Lethbridge's Enmax Centre shoots for a better user experience while the game goes on
Built for the 1975 Canada Winter Games and home to the Lethbridge Hurricanes, the Enmax Centre is a much-loved facility that's hosted countless events in the last 36 years.
That said, the arena has aged and times have changed. In a bid to develop new revenue streams and to create a better user experience, the City of Lethbridge is giving the facility a $33.7-million makeover-without taking a timeout.
"The regular seats remain the same, and the ice surface area stays the same," says Kim Gallucci, general manager at the Enmax Centre. "Everything else is changing. It will have a totally different look and feel."
The exterior is getting a fresh, modern look, the concourse will be wider and visitors will enjoy open-concept concessions, renovated washrooms and luxury box suites.
Actually, the price tag is a bargain compared to the alternative. Demolishing the old arena and building a multi-purpose entertainment centre of the same calibre from scratch would have cost about $100 million. The expansion and renovation is being done in two phases so that the facility can stay operational. Phase I, which wrapped up in October 2010, involved the construction of new entrances at the northeastern and northwestern corners of the building. In phase II, a new north-centre portion is being created to house administration and the Lethbridge Hurricanes' office.
"From our operations side, it's really good for us, because we've eliminated some of the problems we had," Gallucci says. Congestion in the walkway around the centre is one example. To remedy the problem, concessions, which are all new, have been pushed back 20 feet. With the concessions themselves now equipped with kitchens, people will have fresh, hot food and enough elbow room to get to their seats without spilling a drop.
To give news media a better vantage point and to make room for two new box suites, the media box has been moved to hang from the roof. The steel ceiling and hang points-points that bear the weight of the media box as well as the new video scoreboard and equipment that may be brought in for shows-have been upgraded with additional steel bracing so that they can take heavier loads.
Able to comfortably host 30 positions, the media box will be equipped with the latest technology, becoming the nerve centre of the building.
There will be 24 box suites after the renovation; currently, there are eight. Two styles of suites will be available: an in-bowl suite that is open-concept and gets people close to the action, and others with glass fronts, new millwork and carpeting, and the ability to comfortably accommodate 12 people. A 225-seat lounge and kitchen will be added on the second level.
"Now we can get into totally new areas, because we will have full catering services," Gallucci says. "We can hold tradeshows, do different types of entertainment shows, and hold meetings and banquets in our lounge and on our main floor. That not only services Lethbridge and Alberta better, but it provides us with new revenue streams."
An interesting feature is the creation of standing viewing stations for those who like to stay on their feet during events.
"Before, people would stand at the railings and watch," Gallucci says. "They buy seats, but they don't feel like sitting."
The addition of a small wall with a counter and a backsplash running along the concourse will make standing more enjoyable. Hooks under the counter will hold coats, and footrests will be installed in each standing viewing station so people can take the weight off every so often. Spots will be numbered and can be reserved.
Perhaps the most important users of the Enmax Centre are the Hurricanes themselves, and they haven't been forgotten. The team is getting new offices, bigger dressing rooms, a new weight room, a video room and a lounge.
"This is now state-of-the-art," Gallucci says. "The lounge is a great addition for them. They can meet their guests in their own private lounge and then go back to their own dressing room area."
SAFE AND SECURE
Working in an operating arena has been challenging for everyone involved.
"The biggest challenges have been the phasing as well as the protection of the public," says Jason Shaughnessy, project manager with general contractor Ward Bros. Construction Ltd.
The building exterior has been under construction longer than it would have been if all the work could have been done all at once, so Ward Bros. has had to ensure that exterior hoarding is completely weathertight to protect the facility and occupants.
Hoarding inside the building has played a key role in ensuring the safety of hockey fans as well. Construction areas are completely separated from public areas and signage is used to keep patrons away from spaces that are under renovation.
Safety is also achieved by adjusting schedules.
"On event days, we tend to shut down a bit earlier to give the Enmax staff time to do what they need to do and give our staff time to search the public areas to make sure no construction materials have been left out," Shaughnessy says.
Still, the project isn't expected to go into overtime. The new Enmax Centre should be complete next spring.