Northlands Coliseum opened in 1974 and within a few short years became known as the home of one of the best NHL teams in history. The Edmonton Oilers dynasty, led by Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Paul Coffey, rattled off an impressive four Stanley Cup victories in five years and five Cups in seven years.
After 42 years of service Northlands, now known as Rexall Place, has reached the end of the road as an NHL facility. For the first time in team history, the Oilers have relocated to a new arena. The new rink is called Rogers Place and is the newest, most modern arena in the NHL.
At almost a half billion dollars, the new downtown arena has spared no expense in making sure every trip to the building is an event, over and above whatever sport or concert you’ve come to watch. A detailed consultation process was conducted with the fans during the design phase and, as a result, the facility has many design features that reflect the experience the fans wanted to have. Its modern design matches well with the new generation of exciting hockey players now coming through the Oilers system and should be a treat to visit for years to come.
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".
As compared to the options available at Rexall, the food choices are a definite improvement.
Regular concession stands have a relatively small selection to choose from, but each location has a slightly different menu, so have a look around before you settle on something. You'll find all the expected options, from hot dogs to burgers, fountain pop to bottled water. If you're into burgers with everything, try the Bobby Nick's Burger ($12). The Jasper Ave. Chicken Burger ($10) is also quite tasty.
Most concessions also have some basic adult beverage choices, if you're looking for a glass of Molson Canadian or Coors Light ($11.50). There are typically also a couple of premium options available as well.
There are also a couple of specialty stands around the several levels of concourse that feature interesting fare such as perogy nachos, butter chicken and chick peas, or smoked brisket sandwiches. You'll also find four Pizza 73 locations around the building.
If you're looking for something a little more special, there are a few more places to check out. In the lower concourse, available to fans in the lower bowl, there are two club-style areas known as the Coventry Homes Club and the North Mezzanine Club, complete with tables for fans to gather around between periods. The concessions in these areas have an upgraded menu with some more exotic selections. On the main floor concourse, you'll find the Molson Canadian Fan Deck, just outside the side of the rink, with a full-service bar and more food choices.
Fans in the PCL Loge Level have access to two more choices in the River Valley Grill and the Carvery. Overlooking Ford Hall, the main entrance to Rogers Place, is Curve Restaurant, which is a reservation-only location on this floor as well.
Sky Lounge is a premium seating club on the west end of the upper concourse which has a special menu and in-seat beverage service. Directly below it is the Sportsnet Club which also features premium seating and a unique menu.
Out in Ford Hall, and accessible before and after games, is the Molson Canadian Hockey House, yet another option for dining at the rink, with a full list of food and beverage options.
When you put it all together, there are more restaurants in Rogers Place than there were within several blocks of Rexall Place. This is a major upgrade. But don't forget your pocketbook as the food options in this building are the priciest in any arena in Alberta.
The managers of Rogers Place do know how to put on a show for the fans. Just approaching the rink is an experience. The arena is decorated with images from Oilers history, reminding fans of Edmonton's proud hockey tradition. Just to the west of the main entrance is a Wayne Gretzky statue that was relocated here from Rexall Place when the Oilers moved. Through the glass behind the statue you can see the Oilers Hall of Fame room, which features memorabilia from the Hockey Hall of Fame, located in Toronto, ON. This is also where all pre- and post-game interviews are conducted, giving fans an up-close look at the head coach and players.
Whether you enter Ford Hall from its main entrance, a block south of the main Rogers Place building, or through the main doors, this is a beautiful gathering area for fans prior to walking through the gates into the arena itself. Ford Hall is open year-round so folks visiting Edmonton's downtown core can stop by and check it out.
The main concourse is significantly wider than that of Rexall Place and several stories high, giving it an open, roomy feel. Once inside the seating bowl, you'll also get a sense of spaciousness, from the wide seats (19"-22", depending on where you're sitting) and ample leg room to the significant elevation from ice level to the top of the upper bowl. Seats still don't feel that far away from the game action, however, due to the upper levels being cantilevered out over the lower levels, bringing them much closer to the middle of the arena, giving even upper deck audiences a sense that they're right on top of the game.
