Canucks fans should get room to roam once new Rogers Arena tower arrives
First of three residential/office buildings will be completed about a year from now
Artist’s sketech of Rogers Arena, where the first of three towers will be built next to Rogers Arena, in this case the tower being attached to the home rink of the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks.
VANCOUVER — When what is now called Rogers Arena was squeezed between the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts in the mid-1990s, it created something of a double-edged sword for the Vancouver Canucks and their ticket-holders.
The arena’s relatively tiny footprint forced rather steep viewing angles that are among the best in the National Hockey League. Even from the top rows of the upper bowl, spectators are not that far from the ice.
But the flip side is a main concourse area that, to put it politely, is rather snug. It’s a very crowded area pre- and post-game and during intermissions, with fans forced to rub shoulders as they try to weave their way through what is a very narrow space.
“The concourse is very, very tight pretty well throughout the arena,” acknowledges Victor de Bonis, chief operating officer of Canucks Sports & Entertainment.
But that should change for the better in about a year’s time when completion of the first of three residential/office towers planned by the team’s ownership will allow the Canucks to expand their concourse areas at the southwest end of the arena.
That tower, now tentatively called the West Tower, is under construction and its first five floors will connect with Rogers Arena.
The first and third floors of the tower will open up to the main and upper bowl concourses at Rogers Arena. It will provide the Canucks with more concession opportunities and give their fans more room to move.
De Bonis, who started with the Canucks nearly 20 years ago when the arena was just a hole in the ground, thinks the many changes the team is making to coincide with the tower will create a much better environment for fans.
“We have been to some arenas where the concourses are too big and there isn’t an intimacy to the experience and we don’t want that,” de Bonis said in an interview Thursday. “I kind of use the analogy like when you are at a cocktail party and you want to have that feel. You don’t want to feel like you’re at a frat party.
“We like the intimacy, but you can’t move ... We have been doing the best we can and now thanks to ownership for pursuing this project we can finally try and improve it.”
The tower will also allow the Canucks to address another pressing problem with Rogers Arena: a lack of washrooms.
The second floor of the new tower will connect with Level 2 of Rogers Arena and current washroom capacity will be expanded by about 25 per cent.
“I am not sure that is going to solve the problem, but it is a good-faith start to try and address the issue,” de Bonis said.
Those new washrooms will be accessible via staircases from the upper and lower concourse areas.
De Bonis is particularly excited about plans for the fourth floor of the arena and tower, which call for what he describes as a “cutting edge sports bar concept.”
That concept has three parts to it. The first will be a large sports bar, where fans without tickets will be able to hang out before, during and after games. It will also likely be open year-round on non game-days.
“You can come and experience the game,” de Bonis said. “You won’t be able to see the game, but you will be in the arena.”
There will be two other “pay” components to that bar area, including Loge Boxes that seat four to six people and a larger area similar to the present Best Buy Club.
“It’s actually a three-part club that would have those different amenities to service everybody,” de Bonis said. “It would feel like one club. It will be like some of these clubs in Las Vegas where they have got these different sections and different services in each area. It creates an unbelievable atmosphere and that is what we will try and do there.”
The fifth floor will allow creation of a party suite that will accommodate large groups.
The goal is have all these changes made in just over a year.
“We are very much hoping to be ready to go for the 2014-15 season,” de Bonis said. “It is a complicated project because you can’t get the occupancy until you get up to a certain level (of the tower). You can’t just get up to five floors and then operate.”
About half of the 26-storey West Tower will likely have to be completed before the Canucks can begin using the first five floors. The next five or six floors are slated to be commercial/office space — the Canucks will move their corporate offices into the building -- and the remainder of the tower will house residential rental units.
The Canucks’ owners, the Aquilini family, plan two other towers adjacent to Rogers Arena.
“I don’t know the timing of the other towers,” de Bonis said. “But I believe there is a possibility they would start before this one is completed.”
The possible removal by the City of Vancouver of both the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts complicates matters. The West Tower is scheduled to connect to the Georgia viaduct, but de Bonis said there is a contingency plan if the viaduct is removed. The Aqulinis are on record as supporting removal of both of the viaducts.
ICE CHIPS: The present Best Buy Club on Level 5 of Rogers Arena will be rebranded this coming season as The 500 Club. De Bonis said the plan is to use the space to honour past and present Canuck players with 500 or more points. . .The Canucks signed Port Coquitlam native Zach Hamill on Thursday. Hamill, a 24-year-old centre, was a first-round pick (8th overall) of the Boston Bruins in 2007. Hamill spent last season with San Antonio and Milwaukee in the AHL. The team also signed winger Colin Stuart, 31, who played last season in Germany.
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