About 20,000 people streamed into Edmonton’s new downtown arena Friday night for the first official concert at the newly-opened sports and entertainment venue.
While most of the arena-goers were amped up to see Aussie country singer Keith Urban perform, for many, the evening had as much to do with seeing history unfold as it did seeing the headliner perform.
“I’ve been waiting for this day for a very, very long time,” concertgoer Kevin Maher said. “People are going to look back and (say), ‘This is what I remember.’ Those I remember moments.
“I’ve just got goose bumps can’t wait to get in.”
Across the street, the Mercer Tavern filled up about six hours earlier than it normally does on a Friday night while the neighbouring restaurant, Rostizado, saw hungry patrons wait nearly 90 minutes for a table.
“It’s a big moment for Edmonton,” said one concertgoer inside the foyer of Rogers Place.
“It’s unreal in there,” Jeff Lesik, the general manager at Mercer Tavern, said. “Just so many people walking around on the streets outside. We almost had to start a lineup at about 5 p.m.”
“It seems like we’ve been planning and getting ready for this day since I’ve started here. It’s almost a little surreal.”
The increased traffic expected in downtown Edmonton on evenings where concerts or hockey games take place has city officials urging citizens to use public transit to get to the arena. A variety of parking restrictions were also in place in order to reduce congestion and make it easier for people to hail cabs when they leave.
The city is also charging more for parking on evenings where events are held at Rogers Place in an effort to encourage use of public transit.
The increased pedestrian traffic expected in the downtown core for Rogers Place events prompted the city to allocate additional police resources to the area in an effort to accommodate the expected surge in street traffic.
In a little over a week, Rogers Place will host its first official hockey game when the WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings host the Red Deer Rebels on Sept. 24.
Rogers Place’s first NHL game will be on Oct. 7 when the Edmonton Oilers ignite a new era in the Battle of Alberta when they face off against the Calgary Flames.
While Urban’s performance marked the first official concert at Rogers Place, a local pop band already graced the arena’s stage earlier this month in a top-secret show aimed at testing out the space as a music venue.