All of a sudden, Downtown Edmonton has come alive.
Last night, my husband and I heard a lot more street chatter and noise than usual through our condo window. Bike engines roared. Laughter floated through the air. We knew the reason: Rogers Place had officially opened it’s doors. This morning, Baby Alex and I joined our friends to take in the 10 a.m. opening day tour. We were eager to see inside; we’ve been watching it’s construction since day one. As we walked out our front door at 9:30 a.m., we saw unfamiliar vehicles lining the streets and way more people walking around. I was so shocked — I had to weave through foot traffic just to walk to 103 Avenue and 103 Street. I have never, ever seen our community buzzing like this.
As I pushed the stroller towards the entrance to the arena, I got serious chills of excitement. Music was playing, Transcend was giving out free coffee, Police Officers were directing the crowd, and masses of folks with their Oilers gear on were lining up to get inside. I loved it. How fun!
As we followed the crowd, we tried to take a few pictures. Please forgive the photo quality — I used my phone camera, and I was moving and simultaneously trying to lift it higher to get a good view. Plus, it was so jam-packed with people that there was no chance to stop for a selfie. The walkway entrance to Rogers Place was lined with purple and blue fluorescent lights, with “ICE District” lettered on the side. Greeters were saying warmly, “Welcome to Rogers Place!” and helped us along the way. There were other helpers wearing “Welcome to Downtown Edmonton” shirts, giving out information and answering questions. I was floored by how prepared everyone was who was working.
When you enter, you see escalators and stairs that lead you up to Ford Hall, the entry point of Rogers Place. This is portion of the arena is always accessible to the public. Of course, we had to take the elevators with our strollers, but it was easy to find and use them. Rogers Place is fully accessible.
The new paint smell was lingering. Ford Hall was quite a sight. It’s new, it’s fresh, it’s bright, and it’s one of the coolest arena entranceways I’ve ever seen. We walked over a beautiful painted mosaic called “Iron Foot Place”, which is 45-feet wide and grabs your attention immediately. Indigenous artist Alex Janvier designed it to reflect the land, sky, waters, and stories from the Edmonton area. Ford Hall felt similar in size to a cathedral, with jaw-dropping architectural lines and features. The security line-ups were prepared to get us through quickly.
The first thing we wanted to do was get a view of the rink from the main level. Alex’s eyes were glued to the jumbo screen. The ice was newly swept. You could feel the cold air and could imagine the whole place filled with hockey fans or packed full with concert goers. It was unique to take Baby inside and show him the sights — obviously, today’s tour was one of his only chances to hang out in the arena, until he is older.
The two Toddlers were getting fidgety in their strollers. I was with my lovely friend Anna, her son Jacob, and their friend Anna. (Yes, two Annas, ha-ha.) We thought we’d let the little ones loose to take a walk on their own through the main hallway. It was hilarious. They were drawn to the beer kiosk — they loved having free reign to walk around the fridges.
We wanted check out the very top floor to see Rogers Place from the highest point we could. The elevator situation was a bit dodgy — there was a set of them at each end of the arena, but only one working when we wanted to go to the seventh floor. We had to wait a while, but it was worth it! While on seven, we each grabbed a tray of freshly made fries and a mountain of ketchup. For $6.50, they were delicious! I pushed Alex up to the railing to take in the highest view of the rink. I also snapped a picture of the floor mosaic from above.
As a Downtown Mom, I want to say a sincere thank you for building Rogers Place and developing the incredible ICE District along with it. With the addition of a community arena, this will be a hub of activity. This is where we will lace up Alex’s first pair of skates. He will have a go on the ice, and fall, and get back up. We will be able to walk to the rink and make memories that we’ll never forget. Mom will be able to go to movies. Dad will be able to walk to play blackjack. Our family will enjoy hockey games and concerts here. We are grateful to have these facilities close and, despite the added noise and bustling on the street, we are thrilled it’s happening so close to our home.
In the Welcome to Rogers Place pamphlet I grabbed on the tour, Mayor Don Iveson writes:
City building is about creating spaces where citizens can be inspired to reach their full potential and make connections to their community. With the opening of Rogers Place, Edmontonians will have the opportunity to embrace the new arena as a gathering place where we will come together to share our experiences, our interests and our stories.
There is no doubt that Rogers Place has changed Downtown Edmonton for the better.