Centrium set for ‘bigger’ things
The 2013 Memorial Cup was supposed to be both a foundational event in Red Deer’s centennial celebrations and a fitting way to christen an expanded Enmax Centrium.
That will not happen, with Saskatoon having been awarded the hockey championship, but with the additions to the rink unveiled on Thursday, the hope is that a future Memorial Cup will be just one of many major events that come to town.
Featuring the addition of 1,000 seats, 13 luxury boxes and a 40-seat club suite to the 22-year-old arena in Westerner Park, the $5.5-million expansion project seeks to set up the facility to host more major gigs in the coming years.
The upgrades are part of Westerner Park’s larger strategic development plan implemented in 2008.
“Now that we have extra seating capacity we can attract bigger attractions and bigger name bands, and we can expand our horizons, so to speak, as far as bigger offerings to our guests,” said Westerner Park president Kent Olson.
He said the expectation is that the facility will be able to attract four additional major concerts annually, and its chances of procuring national and international events will increase.
“We truly believe that we’re well on our way to being able to bid, and competitively bid, and to go after some of these larger functions,” said Olson, citing major curling and hockey events as possible events for Red Deer.
The Centrium hosted the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in 2012 and the World Junior Hockey Championships in 1995, but lost out on hosting bids for the 2001 and 2013 Memorial Cups.
This year’s edition was awarded to Saskatoon partially due to its larger rink capacity.
The changes mean the Centrium now has 7,000 seats and 30 luxury boxes.
Nine suites were part of the original rink construction in 1991; eight were added in the 2000s.
The new boxes, located in the rink’s west end, have higher ceilings and are not closed off by glass like the older boxes. Olson said there was high demand for more boxes, with 46 businesses on the waiting list.
The seats and boxes have been in place since Dec. 28. Other facility upgrades included a new kitchen on the lower level, new washrooms in the Parkland Pavilion, and a mechanical system to improve air flow.
The expansion project was marked by a number of delays since its start last April. At one point, Hurricane Sandy left the 1,000 new seats stuck in New York harbour for about two weeks.
The overall project cost also rose from $4.5 million to $5.5 million, with Westerner Park having to borrow the additional $1 million needed. The city, province and Red Deer County all contributed funding to the project.
The Red Deer Rebels have averaged nearly 5,200 fans per game this season, up 600 fans per game from three years ago, but down from a 6,129 average during the 2006-07 season.