SMG operates two publicly owned arenas in Canada and is currently providing pre-opening services for two others, as well as looking at other bids north of the border.
The two operating arenas are Mississauga’s Hershey Centre and Kingston’s Rogers K-Rock Centre, both in Ontario. Meanwhile, the Meridian Centre in Ontario’s St. Catharines is planning to open in fall 2014, and a still-unnamed venue will launch in 2015 in Medicine Hat, Alberta. SMG’s Savor Food and Beverage is contracted for the concessions and catering.
“SMG sees tremendous opportunities, as many secondary-market communities in Canada are considering or in the process of developing new arenas and multipurpose venues,” SMG senior VP of operations and business development Harry Cann says. “In many cases, these cities have an existing junior or minor professional hockey team playing in an older, outdated venue or they are looking to attract a team and the associated benefits. We have had great success with recent competitive bids and are currently in the process of pursuing other opportunities.”
SMG first entered the Canadian market with Hershey Centre, a 7,000-seat arena located in the western part of the Toronto metropolitan area. “We took over operations of the Hershey Centre around 1999 or 2000 via acquisition of the management company at the time,” Cann says, noting that SMG expanded its scope of services once the multiple-sport complex Hershey SportZone opened north of the main bowl in 2007.
For those first few years, Hershey Centre was SMG’s only Canadian operation, until the city of Kingston built the 6,500-capacity Rogers K-Rock Centre in 2008. SMG put in a bid and was selected by the city to provide pre-opening and management services.
“We felt there was a strong market there and the potential was great for a new venue,” Cann says. “Geographically, it fit well within our network of facilities, mostly in the Northeastern U.S. at the time, in terms of generating programming opportunities and routing of shows. K-Rock Centre has really been the model of success in terms of the right venue, solid professional management and the response of the market. We have trumpeted our success there in other competitive bids to assist us with our selections of those processes as well.”
In 2011, the St. Catharines opportunity emerged, and then the one in Medicine Hat a year later. Both are 5,000-capacity arenas. SMG’s consulting services to date include design review, program development and coordination with project managers/architects.
“Going forward, we’re either on bid teams or we’re looking at potential opportunities if the cities decide that they want to look at a third party as an operator,” Cann says.
The expansion has been a win-win for all. “We’ve seen what these new venues can provide a community and a region, not only from an economic standpoint but also to the quality of life,” Cann says. “It’s important that the new venue complements the assets that already exist and provides an anchor for further development of the destination. We feel we’re in the process of establishing a solid base of venues in Canada.”