One look at the Pacific Coliseum and it is difficult to believe the original home of the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks is still vibrant and active. Still operating after 43 years, a look from the outside and you might not think the circular building would adequately house a seating arrangement fit for a rectangular ice rink. But it does. And the history it has among national and world athletic events is remarkable. But it was built for hockey and its history begins with an ice rink and the dream of an NHL franchise for Canada’s third-largest city.
After playing in various minor leagues beginning in 1945, the original Vancouver Canucks joined the Western Hockey League in 1952 and played their home games at the Pacific National Exposition Forum (PNE). After much success and with growing interest in securing an NHL franchise, officials began to think of building an NHL caliber arena in hopes of attracting an expansion charter or acquire an existing franchise. Their first effort began with the League’s first major expansion.
The City of Vancouver competed with 14 ownership groups representing 10 cities for the rights to one of the six franchises. In 1966-1967, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Oakland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and St. Louis all were awarded franchises while Baltimore, Buffalo, Louisville and Vancouver were rejected.
After the final vote, allegations of bias against Vancouver by Maple Leafs owner Stafford Smythe were leveled due to one of his recently failed Vancouver business deals. It was also said Smythe did not want to share any Canadian Broadcasting Corporation television revenues with a third Canadian franchise. He proclaimed Vancouver would never gain a franchise in his lifetime. There were also more plausible suggestions that the Vancouver expansion group found the process a formality as they believed with certainty they would be awarded a franchise.
Less than a year later, after financial difficulties and trouble drawing fans, a deal was struck to move the California Seals to Vancouver. The Pacific Coliseum had just opened and was ready to accept a big league tenant, but the NHL killed the deal citing a desire not to have a franchise move after it had just been recently awarded to a city.
In exchange for avoiding a lawsuit over the matter, the NHL promised Vancouver would be granted a franchise during the next expansion. Meanwhile, the WHL Canucks moved to the Pacific Coliseum and won the championship in both their seasons there. In 1970, the WHL Canucks dropped the “W” in favor of an “N” and joined the National Hockey League with their expansion partners, the Buffalo Sabres.
The Canucks enjoyed mixed success with two Stanley Cup Final appearances (in 1982 losing to the New York Islanders in four games and in 1994 losing to the New York Rangers in seven games) in 25 seasons. The franchise might largely be remembered for its wide array of flamboyant uniform combinations and jersey crests over the years. Remember the giant “V” uniforms?
After the Canucks moved to Rogers Arena in 1995, the facility was without regular hockey until the western wing of the Canadian Major Junior Hockey League awarded an expansion franchise to the city and began play in 2001 as the Giants.
In preparation for the 2010 Winter Olympics, the facility was renovated in 2007 and the Giants gained in the process. A visit here is special and not just to reminisce about the great moments which took place over the years.
My guess is the Western Hockey League’s Vancouver Giants probably benefit from an advantageous financial agreement with the National Pacific Exposition, the property where the venue sits in the Northeast corner of the Hastings Park neighborhood. The Giants fill a need for affordable hockey, brought on due to the rising popularity and rising prices of NHL hockey from the Canucks.
Even so, however, you can tell the Giants apply creativity in their offerings, discipline in their event management and an appropriate balance between price and value in all they sell.
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".
The Pacific Coliseum offers a unique blend and balance among the food and drink offerings and the price for all of them is just about right. During a visit, you will likely enter through the south gates. This is where the original lettering spelling out the name of the arena on the wood shingles above the doors is situated.
Enter here and you are immediately hit with my top choice, Triple O's, a local chain. There are a number of savory choices at this self-contained structure with service on both sides and a stanchion apparatus to keep the winding lines in order. Consider the variety of burger, fries and drink combinations. The bacon cheeseburger with fries and a drink is $8.50 and is fantastic. The Ultimate Crunch Chicken is $8.50, Veggie Burger is $8.25, Original Burger is $6.75, Original with Cheese is $7.75 and the Original Double with Cheese is $9. Make it a combo (fries and a drink) for just another $2.75. Be sure you get the signature long-way sliced dill pickle draped over the top of the bun. It is a signature dressing.
Work your way to the opposite end of the rink and along the concourse and you will reach Pizza Pizza, another Canadian chain. Sure they have pizza, but I recommend trying the poutine fries, French fries with cheese curds for $8 (it is a large portion) and then add the brown gravy on top for just another $1.50 (image can be seen in the photo gallery). The angioplasty is extra; please have your insurance card ready.
