It has been a little over six months since Rogers Place in Edmonton opened its doors with a show by Keith Urban. The over 20,000+ capacity arena has already hosted NHL and WHL seasons, 29 concerts, and just this week began their first playoff run. The NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, who own and operate Rogers Place, played their first post-season game on Wednesday igniting a passionate hometown with the arena that is already making the Canadian town an essential market.
“The province is excited,” Assistant GM of Live Entertainment at Oilers Entertainment Group Sheena Way told Amplify. “It’s been 11 years since they were in the playoffs.”
The entire arena sold out for the Oilers’ first playoff game at Rogers Place, forcing OEG to get creative with ways to engage fans. The day of the event, they release more tickets and included the option for fans to purchase concourse tickets that allowed them to be in the arena amongst the action.
The playoffs are “such a hot ticket in town that we keep looking for ways to accommodate the ticket buyer so that the scalper is not taking advantage of the situation,” Way said. “We have a winter garden that holds about 4,000 people and it has a giant whale tail that is all digital. We put the game out there. We turned Ford Hall into a huge beer garden as an extension of the concourse. That was free for people to come in and watch the game.”
OEG is working on getting more street closures and screens around the arena to bring more fans to a communal place to cheer on the Oilers.
“The more people that are there, the higher the energy and the more fun the event is,” Way said. “No one can control what the result of the actual game is, but, oh heck, let’s try to make this as fun as possible.”
With a new arena and the successful season and player Connor McDavid and the young team are having, Way is seeing old Oilers fans return to the team in droves. The new interest is bringing old Wayne Gretzky fans back and pumping additional life into the city of Edmonton.
“Everybody is taking part in this, so it’s pretty nice,” Way said, adding that the cranes continuing to build the ICE District connected to the arena are covered in Oilers orange flags and lights.
It will still be two years before the ICE District, the 25 acres complex attached to Rogers Place, will be completed. The ICE District is currently erecting a JW Marriott, Stantec Tower, and residential towers designed to revitalize the downtown area. The entire ICE District will be connected so that attendees can continue to enjoy the arena and surrounding area during the winter months.
“We also want to bring the downtown alive,” Way said. “My next steps are the Ice District and how it will compliment the arena.”
Way and the OEG have already had a great deal of success with entertaining the northern city. Over the holidays, the arena put on several nights of Cirque de Soleil’s TORUK, delivering an attendance record for the show. They have also sold out nine Garth Brooks shows, two shows each for Drake, Bruno Mars, and Ed Sheeran.
“That’s pretty exciting for a town of less than a million people. Up north here, to be getting this many doubles within the first year was a goal,” Way said. “With this inaugural year, I think we are getting a lot of attention.We really want to get Edmonton out of a small town feel and very much onto a global stage.”
In addition to 26 concerts already on sale for Rogers Place, Way is looking to keep the momentum around Edmonton going by giving the city more international appeal.
“Right now you look at Canada and you know Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal. But we want to be one of those,” Way said. “So far that’s the aim and that’s the goal, so I am very pleased with the first six months. I want us to be known as someone who can take chances, that can sell tickets, that can make money.”
One of their first forays into the international market will be with the Professional Bull Riders Global Cup coming to Rogers Place in November. The PBR Global Cup will debut in Edmonton before going on to Mexico, Brazil, Australia, and the United States. Over the years, the OEG plans to turn the PBR weekend into a week-long western lifestyle festival.
“I’ve been talking to promoters from other places and we’ve been talking about building events that are bigger than Canada,” Way said. “There is going to be a time when a lot of new shows fit into the Edmonton market and we want to be smart and strategic and time things right.”