SBJ/November 10 - 16, 2003/Facilities

Renovated Toronto arena provides second home for hockey fans

Ricoh Coliseum holds 9,000 after a $28.5 million renovation.

Ricoh Coliseum, a renovated 80-year-old equestrian arena in Toronto with 9,000 seats for hockey, could prove to be a hit with hard-core hockey fans and families unable to buy tickets for the much-in-demand Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre.

The AHL Toronto Roadrunners, an affiliate of the NHL Edmonton Oilers, provided a quick glimpse into what an intimate pro hockey venue has to offer, christening home ice with two games the first weekend in November.

The Nov. 1 home opener drew a standing-room-only crowd of 9,300, building and team officials said. The next day, 7,800 were in attendance. Individual tickets range from $14 to $29.

The Roadrunners sandwiched their brief homestand between extended road trips to accommodate the tight 10-month construction schedule made necessary by the Nov. 7-16 Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, the building's other primary tenant.

The Winter Fair has eight decades of tradition in the building, which meant relocating that event was not an option, said Diane Young, CEO and general manager for the board of governors of Exhibition Place, the property owner. The Roadrunners return home for 10 games in December and early January.

David Garrick, Roadrunners director of sponsorship and public affairs, said the Nov. 2 turnout, for a 2 p.m. start, was impressive considering the team was up against the CFL Argonauts and the NFL on television.

Ricoh Coliseum scheduled the home opener and a few other games at 4 p.m. to avoid conflicting with Maple Leafs home dates, said Arlene Campbell, general manager for the Olympia & York/SMG joint venture.

O&Y is a local real estate firm that partnered with SMG in signing a five-year lease to privately manage the arena for Exhibition Place. Ricoh Coliseum, site of the original Hockey Hall of Fame, underwent a $28.5 million renovation in which the interior was gutted with the exception of original brick-and-mortar features, such as doorways and window frames.

Public and private money financed the project. Ricoh, an office equipment firm, signed a 10-year, $7.5 million naming-rights deal. The Roadrunners have sold 32 of 38 luxury suites ranging in price from $33,705 to $53,929 a year with four-, seven- and 10-year terms. Game-day rentals for party boxes, accommodating as many as 32 people, are $749 to $1,123.

The Roadrunners have sold about half the 1,100 club seats, padded as opposed to fiberglass for regular seats. Club-seat prices are $35 and $39 a game for a 42-game season ticket. Club-seat holders pay $562 personal seat licenses on top of the ticket price and receive access to a private lounge.

During the renovation, the suites were built to suspend from the ceiling of a new roof, also strong enough to withstand heavy snow loads. "It was the only way we could do it in this facility," said Bruce Norman, project engineer for PCL Constructors, which worked with architect Brisbin Brook Beynon. Both are local companies with Air Canada Centre and Corel Centre in Ottawa included in their portfolios.

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