The energy in the stands is also good. While the game is underway, ambient sound levels indicate a steady buzz of excitement, which can quickly spike when a goal is scored, a fight breaks out, or something else exciting happens.
Rogers Place is situated on the north end of Edmonton's downtown core. To the west of the rink is the main campus of MacEwan University. If you stick to those areas before and after games, you should have no troubles at all.
North of the arena is a much less desirable part of town. Central McDougall isn't the worst part of town, but you perhaps don't want to find yourself alone after dark in that area. It is, in fact, hoped that setting Rogers Place up in that location will help to gentrify the neighbourhood, so this could improve over the next few years.
Two blocks east and south of the arena is Sir Winston Churchill Square, a central gathering place for the city which is framed on three sides by Edmonton City Hall, the Art Gallery of Alberta, Winspear Centre for Music, and the main branch of the Edmonton Public Library. Very nice location to check out.
On the southeast corner of Rogers Place is the Grand Villa Casino, so patrons of Rogers Place can stop in and try their luck at the slots or table games before or after seeing the Oilers. There are also two restaurants in the casino, adding to your dining options right in the main building. Match Eatery and Public House has a classic British Pub vibe, while Atlas Steak + Fish is a more upscale place where it is rumoured some of the Oilers players have been known to visit after games.
If you're looking to grab a bite or a drink before or after games, you have a ton of good options within just a couple blocks of Rogers Centre. This again is a major upgrade compared to old Rexall Place.
As noted above, you can always try the Molson Canadian Hockey House right in Ford Hall, if you want to eat right outside the main gates, or at Curve on the PCL Loge Level once the gates open.
Across the street to the south west of Rogers Place is the Mercer Tavern which provides casual pub dining. Around the corner and sharing the same building is Rostizado, a Mexican eatery which is considered to be one of Canada's Top 100 Restaurants.
If you're in the mood for steak, you can try the Chop Steakhouse. One of several Chop franchises around Canada, this is a good choice to satisfy your need for world-famous Alberta beef.
Another good pub option is the Underground Tap and Grill, located just a block away from the Central LRT station. Underground features 72 beer taps, including the largest selection of Alberta-brewed beers in the province.
If Italian food is your thing, there are a couple good choices. Pazzo Pazzo is a traditional Italian restaurant with all the dishes you'd expect to find. Just a couple blocks away you'll also find Edmonton's downtown Old Spaghetti Factory which also features a full Italian menu, including nine different spaghetti variations.
Next door to the Old Spaghetti Factory is Haweli, which serves Indian food. If you're looking for something a little spicier and more exotic, this is the place to try.
Really, this is just scratching the surface. There are many, many more places nearby, from Harvey's to Subway to Denny's to Mikado Japanese to Sofra Authentic Turkish Cuisine and on and on.
Oilers fans are pretty hard core. For the decade leading up to Rogers Place opening its doors, Oilers fans sold out every home game. In the new barn, the Oilers are now drawing over 1,500 more fans per game, and once again are selling out every game.
The crowds get excited at all the appropriate moments, showing they are engaged in the action, and they're pleasant to be around, whether in the stands or the concourse, with no anti-social behavior observed. Many, if not most, of the fans are decked out in Oilers blue and orange, proudly showing off their dedication to their team. Overall, this is a good group of people to be around!
Getting to and from Rogers Place is fairly easy. There are almost 18,000 parking spots within a 10-minute walk of the arena. The Rogers Place website recommends that you use ParkingPanda.com to pre-purchase a spot to guarantee your place. This is probably a good practice to follow if you decide to make the drive downtown as there have been rumblings about price gouging for patrons who roll up to downtown parking without a reservation, with prices as high as $38 in some cases.The other popular option for getting to any sporting event in Edmonton is by way of the transit system. The MacEwan Light Rail Transit station is physically connected by a walkway to Rogers Place's north side, while three other LRT stations-Bay Enterprise Square, Central, and Churchill-are all located within 10 minutes of the building. Transit tickets are $3.25 for adults, while children under five ride for free. Once inside Rogers Place, having five floors of concourse helps to spread people around a bit, although the Mezzanine (lower bowl), luxury box, and PCL Loge level concourses are underused, as you have to have a seat in that area to be granted access. The main concourse remains very busy between periods and the upper bowl's concourse is also quite full. Surprisingly, in a building as new as this, there are a number of pinch points in the flow of foot traffic around the concourses, particularly on the main floor, making the place seem much more crowded than one might expect. This could simply be a queuing issue as several concession washroom lines back up into the corridors and could be something that is solved over time by directing traffic more effectively. Speaking of the washrooms, lineups to both the men's and women's washrooms were very long and some complaining was heard from patrons about this issue. As with the queuing challenges, this might be mitigated over time as fans figure out which washrooms have the least activity and begin to spread themselves around the building better. If there simply aren't enough washrooms to adequately service the crowd, this may be a sore spot for people attending Rogers Place for years to come.
