Edmonton's new 'world-class' arena Rogers Place opens its doors

Edmonton's new downtown arena, built in less than three years at a total cost of more than $600 million, is officially open. Rogers Place, the new home of the Edmonton Oilers, saw its grand opening Thursday.

'Excitement is still building all around us': Oilers owner Daryl Katz

Last minute scramble to get Rogers Place ready for Thursday's grand opening. (Min Dhariwal )

Edmonton's new downtown arena, built in less than three years at a total cost of more than $600 million, is officially open.

Rogers Place, the new home of the Edmonton Oilers, was opened in a ceremony Thursday evening.

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson told the event that ever since ground was initially broken in March 2014, the arena has reflected the evolution of Edmonton's downtown core.

"We can say with confidence that we are on the right path to building a more dynamic downtown, the one we all dreamed was possible. Now billions are being invested in the core of our city," said Iveson. "This is Edmonton's spirit in action. Our community is coming together to build dreams into a reality."

"And now anyone coming to the city, or who see it on Hockey Night in Canada, will now see a downtown that reflects our aspirations. They will see a great city being built ever higher before their eyes.

"This changes Edmonton forever."
At the Rogers Place opening, the Oilers owner calls the devotion to the team by fans 'incredible.' 0:32

In a news release, Oilers Entertainment Group chairman Daryl Katz said the Oilers and the city have now realized "our collective goal of opening our new downtown arena, and that excitement is still building all around us ... Edmonton will have a world-class urban core to match our world-class community spirit."

"To Oilers fans everywhere, your devotion to the team is incredible. It inspired us to make Rogers Place the very best it could be," said Katz to the crowd on Thursday. 

"Thank you for sticking by the team through thick and thin. This is the city's building but this is your house."

Thank you for sticking by the team through thick and thin, this is the city's building but this is your house.- Daryl Katz

Iveson said Rogers Place is the first of many new buildings that will be opening in downtown Edmonton, including Western Canada's tallest tower. People will look back on today "as the day the excitement began."

The 1,110,900 square-foot arena can seat more than 18,000 for an Oilers game, or 20,000 for a concert. Attached to the arena is the Grand Villa Casino, a $32-million, 60,000-square-foot facility jammed packed with 600 slot machines, 28 table games and seven restaurants. 

The people behind the arena — the Oilers Entertainment Group — call it "the most advanced sports and entertainment venue in North America."

From Daryl Katz buying the Edmonton Oilers to opening day at Rogers Place, here's a timeline of the major milestones. 2:25

McDavid's new home

Oilers fans are already imagining the Stanley Cup pennants that will hang in the rafters of the NHL's newest arena.

The first official Oilers game will be played on Sept. 26, when the team takes on the Calgary Flames in a pre-season contest. The season opener at Rogers Place will be Oct. 12, again against the Flames.

Connor McDavid has some built-in competition as the brightest and biggest star inside Rogers Place. Hanging high above the ice, weighing in at a whopping 41,000 kilograms, will be the largest scoreboard in the league.

Wayne Gretzky, the man who many say built the former arena, tested out the ice earlier on Thursday.

"The ice isn't as fast as Rexall," the Great One quipped.

"I tested it today and I seemed to be faster in the '90s."

Gretzky compared the old Northlands Coliseum (Rexall Place) to the Chicago Stadium and the Montreal Gardens. 

"You know you hate to see those old arenas go. Northlands Coliseum was a special place, but it's a new time and a new era and you have to change with the times."

Northlands Coliseum was a special place, but it's a new time and a new era and you have to change with the times.- Wayne Gretzky

The Great One said he hopes the new generation of Oilers can build their own identity in Rogers Place.

"What makes an arena really special is when you start winning, when you win championships and that's what makes an arena unique and special.

"The atmosphere is everything. In 1981 when we beat Montreal in the first two games and came home for game three, that's when the atmosphere really changed."

"Make some new memories, win some more championships," he tells the crowd. 0:23

Acts like Kanye West, Cirque du Soleil, Carrie Underwood, John Fogerty and Amy Schumer have already set dates to play Rogers Place. On Sept. 16, country singer Keith Urban will become the first entertainer to put on a show in the new arena.

The facility also houses the Edmonton Downtown Community Arena, the new home ice for the MacEwan University hockey teams.

The public wil get a chance to see Rogers Place for themselves at an open house on Saturday. Fifty-five thousand free tickets have been snapped up for that event.

With files from Min Dhariwal