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  • Jim Flannery

ENMAX Centre - Lethbridge Hurricanes

Photos by Jim Flannery, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.00

ENMAX Centre

2510 Scenic Dr S

Lethbridge, AB T1K 1N2

Lethbridge Hurricanes website

ENMAX Centre website

Year Opened: 1974

Capacity: 5,107

Rock You Like a Hurricane

The Lethbridge Hurricanes began their history as the Winnipeg Jets in 1967 and have been in operation since. They changed their name twice while in Winnipeg before moving to Calgary and becoming the Wranglers in 1977. They remained in Calgary until 1987 when they relocated to Lethbridge and were renamed once again, becoming the Hurricanes, a name they have stuck with now for more than a quarter century.

The Hurricanes took over the Lethbridge junior hockey scene after the Broncos moved back to their original home in Swift Current following a 12-year stay in Lethbridge.

Through it all, Lethbridge’s WHL teams have played at what is now known as ENMAX Centre.

Built in 1975 for the Canada Winter Games, the Sportsplex (as it was then known) was designed for a multitude of purposes. The stadium converts easily to a number of different applications for curling, concerts, hockey, basketball, banquets, etc.

Beginning in 2010, the ENMAX Centre underwent a major facelift, with $34 million in upgrades. New features include new luxury suites, a new scoreboard and sound system, new press facilities, new locker rooms for the teams, and a new restaurant and lounge on upper level of the north end.

The Hurricanes are celebrating their 30th anniversary over the 2016-17 season and are the defending WHL South Division champions, so they have also undergone a recent facelift on the ice.

Food & Beverage 3

There are five primary concession stands around the arena: two each on the east and west sides and one on the north end. Depending on which concession you step up to, you’ll find some different menu options. The three stands to the north of the building all share a fairly standard arena menu that includes fairly conventional concession fare, including cheeseburgers ($6.00), hot dogs ($4.25), popcorn ($5.00 for a regular), and fries ($4.60).

The two concessions to the south feature Dominos Pizza by the slice ($6.25 each) instead of burgers. Since moving here, I’ve found four or five outstanding pizza places around Lethbridge, so having to settle for Dominos at the ENMAX Centre is a bit of a let down. I’d love to see one of the local outfits get the opportunity to step into this role, which would improve the quality of this particular option significantly.

There are also a few other specialty stands, including a kiosk with mini doughnuts ($4.00), one with specialty coffees, a Hawaiian shaved ice stand and a Mini-Melt ice cream dots stand. There is also a modest selection of beer on tap ($6.25), coolers, hi-balls and wine (all $6.25) available at the stands, but not much in the way of selection. All things considered, the main concession stands are fairly pedestrian in their pricing, options, and quality.

Upstairs in the Canadian Western Bank Lounge there is a row of seats right up front allowing fans to watch from the lounge’s vantage point as well as a number of tables that give you a view of the ice surface. Further back, there are more tables for a real dining experience with a detailed and delicious-looking menu. The lounge opens two hours before game time, so this is an excellent option for pre-game dining in a very nice location prior to a Hurricanes game.

Atmosphere 3

As with most of the minor hockey arenas I’ve visited, the vibe at the ENMAX Centre is fairly laid back. The team has improved their fortunes and have become a top competitor in the WHL, but it has yet to translate into bigger, more boisterous crowds. There are cheers at the right times but the stadium, typically with only 2,500-3,500 people in it, is pretty quiet otherwise.

Another issue is the seating. After checking a number of different seating locations around the stadium, one thing that stands out, particularly in the corners, is legroom that can most charitably be called “cozy.” In spite of the seats themselves being new and quite comfortable, the lack of legroom makes it awkward to stay facing forward without having to slide your knees to one side or the other. The legroom is snug for a person who is five-foot-eight; it could be downright unpleasant for a six-footer.

Additionally, there are a dozen or so seats in the upper decks of Sections “A” and “S” where about half of the view of the rink is completely blocked off by the luxury boxes. You can still see the game on the video feed on the scoreboard, but it makes this handful of seats less than ideal.

