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Official Review by Jim Flannery, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Northlands Coliseum opened in 1974 and within a few short years became known as the home of the best NHL team of the 80s. The Edmonton Oilers dynasty rattled off an impressive four Stanley Cup victories in five years and five Cups in seven years.
Almost 40 years (and a couple name changes) later, Rexall Place remains the home of the Oilers and the WHL’s Oil Kings. However a third tenant was also added 8 years ago and that new team is continuing to slowly build a very loyal following.
The Edmonton Rush play indoor (aka “box”) lacrosse at Rexall Place in the National Lacrosse League. Although the franchise has had some ups and downs, in 2012 they are celebrating their tenth anniversary in style with their second ever trip to the playoffs.
Rexall has undergone several facelifts over the course of its time in service, which helps to keep things relatively modern inside the facility. That said, talk about a new downtown arena has become a hot topic in Edmonton recently, so this building might not have too many more years left. So you’ll have to come enjoy it while you still can!
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".
Conventional concession fare is what you will find at Rexall. Burgers, sausage on a bun, popcorn, soft drinks, and the like. The prices are similarly typical for this size of an arena-a sausage on a bun will run you $6.75 for example.
The beer selection is great if you're looking for Molson Canadian, which is available on tap at every concession stand ($8 each). If you're looking for something a little less pedestrian, you'll have to look harder. There are a couple of specialty drink counters with a small selection of other adult beverages, but the options remain limited.
Box lacrosse is, without a doubt in my mind, the best spectator sport ever created. It has everything that a sport needs to be entertaining: speed, power, finesse, subtlety, aggression, and a healthy dollop of rough-and-tumble to round it all off. I know people who aren't into sports who will happily go see a couple NLL games a year. This is exciting stuff.
So it comes as no surprise that there's some good energy in the building when the Rush take the floor.
There is always music playing at NLL games, which adds a little extra juice to the atmosphere and helps keep the fans engaged throughout the event. Not that that's really a problem.
Overall, things stay upbeat and exciting from the moment things get underway, which guarantees a good time for all.
Unless you live in the immediate neighborhood, there is very little to go to before or after a game at Rexall Place. Across the street to the east, you'll find two options: the Flow Lounge and Grill in the bottom of the Coliseum Inn and the Fireside Restaurant on the south end of the block, but that is it. Although these are two good options, they don't have the capacity to handle an arena's worth of patrons. Plan instead to go for a ride elsewhere after the game to get your party on.
The 7,700 fans in attendance at the game I went to know their lacrosse and are into the game from beginning to end, but the crowd noise and overall enthusiasm was only just okay. Perhaps this is due to the building being less than half full-in fact, Rexall closes more than half of the upper bowl and hides it behind a curtain, as they recognize that there isn't yet enough crowd support to sell out this building. That's a shame, because the product on the floor is excellent. But the lacrosse community is growing with a lot of youth getting into the sport, so there's lots of room for this to improve in the coming years.
Having Rexall Place situated up in the northeast quadrant of the city makes it a longish trip to get to from the deep south and south west. However, the roads leading there are good overall and there is ample parking available on the Northlands grounds to accommodate the number of people coming to see the Rush. At $12, the price is a little on the high side, but not atypical for what I've seen in similar sized venues.
Access to and from Rexall Place by way of the light rail transit system is an excellent option. My train ride from the extreme south end of the track to the arena took less than half an hour and Coliseum Station is situated right next to the stadium, which makes it a snap to get to.
Once inside the building, you'll find the concourse to be on the tight side. Stairs and escalators chew up a ton of real estate, making getting around a bit of a challenge although again, with less than a full house, this problem is far less of an issue than it might be for a sellout crowd.
With ticket prices as low as $25-and the best seats in the house a bargain at $75 apiece-attending a Rush game is about the best value for your sports-watching dollar that you'll find in the city. Seats are easy to come by at all price levels, so choosing your favorite spot and price point is no problem. The seats themselves are comfortable and provide a great view of the floor regardless of location, so there really isn't a bad seat in the house-there isn't any reason not to give this great sport a try.
The Rush provide a solid product over and above the game itself. There is a stand set up near the main entrance for souvenir collectors. The team's mascots, Slush and Freez, keep the kids entertained with their antics on the floor during breaks in the action and touring the stands. The Rush's dance team, the Crush, do a great job getting the fans fired up with some fine dance moves. One extra bonus is that season ticket holders and contest winners are afforded a peek behind the scenes with tours of the locker room areas and other spots that the regular fan in the stands doesn't ever get to see. Overall, there's something for everyone when there's a break in the game action.
There is a ton of upside and potential to this game experience. Although Rexall has a few flaws and is a little long in the tooth, the overall impression is a good one. And the sport itself is nothing short of excellent. Expect a good time and a great game.
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7240 118 Avenue Northwest
Edmonton, AB T5B4M9
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