Oiler fans brave bone-chilling cold to get sneak peek at Rogers Place

With the final days of Rexall Place as the home of the Edmonton Oilers looming, Kevin Lowe and the team announced that it will honour former GM and Oilers dynasty mastermind Glen Sather to close out the building.

EDMONTON — Hundreds of hockey fans braved bone-chilling temperatures Saturday to get a sneak peek at the future home of the Edmonton Oilers.

About 1,000 walked through in the first hour to look inside the shell of Rogers Place in downtown Edmonton.

The interior remains a dimly lit, half-finished concrete bowl with a flag in the ground where centre ice will be.

But fans could see the upper levels jutting out one on top of one another to give even those in the nose-bleeds a closer view of the action than at the current Oilers’ home in Rexall Place.

“I think what’s unique here is the cantilevering,” said Bob Black, executive vice-president of the Edmonton Arena Corporation.

“The suite level is cantilevered out over the main concourse. The loge level is cantilevered over the suite level and the upper concourse is cantilevered over the loge level.

“That’s all about creating as steep a bowl as you can to keep people as close to the action as you can.”

He said other noteworthy elements include natural light streaming through glazing on the north and south sides of the building.

“You’ll be able to stand inside the building and look out on the cityscape and enjoy the skyline,” said Black.

He said there will be an open concept on the concourse along with 1,250 TVs so that even fans lining up for popcorn will still be part of the game.

“That was also a major guiding principle of the design,” he said.

“You won’t go anywhere in this building where you won’t be in touch with the events on the floor.”

Black said the bowl configurations are based on research and more than 40 trips to arenas around the NHL and beyond, adding he was particularly impressed with the Xcel Energy Center in Minnesota.

“(We) unabashedly stole every good idea we could from other facilities. We learned a lot of lessons as to things that have worked well and we learned some lessons on things that haven’t worked so well.”

Visitor Jacob Golka, dressed in his jersey honouring former Oiler Dustin Penner, said he was impressed by the sightlines.

“I think the rink is unbelievable,” said Golka.

“Every seat is going to have a spectacular view and that’s something that I think most arenas in the NHL can’t say right now.”

Construction is set to finish on September 2, with the rink ready for the Oilers in time for the 2016-17 NHL season.

It’s a public-private partnership. Rogers Place will cost $480 million, with surrounding pedways and other facilities bumping the final bill to almost $607 million.

It will seat 18,641 for hockey and up to 20,734 for concerts.

Officials say the project is on time and on budget and will include the largest high-definition centre ice scoreboard in the NHL.

The arena will be the anchor tenant of a larger mixed-use entertainment zone in known as the Ice District.

There will be office towers, a JW Marriott Hotel, retail shops, condominiums and movie theatres.

The Oilers are playing their final season at Rexall Place in the city’s north end.

It has been their home since 1974, when they played in the World Hockey Association.

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