HYBRID THEORY: An outdoor ice rink at Centene Community Ice Center in Maryland Heights becomes a 4,500-capacity concert venue during the summer, as shown during a June 2022 Avett Brothers concert. (Courtesy venue)

Complex can run ice events and outdoor concerts

Centene Community Ice Center is among the only venues of its kind in sports and entertainment. The complex has the ability to run ice events and outdoor concerts at the same time, separated by a wall between those activities in Maryland Heights, Missouri.

The project, driven by St. Louis Blues’ need to have their own practice facility, opened in September 2019. Designed by Generator Studio, It can accommodate multiple events simultaneously There are three indoor rinks, including a 2,500-seat mini-arena, plus one outdoor rink converted in the spring to a 4,500-seat amphitheater for touring shows. General contractor is Arco Construction. 

“We’re open essentially 363 days a year, about 18 hours a day,” said Jeremy Huelsing, on-site general manager for OVG360, the ice center’s operator. “Most days, the building opens at 6 to 6:30 in the morning until midnight, depending on the day and event.”

From Nov. 1 through mid-March, the outdoor rink, equipped with a fixed grandstand, is busy with public skating, youth hockey tournaments and college hockey games. In late March, the conversion takes place for the Saint Louis Music Park by forming an amphitheater, tied to filling gaps around the grandstand and a general admission pit, depending on the event. The grandstand itself can fit 2,000-plus people, about half the total capacity, Huelsing said. The music park has a separate entrance from the ice center facilities.

The concerts typically start in June for the outdoor venue and end in mid-October. It’s covered by a crescent-shaped roof canopy, protecting 80% of the patrons. An artificial turf field is set up on a plaza behind the grandstand for food and drink. OVG360 brings in food trucks to supplement in-house concessions’ portables and beer carts.

This year marks the third outdoor concert season at the ice center. The 2022 docket saw 34 shows take place. Most events were well attended and officials continue to learn how to make things work smoothly for both sports and live music, Huelsing said.

The locker rooms for hockey events, for example, are used by concert headliners in the summer, resulting in improvements made to make those spaces more conducive for the acts. As part of the transition to artist dressing rooms, OVG360 adds carpet, paints the bathrooms, provides toiletries, adds some pipe and drape and artwork, and upgrades the overhead lighting.

Live Nation, which runs a bigger amphitheater about 1.5 miles northeast of the music park, books the smaller venue in conjunction with Huelsing, and assists with production and marketing elements with OVG360, which in turn staffs front of house, guest services and custodial duties. Saint Louis Music Park is a Ticketmaster account.

Due to the close proximity between the music park and Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre, officials do their best to stagger start times when there are concerts at both facilities, especially if the bigger venue with 20,000 capacity has a sold-out event, Huelsing said.

In those instances, OVG360 keeps the lines of communication open with ticket buyers, alerting them to plan accordingly and arrive at the music park early to avoid traffic congestion. The music park shares a 2,000-space parking lot with the Hollywood Casino & Hotel, which sits eight blocks up the street.

“It hasn’t been too much of a challenge,” Huelsing said.

The ice center complex encompasses the 314 Social Bar & Restaurant, with capacity for 50 people, flowing into a main dining hall that fits hundreds of people with long tables and big screen televisions. Patrons are encouraged to come early for dinner and drinks before the concert.

“That’s what great about this venue; we have the concert facility, but on the other side of the wall, we have ice rinks operating and the restaurant,” he said. “People can come out an hour or two before the doors open, walk around the facility and see where the Blues practice before grabbing dinner and going to the show.”