Avenir Centre - Moncton Wildcats
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14
150 Canada Street
Moncton, NB E1C 0V2
Year Opened: 2018
A New Home For The Wildcats
Prior to becoming the Wildcats, the Moncton Alpines debuted in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) in 1995, one season after the Halifax Mooseheads spearheaded the league’s expansion to the maritime region. The Alpines had a disastrous season by winning only 14 of the 70 games and very nearly folded. After this atrocious inaugural season, new owners purchased the club, which brought stability to the franchise and rebranded them as the Wildcats. Success followed the team since then, winning two President’s Cup trophies and bringing home the Memorial Cup in 2006, marking them as the best team in the Canadian Hockey League.
The sparkling new $113-million dollar Avenir Centre opened in 2018 as the home of the Wildcats and Moncton Magic of the National Basketball League of Canada. The Wildcats previously played their home games at the city-owned Moncton Coliseum, located in a mostly industrial area approximately four kilometers outside of downtown. The venue was dark and not aesthetically pleasing to the eye, but the citizens of Moncton made it an enjoyable fan experience. Moving to Avenir Centre provides locals with a modernized hockey experience with an improved downtown location, tantalizing concession options and exceptional sightlines to the view the game.
Food & Beverage 5
Avenir Centre greatly expanded food and beverage options over the Moncton Coliseum. Several permanent and temporary concession stands are set up throughout the concourse loop, each seemingly specializing in a specific main course. Take a lap around the concourse and you’ll see menus showcasing either pizza, nachos, poutine or donairs. Behind section 116 is the “Show Kitchen,” specializing in items such as hamburgers, chicken fingers, philly cheesesteak, a seafood sandwich and polish sausage. Most of these stands offer snack foods such as popcorn and candy for $6 & $4 respectively. Alpine and Moosehead beers are available at most vendors and “Pump House,” a local craft brew, has its own location. Other popular specialty stands include Goji’s Neighbourhood Treatery offering a wide range of desserts, and Tim Horton’s, which continually had a long lineup throughout the event.
Though the selection of tasty options have increased significantly, unfortunately so have the prices. Most specialty items range from $10 to $12 without a side dish. A slice of pizza will cost you $6, while you’ll fork over $5 for a pop or gatorade ($10 for a beer). Many of these prices doubled from what the local fans were used to at the old Coliseum.
If the prices are daunting or if you’re looking for a lighter meal, the “Grab ‘N Go” may be your best option. This cafeteria-like set up offers hot dogs, grilled cheese sandwiches, tomato basil soup, chili and fruit cups for around $5.
With the modern skin of the building, the exterior skating rink, music and fire pit, the atmosphere at Avenir Centre starts before you even walk in the doors. The experience of walking into the grand entry creates a sense of awe and excitement. As you incline on the escalator, anticipation of the impending hockey match overwhelms your body as glimpses of the hanging video-board and seating area come into view. Ushers greet you at every portal; these employees are helpful, courteous, and do their best to prevent fans from accessing their seats while the puck is in play. When the Wildcats score, you may want to cover your ears as an air horn blares in celebration. If you happen to miss the play, a crisp, clear four-sided hanging jumbotron replays all the action, while the bilingual public announcer speaks with great enthusiasm informing you of the goal scoring heroes. Look for the team’s long-time mascot “Wild Willie” roaming the concourse and posing for pictures.
The seating bowl consists of 22 sections, ranging from 28-31 rows of moulded plastic seats. The bowl progressively steepens the higher the row number, allowing for incredible views and an appearance of being on top of the action. Almost every seat maintains a great perspective of the game. The only areas you may want to avoid are right behind safety railings, such as in row 15 (sections 109-112) or above portals, as they may obstruct your view.
Avenir Centre is set in a great location on the western fringe of downtown Moncton. The arena appears to be the catalyst for redevelopment in the immediate area. Across Canada Street, is a modern 120-room Hyatt hotel under construction, while adjacent lots appear prime for development activity. Restaurants are absent from the immediate area, but meander 5-10 minutes towards downtown and your food options become plentiful. However, finding open restaurants downtown for Sunday afternoon games can be tricky. Look for the Pump House, a great local brewery with tasty pizzas, burgers and sandwiches. After filling your belly, walk it off along the Petitcodiac River. The pathway passes artwork, seating areas and a memorial to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, while escaping vehicular traffic and noise. You’ll pass the visitor centre as well, unfortunately, it’s only open seasonally.
