Rexall Place, formerly known as the Northlands Coliseum, Edmonton Coliseum and Sky Reach Center, is the second oldest NFL arena behind only Madison Square Garden in New York. The facility opened in Edmonton in November 1974 and was built at a cost of $17.3 million Canadian. That is the equivalent of $81.2 million in 2015 US dollars. While Madison Square Garden is seen as an iconic sporting venue, Rexall Place does not hold the same level of historic flair. That is not to say however that this arena is bad as it does a good job of blending an old-school feel with amenities a modern arena would be proud of.
In its current configuration the arena has an official capacity of 16,839 for hockey, which is down from the 17,100 it held at the turn of the century. This is due to replacing old seating with new and increasing the premium amenities. This does mean however that Rexall place is one of just three arenas (the others being the MTS Centre in Winnipeg and the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island) which is not capable of seating more than 17,000 fans in its current state. When you add in that this arena is located in a pretty sketchy part of Edmonton it is easy to see why rumors of a fresh, new downtown arena occur often.
The arena was the first in Canada to have a center hung scoreboard, a scoreboard so long ago that it featured a black and white dot matrix electronic message board. This has obviously long since been replaced by the ubiquitous 360 degree fascia signage and a large scoreboard with multiple LED video screens and message boards. One of the quirks about the age of the arena is that it is the only arena in the NHL with benches which are on the same side as the main TV camera for games. Every other arena has the benches opposite the camera on the same side as the score keepers table and penalty boxes.
The rumors of a downtown arena proved true when construction started on a new building in downtown Edmonton in 2014. This new arena will have a capacity of over 18,500 and will be opened in time for the 2016-17 NHL season. The plan is however for the Rexall Center to stay open in some fashion, despite a new and bigger arena being opened in the city. With a history which includes recordings by the likes of ABBA and Metallica, along with sporting events like the 1978 Commonwealth Games and the 1989 NHL All-Star game, this is a good thing for the city.
Every arena needs its own unique twist and there are a couple of those in Edmonton. There is a life size statue of Wayne Gretzky, cast in bronze, outside the east entrance of the arena. Also before games a 30-foot high oil derrick is slowly lowered to the ice for the home team to skate through as they enter the rink for the first time. Another stadium secret is that just inside the home dressing room there is a display cabinet with replicas of the five Stanley Cup Trophies which the Oilers have won. There is also a vacant spot waiting for that next trophy, pushing the current club to have the same success as those in the past.
image courtesy of nhl.com