Stew MacDonald is the Oilers Chief Commercial Officer. Stew sat down with Bob Stauffer during Oilers Now on Wednesday to answer your questions on the new arena.
Here are some of the more popular questions with answers from Stew.
Question: Challenges with parking?
Stew: We will be rolling out in the next week or so some more solutions. We’ve partnered with organizations that we think will allow people to manage their travel to the arena and their parking locations even before they leave the house or the office. We certainly think we will have a higher uptake on transit. There will be a little bit of construction around the arena but i’m confident that once people get in that it won’t be as big of a challenge as some make it out to be. We will also be doing a lot of work in advance to educate the people the best route in and out of downtown and the best places to park.
Question: Goal horn and oil derrick coming over?
Stew: The goal horn is coming with us. The oil derrick we’re retiring. Part of it has to do with the structure of the building.
Question: What is the seating for hockey and concerts?
Stew: Plus or minus a seat but its about 18,500 for hockey. Up to 20,000 for concerts.
Question: Are the cameras going to be facing the benches or the penalty boxes?
Stew: We are going to give up are status as the only building in the NHL where the main cameras face the penalty box. We are going to shoot the player benches which is broadcast desire.
Question: How many different dining establishments are being planned and will they be ready for the opening?
Stew: We are in good shape. We will have one full service restaurant that will be available to patrons of whatever the event is called Curved. The balance will be a number of fixed concession stands. One of the very cool aspects about Rogers Place is the amount of glass that leads to natural light around the concourse. It’s allowed us to go with a lot more variety in portable food locations. We have some very high end, well designed food portables and beverage portables that will be located around the building. We also have about five clubs that also have their own dining experiences within that club for that tickets area inside the arena.
Question: On the restaurants in the clubs and if you need access to enter each place?
Stew: If your in the Sportsnet club then you need ticket access to Sportsnet Club for an Oilers game to have access to that club.
Question: How many bathrooms are there?
Stew: More than Rexall Place. I’m not sure the exact amount but its significantly more than what we call the recommended code for the facility.
Question: Gender neutral bathrooms?
Stew: There are family and gender neutral bathrooms in the building.
Question: More room in the concourse?
Stew: It’s ridiculously wide. Not only is it open on the outside, it’s also open to the bowl. The design process involved a lot of people. We visited over 40 facilities in North America and a couple in Europe too. We tested a bunch of ideas but there were a couple of things that we felt are really important. One is it’s a hockey building and hockey sight lines. The lower bowl is the same pitch as the lower bowl at Rexall Place with more leg room. The concourse is also open to the bowl. That’s different that Rexall Place. If something happens on the ice while you are walking around then you can poke your head right back into the action.
Question: TV’s around the building?
Stew: We have 1200 in the arena and over 600 of those face the public. You will be connected to the game at all times.
Question: Wheelchair access?
Stew: We were heavily involved with a number of community consultation’s in order to get this right. Here we have barrier free access to every price point in the building. Every club, upper and lower bowl, we have full barrier free elevator access to every location.
Question: Handicap parking near the arena.
Stew: To be truthful on this I don’t have an answer at the moment. We will be communicating an answer shortly.
Question: Seat sizes and drink holders
Stew: We will have drink holders in the lower bowl on the back of each seat. We won’t in the upper bowl. We studied this and found out that most arenas don’t have cup holders in the upper bowl. There is a reason why most arenas don’t have cup holders in the upper bowl. The pitch is higher so your feet are closer to the top of the seat behind you. If they go on the handrails then lots of people will be knocking over drinks as they go in and out. We challenged the company who does the seating and they came back and said it’s more of a fan inconvenience than a convenience to have them up there.
Question: WiFi in the building and phone charging stations?
Stew: We’ve said on a number of occasions that this is going to be the most tech advanced arena when it opens. It will be the most robust WiFi service of any arena in North America. We have technology going in specifically for the lower bowl which is really tough for arenas to reach because usually the WiFi transmission comes from above. Here we have access points that will actually be in the hand rails in the lower bowls. In other arenas that would be shooting from 80 feet above you and you are hoping you will get a bit of reception. Rogers has been a great partner with us on that. We will also have a continuation of what was in rogers place for charger stations.
Question: When do doors open on game days?
Stew: It will be a minimum 90 minutes. But we will be taking a look and if there is a demand we may look at opening doors a couple of hours early or even further.
Question: Why for the next couple of years do fans need to enter through Ford Hall?
Stew: They don’t have to. There are three entry points.
Question: Why restrict printing of tickets to only 48 hours prior to an event at Rogers Place?
Stew: Call it an industry movement. It really has to do with managing counterfeit tickets.
Question: What is the main beer sponsor? What is the main pop sponsor?
Stew: Molson has been with us since day one and they’ve signed a long term deal to continue to be our beer partner. We are also in the process of welcoming a new partner in Pepsi to the facility.
Question: Will there be more beer selection?
Stew: Molson is coming in with a different perspective knowing the opportunity here. They are coming in with premium products and a variety of craft and import products. There will be something for everybody.
Question: Selection of food at the arena?
Stew: We have all the core products broadly available throughout the arena. We wanted to make sure that you don’t have to go more than 50 or 60 feet to get any of those core products. There will be a dramatic increase in the variety and the quality of the product available. The portable concessions I mentioned earlier allow us to do a lot of different things. There will be Alberta smoked meat products and more. We’ve tried to hit every demographic.
Question: Will there be gluten free good products?
Stew: That’s an excellent question. I don’t have an answer off the top of my head but we will have an answer soon.
Question: Is there a Tim Hortons in the arena?
Stew: No there is not.
Question: Will the Oilers send out a large letter or information on parking for season ticket holders that live out of town?
Stew: 100 percent. Both print and electronically going out to anyone that is purchasing an event at Rogers Place. It’s critical for us that for the customer experience for everyone that we do everything we can to make access to downtown and parking as smooth as possible.
Question: Will re entry not be allowed into Rogers Place?
Stew: It has not been announced yet. Pretty much the norm across North America is to not allow patrons out and back in. Pretty much most NHL arenas are doing that now.
Stew answered a few more questions. You can listen to the entire interview below. It’s broken down into two parts.