The Oilers have the fifth-highest ticket prices in the NHL, with an average of $207.27 per seat, according to Ticket IQ.
While this is a beautiful new arena and a young, dynamic team, a family of four could easily run up a cost of more than a thousand dollars for just a couple hours of entertainment. This is well out of the price range of many hockey fans, and a tough sell for getting out to more than one or two games a year for many more.
Over and above the hockey game, there are a ton of other things that add to the experience at Rogers Place.
There is a Designated Driver program available onsite for fans that might have had a few drinks too many. This is an excellent idea that should be seen in more venues.
Free Wi-Fi access is available to fans throughout the building, allowing fans to live Tweet games, check their emails and otherwise interact with the World Wide Web while onsite.
Oilers mascot Hunter helps keep the fans entertained around the arena. He is named after original Oilers owner "Wild Bill" Hunter and looks like a Canadian lynx, a wild cat that is fairly common in the Edmonton area.
The Oilers Hall of Fame room, as mentioned earlier, is located right at the front of the building and can be seen through the glass by fans walking along the sidewalk in front of Rogers Place. Tours of the room are beginning in late 2016, allowing fans to get an even closer look at all the cool stuff in that space, including Wayne Gretzky's rookie uniform and many other pieces of Oilers history.
On the northeast corner of Rogers Place is the Edmonton Downtown Community Arena. Accessible from corridors inside the building, this arena is now home to the MacEwan University men's and women's hockey teams. It also serves as the Oilers' and Oil Kings' practice ice and it is also available as a public skating rink.
There are TVs all over the building, so even if you step away from your seat for a few moments during a game, you can probably still keep an eye on the action from wherever you happen to be.
Speaking of video, Rogers Place features the largest true HD scoreboard in the NHL (and NBA, if they played in Edmonton). At 14 metres wide by 11 metres tall, it dominates the space above the rink and provides a spectacular image from every angle.
Several interactive touches are located around the concourses, such as a couple life-size Oilers bobbleheads that attendees can get their pictures taken with.
The Oilers Store can be found in a number of locations around the building giving fans an opportunity to stock up on all the Oilers clothes and souvenirs they can carry.
If you're an art fan, Rogers Place has several special pieces for you. The floor of Ford Hall is adorned with a giant circular mosaic called Tsa Tsa Ke K'e (Iron Foot Place) by local artist Alex Janvier. The northwest plaza, adjacent to the MacEwan LRT station has a large sculpture called Essential Tree by realities:united, an art collective in Berlin. The northeast plaza features a red circular sculpture called Skater's Arch by Saskatchewan artist Douglas Bentham. And directy above the main entrance to the Downtown Community Arena is a piece that combines sculpture and painting called 9 Figures In Motion With A Puck by local artist Al Henderson.
As an added bonus, you'll also find a cell phone charging stations in the concourse for Rogers Mobility customers with low batteries.
Rogers Place is the first NHL rink in Canada to be LEED-Silver certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). This makes it one of the most environmentally friendly arenas in North America.
Rogers Place is a worthwhile place to visit even if you're not there for a hockey game. There is so much to see and do in and around the building without ever walking through the gates that you could spend a couple hours just checking the place out. This is likely to only get better as more features get added over time. Once you're through the gates, this is a beautiful building with truly state-of-the-art features that should impress most everyone.
If you're a hockey fan and you're looking for the chance to see the newest, hottest arena in the NHL, Rogers Place is definitively a place to check out.
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