BROADCAST MOVES TO MONDAY NIGHT TO AVOID OSCARS
Canada’s biggest celebration of music, the Juno Awards — considered the country’s equivalent to the Grammys — will be broadcast live from Edmonton’s Rogers Place on March 13, the state-of-the-art arena that this year will see sold-out shows by Shania Twain, Bruce Springsteen, The Chicks and this year’s Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductees, Alberta’s own Nickelback.
“The building is second to none. It’s absolutely world-class, one of the nicest buildings I’ve ever been in,” said Nick DeLuco, assistant general manager, live entertainment & events for Oilers Sports & Entertainment and Rogers Place.
Rogers Place was built for about CAD$480 million (US$353 million) and a total cost of CAD$613 million ($450.7 million) including the main entry, community arena, pedway and light rail transit connection. It opened in 2016.
The last time the Junos — which moves to a different Canadian city each year — was in Edmonton (population 1.1 million) was 2004. That year it took place at Northlands Coliseum, then called Rexall Place, built in 1974. The previous home of the NHL’s Oilers is known to many as The House That Gretzky Built but, starting in 2025, the city will begin demolition.
“That building was built for hockey,” said DeLuco, who started with OEG and Rogers Place in May 2021 after four years as general manager of Moncton, New Brunswick’s Avenir Centre. “Concerts and entertainment were not really a consideration when that was originally built. The amenities this facility offers compared to that are night and day — anything from loading docks, back-of-house spaces, dressing rooms — it doesn’t even compare. We needed this facility to host events like [the Junos] and it’s done wonders for everything we’ve done on the live side.”
Since opening, Rogers Place has hosted such A-level acts as Garth Brooks (nine sold-out shows), Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars, Gaga, Coldplay, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Drake, Justin Timberlake and many others.
“A lot of people believe we’re a smaller market and we might not be able to thrive with a large number of shows, but that’s not the case,” says DeLuco. “Oil and gas are big here. People will spend money and we’ve been highly successful on shows that we bring here. It’s a great market, it really is. Edmonton loves entertainment.”
The venue’s maximum concert capacity is 18,892, with end-stage concert configuration at about 13,500 and in-the-round about 17,500. The Juno Awards will utilize the end-stage configuration, but with the production elements the total capacity will be about 12,000, DeLuco says. Eight-thousand tickets are made available to the public with the rest holds for the industry and nominees.
DeLuco is excited to have Rogers Place showcased around the world when the Juno Awards are broadcast on CBC television and streamed on its digital channels, produced by Insight Productions.
“This is a huge opportunity for the City of Edmonton, for OEG and Rogers Place to showcase everything we have,” he said. “The overarching thing for us is how excited we are to have the Canadian music industry come to Edmonton for this event to showcase the facility and show how great of a market Edmonton truly and what we can offer.”
The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, the nonprofit that administers the Junos and Canadian Music Hall of Fame, have traditionally staged the broadcast awards on a Sunday night, with the opening-night awards — a non-televised, livestreamed opening night awards at which the majority of the awards are presented — on Saturday, but this year the Sunday also turned out to be the same night at the Academy Awards.
The host city for the Junos is a big process and usually nailed down two years in advance, but competing with the awards show of all awards shows would not be a smart move for a station that relies on ratings.
“We had our dates blocked for Junos and then found out the Academy Awards shifted their show up a couple of weeks from their usual timeframe. The NHL league schedule was finalized at that point, so we had to pivot to the Monday night,” he says.
That presented a bit of a problem because the Oilers have a game the following night.
While many arenas with hockey or basketball franchises are used to switching between concerts and televised sporting events, an awards show is a different animal, DeLuca says.
“It’s a much larger event than you would normally deal with on a concert,” he said, noting that load-in begins about a week before showtime. “Typically, you have that full load-out day after because the production’s so large. We’re going to be doing a mad scramble with Insight and CARAS to get out of the building before 7 a.m. on Tuesday morning so that we can flip the building back to hockey mode for a game that night, which is not something that anyone’s ever experienced.”
With the ice rink covered for a week, crews will have to get the ice back to NHL caliber that night.
“It’s going to be all hands on deck,” he said. “Our staff’s going to be helping out; everyone’s going to be loading out and getting as much as we can out of the building.”
Rogers Place is part of the redevelopment of Edmonton’s downtown core, sitting as the focal point within ICE District, the name given to the entertainment area developed as part of Katz Group’s initial vision for the city-owned project that is intended to be a new hear of the city in downtown Edmonton.
ICE district includes Rogers Place, Ford Hall, Fan Park, Grand Villa Casino, JW Marriott Hotel, Stantec Tower, Edmonton Tower, and Connect Centre; the arena, hotel and tower are collectively the ICE Plaza. The district totals more than 50,000 square feet of space.
“We officially opened that in the fall, so that’s ready to go now,” says DeLuco. “We’ll be initiating the red carpet out to the Plaza. That’ll be a huge feature as part of the Juno’s in ICE District. The timing works out really well with the Junos coming, now that the District is mostly complete.”