In another few years, more restaurants and bars are bound to open up around Avenir Centre, possibly improving their rating even more. Until then, travel safe as you find the post-game bar downtown.
With over 140,000 citizens in the Greater Moncton Area, Moncton is the largest city in New Brunswick. Since their inception, the Wildcats have created a comradery with the Moncton community. Wildcat fans support their team with high attendance numbers of over 4,000 per game nearly every season, routinely placing the Wildcats in the top-5 in QMJHL attendance. As large as these crowds are, they are fairly quiet unless the home team scores. The scoreboard and in-game entertainment do little to encourage amping up enthusiasm for the upcoming hockey action.
Centrally located within the maritime region, Moncton is easily accessible from anywhere in eastern Canada, even by rail. Moncton is one of a few QMJHL towns to have a sizable airport offering flights to and from Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Halifax. Via Rail’s train station is conveniently located within a five minute walk of Avenir Centre, providing a fun opportunity to arrive to the city by rail. Driving to Moncton provides a gorgeous ride with the changing fall colours or snow covering coniferous trees. Rival QMJHL cities such as Halifax, Saint John, and Charlottetown are only a few hours away, making for intense local rivalries. Driving from the Trans-Canada Highway, take one of several Moncton exits and follow signs to downtown. Avenir Centre is easily located on Main Street at the east end of downtown. Parking is plentiful, costing between nothing and around $10. Local citizens can take the Codiac bus system for $2.50 a ride and be dropped off at the main entry. Plenty of bicycle parking is also available outside the venue if pedaling along Riverfront Park is an option.
Avenir Centre draws your eye as the massive modern building is cladded with beautiful metal panels and tall window walls. The main entrance is clearly identifiable at the corner of Main and Canada Street. But before you go in, enjoy the outdoor festivities including art installations and a public ice rink. The box office is conveniently located at Gate 2, on your left as you approach the main entrance. This ticket booth includes a convenient access to the arena. The grand atrium is a wide open, multi-storey space with access to the ice. The Moncton Sports Wall-of-Fame is straight ahead and the team store to your right. Flanking the portal are wide staircases, escalators and an elevator leading you to the main concourse and seating areas.
The concourse is a single level, easily navigable loop around the rink. Finding your seat is straightforward as clear signs point the way down the uniquely lit concourse with warm tiled floor and walls. Options for barrier free seating are one of the best in the QMJHL. Each section from 102-107 has a barrier free seating area with ideal views of the game. If your legs need to stretch, standing room viewing areas are located at sections 101 and 116. Multiple washrooms are located throughout the concourse, reducing the chances of a lineup. The width of the concourse is at a comfortable distance. However, many concessions stands fail to properly control lines, creating annoying and unnecessary congestion at intermissions.
Return on Investment 3
Witnessing major junior hockey is normally a great, cost effective way to see many future NHL players up close before they become well known. Ticket prices for a Wildcat game are on the higher side compared to rival QMJHL teams. After various fees, seats near centre ice costs $22.50, while corner views are $22.00 and end seats are $21.00. Seniors (60+) qualify for a $3 discount, while youth (up to 16 years) are eligible for a $10 discount. Wildcats offer “Flex Tickets” for a cheaper way to purchase 10, 20 or 36 seats to be used for any games you wish. Tickets can be purchased online at Ticketmaster.ca, at the box office or by phone (1-855-985-5000). With cheap parking and a gorgeous building, hockey fans will enjoy their game day arrival to the rink. Bringing your family and adding concessions may quickly make a Moncton Wildcat game an expensive venture that many may not be able to afford.
An extra point for the public outdoor skating rink with LED lighting and pleasant music.
An extra point for the exterior art displays and fire pit. Great for a cold day.
An extra point for Moncton Sports Wall-of-Fame.
A final extra point for the multiple cell phone charging stations for those who need a boost.
Avenir Centre is a great experience as you arrive and enter the facility. The design and layout are similar to a NHL caliber arena, but with half the seating capacity. Once you get comfortable in your seat, the game action and sight lines are ideal. However, something about the fan experience seems to be missing. Other than watching the game and visiting the various food and drink concessions, there isn’t much to do or see while inside the arena. Adding interactive displays, kid play areas, or even honouring past team’s achievements with banners and pictures would encourage greater involvement and engagement with the franchise.