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26 September 2017

One Year Later, HOK’s Ryan Gedney and Jan Steingahs Reflect on Edmonton’s Rogers Place

By Alexscuccato [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

As the new home of the Edmonton Oilers celebrates its one-year anniversary, the arena’s designers discuss its greater impact on the city.

Why was it important to incorporate community elements in the design of Rogers Place?

Ryan Gedney (RG): Stadiums and arenas can’t simply be sculptural artifacts sitting in the middle of a sea of parking. And because they often consume significant street frontage with spaces that are only active on event days, these venues can be notoriously unfriendly to their surroundings. We have to creatively weave them into the urban fabric so they can do more than host sporting events. They also should catalyze other development. When we do that, venues like Rogers Place can have a tremendously positive impact on the economy and create positive momentum for a city.

Jan Steingahs (JS): Sports facilities in downtown cores that don’t incorporate community elements or link to mixed‐use districts are no longer viable. Thoughtful planning creates environments like this that are multifunctional, vibrant and impactful.

How did HOK’s team do this in Edmonton?

JS: Our team drew on expertise in urban planning, placemaking and contextual design to create an outward-looking building. The design integrates the arena into the planned mixed-use ICE District in a way that activates and inspires development. First, the arena acts as a community living room for sporting events, concerts and more. But by extending its structure over 104 Avenue—one of Edmonton’s main thoroughfares—the design creates a meaningful physical connection between Rogers Place and the ICE District.

RG: 104 Avenue is a wide, fast-moving street that physically separates the arena from the ICE District, the future heart of the district. The existing urban context allowed the events inside to extend well beyond the arena’s walls. By blending the fluid, snow‐like aesthetics of the arena with the bridge over 104 Avenue, the design established a physical presence for the arena on the main plaza of the ICE District. We also integrated the bridge with an arena lobby to create Ford Hall, which acts as the main entry and gathering space for Rogers Place and provides a pedestrian link to the city’s growing-light rail system. Over the past year we’ve seen Ford Hall serve as an iconic event space, even when the arena is closed.

Second, it’s bitterly cold there in the winter! To keep people inside and comfortable during the winter, a network of pedestrian bridges connects city blocks. This has created an entire second level of mixed‐use spaces above the downtown streets. During the design process, we worked hard to reinvigorate the street without interfering with the very active world above it.

What is the value of including mixeduse development in the overall project?

JS: In Edmonton, the simultaneous investment in both the arena and the ICE District has created an emerging live‐work‐play neighborhood that wouldn’t have happened if one had been developed without the other. By populating the district with residential units, retail space, offices, a hotel and a community ice rink, the design generates synergies and pedestrian activity that increases density throughout the district. This strengthens the long‐term viability of Rogers Place and creates new gathering places in downtown Edmonton.

What should other teams and cities consider as they embark on sports and entertainment venue projects?

RG: They should work closely with their designers to create aesthetically beautiful buildings that also work hard for their cities. This is at the heart of great urban design. But there is no one-size-fits-all formula for success. The demographics, history and culture of a city will inform the right solution.

We want fans to influence fans to “come early and stay late.” Embracing this philosophy in the design process allows us to design synergies between venues, open spaces and mixed‐use elements as a unified exercise. This diversifies and enhances revenue streams for owners. It also creates a rich urban landscape that supports smart growth and vitality for the city as a whole.

Read more about Rogers Place and The ICE District.