels. The entry has large banners hanging from the ceiling honouring Colin Fraser, Martin Erat, Boyd Gordon, Mathew Dumba, Martin Hanzal, Colby Armstrong, Brandon Sutter, Dion Phaneuf, Jim Vandermeer, Cam Ward, Darcy Kuemper, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, James Reimer, Kris Versteeg, Jeff Woywitka, Derek Meech, Alex Petrovic, and coach Brent Sutter.
Upon entering the arena itself, patrons are immediately met with the 360 degree open concept concourse. The ice-surface is in an east-west configuration. Above centre ice hangs a nice, four-sided video board with a ribbon ring below it. On top of the video board are four, red goal lights which are used when the Rebels score. Above the ice on the west side of the arena hang 10 division, conference and league championship banners. The centrepiece is the 2001 Memorial Cup Championship banner. Above the ice on the east side are a variety of other banners with links to the ENMAX Centrium including banners for games played in Red Deer for the World Junior Hockey Championships in 2011 and the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, Canadian Womens National Curling tournament of 2012.
The seating bowl features two levels. The lower level is a complete bowl with approximately 12 rows. The north and south sides of the rink also feature an upper bowl. The seats are all plastic green, which matches the iron work throughout the arena, specifically the ceiling. The green is almost a light mint green, which looks out of place compared to the team colours and the rest of the arena. There are a few luxury boxes between the upper and lower levels on the north and south sides. There are also luxury boxes on two levels above the concourse on the west side. The east side of the arena features an open bar with a curious large curtain behind it. If you are looking for the perfect picture with the centre ice logo, then the south side of the arena is where you want to be. A great spot to sit is in the first few rows of the upper deck. It offers a great view of the entire ice surface, and is not too far.
The in-game promotions are what you would expect from a Canadian Hockey League game. The 50/50 draw is pretty significant here and the live 50/50 tracker definitely helps bring in more dollars. The Rebels do not overpower fans with promotions. A nice little preview of the game is offered before the game on the video board. The music that is played through the evening is the typical mix of pop and classic rock with a little more country music peppered in. The Rebels mascot is Wolly Bully and travels through the arena interacting with fans.
The Centrium offers quite a few interesting options in the immediate neighbourhood.
The Centrium is located on the grounds of Westerner Park, at the southern end of the city of Red Deer. Nearby Gaetz Avenue offers a huge variety of bars and restaurants for pre and post game meals. Numerous national chain restaurants are in the immediate area including Montana's, East Side Mario's and Five Guy's Burger and Fries. Other options you may want to consider include Taphouse Bar and Grill, Fionn MacCool's, Toad 'n Turtle, Earl's Kitchen and Bar and Rusty Pelican.
There are a number of events that also take place at Westerner Park including camping and horse racing, which may be of interest. It may be out of the way a bit, but a trip to this area is not complete without heading to the Alberta Badlands and the town of Drumheller. The terrain is very interesting and a trip to the Royal Tyrrell Museum is a must for anyone interested in dinosaurs. Other sporting options are pretty much relegated to a trip to either Calgary or Edmonton, which is not too much of a burden.
A number of hotels are also in the immediate area. The Holiday Inn & Suites Red Deer and the Howard Johnson Inn Red Deer are pretty good selections.
The Red Deer Rebels have a pretty strong following in the WHL.
Over the past three seasons the Rebels have seen a pretty decent increase in fan support. The 2013-2014 season saw the Rebels average just under 5,000 fans per game. This ranked 7th in the league. The Rebels have been trending in the right direction and by the time the 2015-2016 season rolled around the Rebels had bumped themselves up to 5th in the WHL, averaging over 5,600 fans. Considering the top three teams in the WHL, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver, all play in much larger markets and NHL sized arenas, the Rebels are in a great spot. A definite factor in the increased attendance numbers has to be the hosting of the 2016 Memorial Cup, which also guarantees the Rebels a spot in the tournament. The fans in Red Deer are fairly typical of Canadian junior hockey. They are not over the top excited, but are well educated, sophisticated, and make noise at all the appropriate moments.
Getting to Red Deer and the Centrium is no problem at all.
ENMAX Centrium is located on the grounds of Westerner Park, at the south end of the city of Red Deer. The park is just east of the Queen Elizabeth Highway, Highway 2 and getting into the park is no problem at all.
If you are interested in taking some public transit to the Centrium, there are buses that run on 49 Ave and 19 Street. check out the Red Deer Transit website for maps, fares, and schedules.
For those entering Westerner Park by car, there is plenty of parking on the grounds. At $5 a visit, it is not the greatest deal in the Canadian Hockey League but is absolutely affordable and cheaper than their Calgary and Edmonton rivals.
The main entry into the ENMAX Centrium is on the east side of the building. It is large and spacious and offers a great place to meet friends and family. Ticket windows are inside the main entrance.
Inside the arena there is plenty of room to get around. Intermissions are understandably more crowded but much better off than many other facilities. The washroom facilities at the Centrium are also adequate.
The Canadian Hockey League experience offers one of the best returns on Investment in all of sport and the Red Deer Rebels are no exception.
Ticket prices for the Red Deer Rebels remain under $20 at $19.75 apiece. There are also discounts for seniors, students and children. Parking is $5 and concession prices are pretty good. Combine that with the high pace of play and the opportunity to see future Hockey Hall of Famers, and you have the opportunity to bring out the entire family for some top notch entertainment.
An extra mark for Red Deer hosting the 2016 Memorial Cup.
An extra mark for the numerous kids in attendance who found corners of the concourse to play mini-sticks.
An extra mark for the great location of Red Deer, smack dab between Edmonton and Calgary.
The Red Deer Rebels offer patrons a great product in a great facility. The Rebel Alliance will assuredly do a fantastic job hosting the 2016 Memorial Cup. Their stability in the Western Hockey League has been an attribute that other teams strive towards. If you are making an Alberta stop, the a trip to Red Deer for the Rebels is a natural and you won't regret it.
Member Review by calgaryjimbo on Apr 02, 2012
The Red Deer Rebels have been a highly successful WHL franchise for quite a long time. A Memorial Cup winner in 2001, they have had a number of very successful playoff runs. The first pick overall in last year’s NHL entry draft was Rebel forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who is now playing up the road for the Edmonton Oilers.
Since their inaugural season—1992-1993—the Rebels have played in the ENMAX Centrium, which opened its doors the year before. Now just over 20 years old, the facility nevertheless has a number of modern features and continues to undergo regular upgrading to keep the fan experience as cutting-edge as possible.
In fact, over the spring and summer of 2012, the Centrium is undergoing a $3.5 million seating expansion, adding two new sections of upper deck seating and a number of new luxury boxes between them on the west end of the building. This should increase the stadium’s seating capacity by about 1,000.
3630 50 Avenue
Red Deer, AB T4N 3Y6
1500 N. Dinosaur Trail
Drumheller, AB T0J 0Y0
71 Gasoline Alley E
Red Deer, AB T4E 1B1
33 Petrolia Dr
Red Deer, AB T4S 2L4