Sunday, 29 March 2015

Two Decades Earlier

Today on HBIC, we're going to take a trip down memory lane as we look back at the mid-season opening of an arena for an NHL team. The Ottawa Senators currently play in Canadian Tire Centre, but this arena has had a few names over its life. It was called Scotiabank Place and the Corel Centre, but we have to go back to when the building opened to discover its original name: Palladium. It's hard to fathom that the Ottawa Senators building a case for a new arena when this one opened on January 14, 1996, but they were seriously proposing a new arena as late as the turn of the calendar to 2015. Considering the info found in a couple of Ottawa Citizen newspapers I discovered in a box, it seems the luster has worn off this once shiny, new building.

According to the newspaper, the Palladium cost a mere $200 million. Parking cost $8 back in 1996. Fare on the various buses traveling to Kanata to this new venue would cost $1.85 each way. Hot dogs were $2 while beer was $4, taxes included. The most expensive seat in 1996? $85 to see the Senators and you got seat-side service for concessions. Seats in the Citizen family zone? $15 apiece. Needless to say, life was pretty good for hockey fans in the Ottawa area in 1996.

If there were complaints, there were few but they were significant. There were too few elevators in the rink which meant that fans who sat in the upper deck climbed the equivalent of five stories of stairs to get to their seats. There were also significantly less washrooms for women than men - "688 urinals and stalls for men on the main concourse and 656 stalls for women" as per the Ottawa Citizen. Impressive, um, totals, right?

The Ottawa Senators began play in 1996 at the Ottawa Civic Centre which held a measly 10,575 fans. It was easily the smallest building at the time in the NHL. The Palladium could easily hold 18,500 fans for hockey and up to 21,500 for other events. That's a huge difference in attendance. They also ensured that the sightlines were taken into consideration when building the rink. The farthest seat from the playing surface - seat S33 - is only 138 feet from the playing surface, and all players can be seen. Although they may look like ants.

Here's the Brad Evenson of the Ottawa Citizen describing the Roman theme of the Palladium.
One of the most striking features of the Palladium is the extent architects and designers pushed the Roman Empire decor.

Ever since the Senators dumped the Peace Tower logo for a stylized Gladiator, they've pushed the Roman stuff like a broken chariot. The Palladium looks like Julius Caesar's own interior decorator was turned loose. The building is thick with doric columns, arches, and domes. The executive entrance boasts a six-metre tall suspended statue of the winged horse, Pegasus. Another room boasts a giant mural of daily life in Rome. Like a Roman arena, the building is circus-ready - complete with secure entrances for lions and tether posts for elephants. ("I mean, we can't have elephants running loose, can we?" says [Palladium spokeswoman Sue] Baker.)
Needless to say, the Senators embraced their Roman ties with this new arena. There were other impressive architectural feats: the ice surface is below ground level, meaning fans enter the rink off the concourse almost a third of the way up. The seat sections are cantilevered over one another. Those with seats in the upper deck are nine feet closer to the ice than in other arenas at the time. Sound engineers were brought in to improve the acoustics. As Evenson writes, "Up in Seat 33, the acoustics are so good you could hear your nose bleed."

The Senators have a 10,000 square-foot dressing room that comes with a steam room, a weight room, whirlpools, and lounges. The opposition, meanwhile, gets what could amount to enough room to act as a broom closet. There's a YMCA-YWCA on site, and there are enough restaurants and bars built up around the Palladium to make it worth a night out even if one wasn't attending the rink. Honestly, the planning that went into and around this arena is pretty impressive.

Want some numbers? Here we go.
  • 2500: amount in kilometre of electrical wiring that went into the building. It would stretch back and forth between Ottawa and Toronto three times.
  • 1200: total number of steel pilings filled with concrete used in building the arena.
  • 22: length in kilometres of refrigeration piping under the rink.
  • 26: number of games played in the Palladium by the Senators in the rink's inaugural season. They did not make the playoffs that year.
  • 120,000: cost in dollars to rent the best luxury suite per year, including taxes. Add another $40,000 to furnish that suite as well.
  • 150: total number of luxury suites.
  • 200: total seats for media. The press area includes four TV booths, four radio booths, one NHL booth, and one TV-replay booth.
  • 400: total number of TV monitors in the Palladium. One included in every suite.
  • 110,000: cost in dollars per year for the most highly visible board advertisement location. The lesser seen ad spots only set you back $80,000.
  • 2000: number of people who can use the toilet at the same time. That's some impressive plumbing, no?
The Senators, in a weird twist to this story, weren't the first event in the Palladium. Monday, January 15, 1996 saw a Bryan Adams concert as the first official event in the brand-new Palladium. And they followed that on Tuesday night with an all-star skating event, so the Senators weren't even first to skate on their ice! When they finally hit the ice, though, they welcomed the Montreal Canadiens for that first game, and we have video!
So there's a little history on this Sunday night about the the Palladium which is now Canadian Tire Centre. Honestly, it sounds a little more regal as the Palladium, but the dollars made with naming rights to the arena can't be overlooked.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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