Edmontonians of all ages celebrated the Coliseum on Saturday — a facility that holds significance for many, for a variety of reasons.
The building is open to the public from Friday, Dec. 15 to Sunday, Dec. 17 for a variety of events to say farewell to the Coliseum.
“Today is just one last opportunity to make sure you can come back and see a place that’s been in our memories and in our daily lives for so many years,” Northlands CEO Tim Reid said on Saturday.
“For 44 years, we’ve been coming to this building and over a million people a year have been showing up to see sporting events, to see entertainment events. I think this is just a pretty simple way to make sure you can come say goodbye to a great old building in our city one more time.”
On Jan. 1, 2018, the city will officially take over the Coliseum and close the arena.
On Friday evening, the Spruce Grove Saints played against the Okotoks Oilers on the ice. Reid was there along with former Oiler Ryan Smyth. Several hockey alumni also attended the game.
There was a pancake breakfast and free public skates on Saturday and a round dance was scheduled for Sunday afternoon.
For Reid, witnessing people share a last moment or final skate at the Coliseum is a humbling experience.
“This is just the right thing to do.
“Most of our staff have volunteered to do this. Our volunteers have come out in record numbers to be able to help us out. It’s emotional. We know we’re going to be transitioning this building back to the city but it’s really heartfelt when somebody comes up and says, ‘Hey, thanks so much.'”
Reid says people have been coming up to him to share their personal stories of the arena.
“I’ve heard so many of them,” he said. “From, ‘My dad took me to my first hockey game,’ to ‘My mom took me to my first concert,’ to a fellow that proposed here last week. His wife-to-be was a longtime Ticketmaster employee. The stories are real.
“What I think is so amazing though is just the genuine level of gratitude. People have been so appreciative for allowing them back in the building. The simple things like a pancake breakfast or a free skate, have just meant a lot and that feels really good.”
While the closure of the Coliseum isn’t a shock, Reid said some guests and staff members are still taking this time to process the change.
“I think everybody’s known that it was coming and it was an eventuality. What I think is so great about today is we’ve given them a chance to engage and interact.”
Reid said some employees have worked at the arena for decades.
“We have some staff members who started their first shift on opening night of this building. They’re here at some key points telling some stories about the building. I think it’s just a great way for them to have some closure. Who knows what happens in the next chapter of the Coliseum, but what we do know is at least the public will have access this weekend.
“One thing that’s been re-occurring in the sentiments and statements from the public is: this building really matters,” Reid said.
He explained his goal — and that of Northlands and northeast Edmonton — is to communicate that what happens at the old Coliseum site is important.
“I’m not sure there is a right answer but I do believe that whatever we do, as Edmonton, we have to get it right.”
Saturday’s skate and open house runs until 4 p.m.
On Sunday, doors open at 3 p.m. The public event will include a pipe ceremony, community feast and round dance.