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River Cree shuts down concert tent after safety review

WATCH ABOVE: The Venue at the River Cree Resort and Casino has suddenly closed its doors because of safety concerns.

EDMONTON —The River Cree Resort and Casino has voluntarily closed its temporary concert and entertainment facility “The Venue” because it does not meet current safety codes. Management is now scrambling to figure out what to do about several upcoming shows.

The Venue, a large white tent attached to the casino, has hosted many concerts, comedians and other entertainers over the past eight years.

Five shows were scheduled in the next two weeks, including a sold-out Lynyrd Skynyrd concert on Saturday. River Cree said it is trying to find new venues for the upcoming performances. In cases where that’s not possible, the tickets will be refunded.

(Scroll down for a list of relocated shows)

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“We are working diligently to sort through this process as quickly as possible,” said River Cree general manager Vik Mahajan.

“We weren’t required by anybody to do it, no one has asked us to shut this down. It’s a voluntary decision by the ownership of the resort, I think it’s a wise one.”

Details on how shows will be affected will be released Friday morning at RiverCreeTickets.com.

River Cree, located just west of the city limit on the Enoch Cree Nation, said it made the decision to close The Venue following an engineering study that found there was a building code deficiency. River Cree said it hasn’t received any orders to shut the facility down, but chose to do so as a precaution.

“Public safety is our number one priority. We would never want to endanger anyone,” said Robert Morin, CEO, River Cree Enterprises. River Cree said there have never been any safety issues with the 1700-seat facility.

 “We closed it immediately and work will start right away to build another temporary structure on that site, which will be larger and have better amenities,” said Morin.

The new temporary structure, which he said will meet or exceed current building codes, is expected be ready in July.  Construction of a permanent venue is expected to begin in 2017 or 2018, and open in either 2018 or 2019.

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“Our long-term plan has always been to build a permanent concert structure on site. Nothing about that plan has changed,” he added.

Over the years River Cree has brought in big name acts like Randy Travis and Conan O’Brien, but The Venue has also drawn criticism from ticket holders. One online reviewer calls it “the worst place to see a show,” another says it is nothing more than a tent attached to a casino.

Mahajan says with more than 55 shows booked, 2015 was going to be a banner year for The Venue. He says there was no initial plan in place to put up another temporary tent, but says once open in July, it will be an improvement.

“We’ll make sure we do the right thing through this and come back bigger and better.”

In addition to the casino and The Venue, the River Cree contains a Marriott hotel, expo halls, several restaurants and an ice skating arena.

Ground broke on the River Cree in 2004, and The Venue tent structure was built by a company that has since gone out of business. When River Cree opened in 2006, it was co-owned by both Enoch and Las Vegas-based Paragon Gaming, who struck a 25-year deal.

But in January 2014 Enoch bought out Paragon’s interest and assumed full ownership and management. At that time River Cree Enterprises undertook what it calls a “due diligence exercise,” that included the engineering study.

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Last year Enoch said 22 per cent of employees at the River Cree are from the first nation.

Relocated shows (as of March 16)

River Cree Venue Show Updates – March 16

With files from Kendra Slugoski, Global News

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