Also at Pizza Pizza are slices of pizza at $5.25 or a whole pizza for $28. Chicken bites and chicken wings are $8.25. Add fries for just $0.50 with this combo. Onion rings or French fries by themselves are $3.75 and $5.75 respectively.
As for non-alcoholic drinks, Coca-Cola products are sold here at $3, $3.75 and $4.50 from small to large fountain offerings. Coffee is $3 and hot chocolate is $3.50. Bottled soda and bottled water are $3.50 and bottled juice is $3.75 while milk (yes that's right, milk) is $3.75. Milk? At a hockey game? Really?
Adult beverages for $7.50 include Okanagan Spring Pale Ale, various Okanagan Premium Ciders, Mike's Hard Lemonade and Palm Bay Vodka Cooler. Wine by the glass is $6. Draft beer is $7 and import beer is $8.
As for snacks, cotton candy and popcorn is $4.50, but nearly double the size for $5.50, go figure. There are many ice cream options ranging from $3-$6.
The largest concentration of concessions can be found along the straight-aways of the concourse along the long edges of the rink.
You will likely enter the Pacific Coliseum from the south and main entrance to the main concourse. From this level, you either go down or up a flight of steps to your seats. It is pretty simple.
Perhaps one of the most notable elements of this venue is the wide open viewing areas from the last seat of the lower bowl which connect the concourse to the seating area. If you have to get up during the game, you do not miss any of the action as you can see directly into the rink from the concourse very easily. This also allows for crowd noise to infiltrate. Of course there are monitors throughout the concourse up high for those who might be in the furthest corners away from the seating area.
Sitting at a Giants game, you will be surprised how intimate it feels relative to your proximity to the action. The sections are right on top of the action with steep pitches in row ascension and a main concourse which allows fans to see all of the action due to generous wide openings between sections behind the seating areas.
As for seat selection, there are simply two price points; gold section (those sections D through K, and Q through X along the end boards at $23.50 per ticket) and red sections (those sections Y, Z, A, B and C along with section L through P at $19.25 per ticket).
Keep in mind, there are 20 rows in the lower bowl and five rows in the upper bowl and the sections are listed under the same letter regardless of upper or lower bowl.
The teams enter the ice at their respective benches, the Giants in front of section H while the visitors' bench is in front of section G. The Giants shoot twice at the goal in front of section A and defend the goal at section N.
If saving $4.25 a ticket means something to you, choose the non-alcohol section "Y" as it provides you a seat in the corner, facing the benches AND where the home team shoots twice. A seat in the last row of any section where there is no one sitting behind you, but providing easy access to the concourse is a good choice while still providing excellent sightlines.
As for non-traditional seats, at the south end and up high, there are about a dozen suites above the upper bowl. At the north end at the concourse level, there is a wide-open birthday party box and one Rec Room, an open-air suite with leather couches and catered food. At ice level, River Rock Lounge behind the north goal provides table service for special ticketholders.
The lighting at the Pacific Coliseum is quite good, dimmed just prior to the opening face-off and between periods and nicely lit during game play. Some of the older arenas tend to be darker than the modern, but not here.
Concourses are wide in most areas and narrow in just a few spots, mainly in the corners and at the north side concourse. On the ends and side at center ice along the concourse, you will find plenty of high tables for fans to set their food and drinks as they consume them. Televisions adorn the outer walls of the concourse to ensure fans away from their seats can still see the live action.
The Giants exhibit pride in the many current NHL stars and former notables who have contributed to their 13-year history. Full color banners featuring action photos of fan favorites are hung in the concourse behind the upper level seating area facing the concourse. Trophies are in a case behind section C.
The scoreboard is medium-sized and hangs above center ice. It features four sides with video replay, time remaining, period, shot on goal totals, penalties and the score. It is the solitary source of game information in the building.
No hockey game is complete without old fashioned organ music. The Giants make sure this is well-balanced with modern music and timed for the right moments.
They also have an attractive auction area filled with some great memorabilia from some of hockey's greats and some game-worn Giants jerseys and equipment for purchase. This is behind section B.
The Rink on Renfrew is located in the northwest corner of Hastings Park and within the Pacific National Expedition. This borders a residential area and signs proclaim strictly you must have a permit to park along the street. Don't try it. I witnessed an officer writing tickets.
To the east, there is one restaurant I recommend, Anton's Pasta Bar at 4260 East Hastings in Burnaby. This is about 3 miles east of Highway 1. Open for more than 25 years and reasonably priced, this is the type of place that if for some reason you do not see what you want on the menu, ask them if they can make what you want and I bet they can.
