City lays out traffic plans for Rogers Place opening

The city is asking sports and music fans to be patient as it braces for thousands of people to flood downtown for the opening of Rogers Place in September.

Thousands are expected to flood downtown for Rogers Place opening events in September

The city and Oilers Entertainment Group unveiled how they plan to handle traffic when Rogers Place opens in September. 0:42

The city is asking sports and music fans to be patient as it braces for thousands of people to flood downtown for the opening of Rogers Place in September.

The Oilers Entertainment Group (OEG) is preparing to welcome as many as 20,700 fans to its new $600 million venue, and has unveiled how all those people will get downtown — and where they'll park.

OEG and the city held an information session for 100 local residents and business owners on Wednesday about how the downtown area will cope with the extra traffic.

Stu Ballantine, OEG senior VP of operations, said putting a plan together is particularly difficult because of all the construction in the area.

"We've planned three separate plans … just based on all the construction that's going on, not just with ice District but also in the neighbourhood," he said.

'There's ample parking'

Roger's Place needs 5,800 parking spots to cover a major event. It has partnered with a parking reservation app so fans can reserve their spot ahead of time to avoid having people drive around in search of a place to leave their cars.

The Katz group hopes to build a temporary 800-stall gravel lot for fans and spectators visiting Rogers Place. If approved, the lot would remain in place for up to 10 years while construction wraps up on an underground parking garage in Ice District.

There has been strong opposition to the proposed lot from residents, councillors, and Mayor Don Iveson.

Ballantine said even without the lot, there will be plenty of space for people to park.

"There is ample parking," he said, pointing to the 18,000 spots available within a ten-minute walk of the arena.

Ballantine also encouraged people to consider transit or cycling when attending games or concerts.

Hundreds of drivers have been fined since the arena opened last month. (CBC)

'There's going to be some hiccups'

OEG outlined where cabs will wait, where people with disabilities will be dropped off, and where other drop offs will take place.

  • Taxis will line up along 104th Avenue west of 104th Street, and south along 105th Street
  • Limousines and other vehicles for hire will be staged on 102nd Street north of 105th Avenue
  • Charter buses will park on 103rd Street north of the arena
  • People with disabilities will be dropped off on 104th Avenue at the southeast entrance to the arena
  • All other dropoffs will happen curbside along 104th Avenue and 105th Avenue, west of 105th Street

But OEG and the city warn the plan could change, as OEG and the city adapt to traffic patterns during the first few events.

"We can do all the planning in the world but there's just some things that are going to happen," said Ronna Bremer-Todd, director of communications for the city.

She said the city is working with community members, OEG, the police and the fire department to put together a plan for managing the huge number of people expected to flood downtown.

She said the city will move quickly to adjust if traffic doesn't move as smoothly as they hope, and she's asking for patience from fans and downtown dwellers, particularly in the arena's early days.

"We have to be honest that there's going to be some hiccups," she said.

Council approved a temporary gravel parking lot for 600 vehicles on land north of Rogers Place. (Emily Fitzpatrick/ CBC News)

Downtown residents ready for change

Downtown residents at the information session said traffic is a normal part of living downtown, and they expect it to increase when the arena opens.

"It's understandable that there's going to be some chaos or issues," said Terri Brault, who has lived on 104th Street for around a year. 

She said she's happy to see the city planning ahead, and she's willing to wait and see how it works.

"We are looking to see if things are systemic or intolerable that are really going to impact our quality of life, and that's at the point where we'll start identifying some real concerns," she said.

The arena's first big traffic trial will be on Sept. 10, when the city opens the doors of Rogers Place for a public open house.

The city said it will release much more information about the traffic impact of Rogers Place on downtown in August.

'It's understandable that there's going to be some chaos,' says downtown resident Terri Brault. (CBC)