Aside from those flaws, sight lines from everywhere else in the building are excellent and the venue’s overall atmosphere is fun and inviting.

Also on the plus side, there are a number of touches that help provide a sense of Lethbridge’s hockey history. The rafters at the south end of the stadium are lined with championship banners, including eight earned by the Hurricanes over the years. On the west wall of the concourse is the Hurricanes Hall of Fame, with the names of all the award winners who have earned accolades over the years.

Neighborhood 5

You really can’t ask for a better location than that of the ENMAX Centre. Located right on Scenic Drive, one of the major thoroughfares for Lethbridge, the stadium is also just a couple blocks from Mayor Magrath Drive and most of the key shops and services in town. You are within walking distance of fast food, casual dining, bars, pubs, shopping; pretty much everything is right there.

From Harvey’s to Five Guys Burger and Fries to Boston Pizza to Brown’s Social House and everything in between, there is something for everyone.

If you’re willing to drive five minutes north on Mayor Magrath, I highly recommend giving the Smokehouse BBQ a try (1104 Mayor Magrath Drive S.). Good food and impressive portions.

Fans 3

The fans are obviously dedicated, as they supported the team through a six-season playoff drought from 2010 to 2015. But it’s a relatively small group of fans. With the stands only filled to 60 or 70 percent capacity, the place feels a bit empty.

Still, the people who are there clearly know their hockey, as most Canadian audiences do. They cheer at the right moments, boo at the right moments and appear engaged throughout the game.

Access 5

Parking at the ENMAX Centre is outstanding, with ample free parking available in the lots surrounding the stadium. There is also reserved parking for fans attending the luxury suites. Getting in and out of the parking lot is a snap, with traffic clearing out quickly and easily following the game (you can typically get back on the streets from the middle of the lot in about five minutes or fewer).

With the stadium situated on a major artery, next to a second major artery, getting to and from the ENMAX Centre from anywhere in Lethbridge will be a quick trip. After a game, it is possible to get to the extreme north end of town in fewer than 20 minutes.

If you’re looking to bus in, there is a stop right in front of the stadium, again making getting to and from the venue simple.

Return on Investment 4

With game day tickets available for $23 a seat for adults, $20 for seniors. $14 for youths, pricing for walk-ups is excellent, providing great value for your viewing dollar. There aren’t many better deals out there for this level of competition and entertainment. It is an excellent value for your money.

The two dozen luxury boxes are leased by ENMAX for three-year periods and have been a hot item, as they are completely sold out.

Season ticket sales for the devoted fan go on sale in the spring, with early bird deals as well as loyalty pricing for returning season ticket holders.

Extras 5

ENMAX Centre has a number of great touches to add to the experience of taking in a Hurricanes game. The Hurricanes have a souvenir stand in the northeast corner of the main concourse called Top Shelf, where fans can pick up hats, tee-shirts, jerseys, and various knick-knacks, all at fairly typical prices.

A nifty feature that I’ve seen in many junior hockey arenas is standing room spots all the way around the perimeter of the concourse, which are sold in the same manner as the seats. Apparently many fans prefer to watch games from these standing positions, rather than the seats, so this gives the audience one more unique viewing option.

As a facility and franchise with very close ties to the community, ENMAX Centre makes several community tables available around the concourse, allowing community-based fundraisers and awareness campaigns an opportunity to bring their message to the fans.

The Hurricanes also have a mascot, Twister, to keep the kids in the audience entertained and to help out with various promotions and giveaways during the game.

Also of note, among the upgrades to the facility are the new scoreboard and sound system. The scoreboard provides a hi-res video feed of the on-ice action which is readily visible to everyone in the stands. The excellent sound system beams music and public address announcements to the audience and has characteristics that put it on par with the systems in NHL-quality stadiums around North America.

It’s always nice to see recycling bins at stadiums and ENMAX Centre is no exception, allowing the fans to be green while enjoying a night out.

Final Thoughts

When all is said and done, this is a great place to see the stars of tomorrow doing their thing. If the team can find ways to draw more fans to games with creative marketing strategies, it’ll bring the energy up in the building and make it that much more entertaining.

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