Keep in mind, though, this area around the arena in the complex is what some might consider fairgrounds (an amusement park, skate park and other activities within the property). You might consider a full day at the amusement park and then top off the day with a hockey game. As for special restaurants near the arena, don't count on anything nearby within walking distance.
As you would expect to find anywhere in Canada, passion and loyalty to the hockey team are generated at an early age and it is no different in Vancouver. In their 13th year, the Giants have gained a remarkable following. During the last four seasons, their average attendance has exceeded 7,100 even during rebuilding years with a capacity of 7,500. During the 2012-2013 season, the Giants (7,205) trailed only the Calgary Hitmen (9,300) and Edmonton Oil Kings (7,575) in average attendance among the 22-team WHL.
In talking with a number of the fans, they predominately know which of their Giants' was drafted by which NHL team, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and they stay attentive during play.
There is a knowledge base which exists among those in attendance which causes you to appreciate the passion and love they have for their team. There was also a keen eye toward respecting others watching the game by not entering and exiting the seating area during play.
You might take Highway 1 to get to the game just a few miles east of the Coliseum. It runs north and south. From downtown to the west, I recommend taking Hastings which is about a 6 mile trip taking 20 minutes.
Parking is strictly in the lots (again, not the residential areas along Renfrew) within the PNE with a large lot at Gate 6 just north of the building along Renfrew or a smaller lot at Gate 2 a few blocks south of the building along Renfrew. The next closest lot at PNE is Gate 14 east of Renfrew along Hastings. Avoid this lot as the walk is too far. $10 per car space is a little too much to pay, but there aren't any other options.
The popular Skylink train does not travel close to this direction, but a few bus lines do. Bus #135 and bus #16 travel through there from downtown. Travel time from downtown Vancouver from the corner of Granville Street and Georgia Street is about 25 minutes and costs $2.75. The closest arena stop is just south of the arena at Renfrew and East Hastings.
There are plenty of restrooms for both genders throughout the main concourse. There is never a back-up even during intermission.
All in all, your return is a good value. Choose the cheaper of the two price points though and take my recommendation on sitting in the corner. A combo to eat for $11.25 and a $19.25 ticket isn't bad for some entertaining junior hockey. It is clear the club is pricing tickets right as they are near capacity on most nights. The concession stands in all areas of the arena are busy and a variety of food and drink is consumed.
Arena and team officials are friendly, helpful, and engaged in making sure their fans are enjoying themselves. This will likely be helpful as the season continues and the team struggles to find themselves in competitive situations while undergoing a rebuilding effort.
MERCHANDISE - varied and affordably priced for the most part. The $20 classic logo t-shirt is priced right and comes in a variety of solid base colors. $6 for the official game puck. Replica jerseys are steep at $100. While there are several smaller booths along the concourse, the main team store is near the main ticket office at the south entrance and to the left when you enter.
GAME PROGRAM - a two-sided roster sheet with updated stats on one-side with team records for the current season and game previews on the other side complete with all you need to know for the game at hand. Like most teams, the cheaper, less involved printed document are popular. These are free upon entry.
MASCOT - Jack the Giant is active and highly visible at each game whether it be welcoming players onto the ice or visiting fans in the stands or in the concourse. The club has branded their identity well and Jack provides continuity for young fans. Jack has a special section within the Giants website which keeps young fans content.
RADIO - listen to the games on either 1010 AM or 1410 AM while watching the action on the ice. Blake Price and Brendan Batchelor alternate play-by-play while Bill Willms provides color commentary.
Once the most popular venue in Vancouver, the Pacific Coliseum has been a key part of the Lower Mainland sports scene. Built in 1968, the Rink on Renfrew has been home to the Vancouver Canucks, Whitecaps, Voodoo, Nats, Blazers, and most recently, the Giants. The Coliseum also played host to the short-track speed skating and figure skating events during the 2010 Winter Olympics.
In 2007, it underwent a $20 million renovation, in part to prepare for the Olympic Games, adding new seats, a new scoreboard and increasing the ice surface to international competition size.
The arena is part of the Hastings Park complex, which also includes the Pacific National Exhibition, Playland amusement park and Hastings Racecourse.
2828 East Hastings Street #107
Vancouver, BC V5K 2A1
There are no local entertainment entries. Help us build with your expertise!
There are no local lodging entries. Help us build with your expertise!