Rogers Place, new home of the Edmonton Oilers, features the largest scoreboard in the National Hockey League. Photo by Jesse Chrismer.
For the National Hockey League’s Edmonton Oilers, tonight marks the start of a new era. The five-time Stanley Cup champions will kick off its inaugural season at Rogers Place, a new 18,500-seat arena in downtown Edmonton, Canada, in a game against long-time rivals the Calgary Flames. When the Oilers, led by new captain Connor McDavid, take to the home ice, members of Thornton Tomasetti’s project team will be watching the action with both interest and a sense of satisfaction for a job well done.
Working in collaboration with the architects at HOK, Thornton Tomasetti provided structural design, advanced analysis and façade optimization analysis for the 1.4-million-square-foot glass-and-steel arena. The venue, developed through a public-private partnership between the city of Edmonton and the Katz Group, had an aggressive schedule and was constructed in just 30 months. Other members of the project team include construction manager PCL, local engineering firm Dialog and structural steel contractor Structal.
“Rogers Place sets the bar yet higher for sports venues,” Principal Chris Christoforou, engineer of record, said. “We had a top tier project team. HOK and Thornton Tomasetti have collaborated on many sports facilities in the past and our combined experience enabled us to move beyond the norm to deliver this cutting-edge arena. Icon Venue Group, an experienced and familiar owner’s representative, pushed the design team toward greater innovation while remaining on a very tight budget and schedule. Along the way we also got the opportunity to develop relationships with local firms, such as our local partner Dialog, with whom we are collaborating on other regional projects. This is a project that engaged staff from Thornton Tomasetti offices around the globe with contributions from teams in New York, Newark, Denver, Kansas City, London, Los Angeles and Mumbai. The sun never really set on the Edmonton project team.”
An 1,800-meter bridge connects Rogers Place to the ICE District, a mixed-use sports and entertainment hub that will span 4.4 million square feet on 25 acres. Photo by Jesse Chrismer.
Rogers Place features 9,300 seats in the lower bowl and 6,800 in the upper bowl as well as 80 suites and mini-suites. In addition to hockey, the arena will host concerts and other events, for which it can accommodate as many as 20,700 people. It is said to be one of the most technologically enabled hockey arena’s in North America. The venue features perhaps the largest high-definition scoreboard in the NHL at 46 feet wide, 46 feet deep and 36 feet high and weighing 90,000 pounds. It also has 1,200 TV screens, Wi-Fi access and an interactive app designed to enhance the fan experience. Rogers Place is seeking LEED Silver-certification. It will be the first NHL facility in Canada and the second in North America to achieve that rating.
The arena’s structural system consists of belled caissons, cast-in-place concrete at the event and below-grade parking levels and a steel-framed superstructure above. Among the project’s challenging structural design features are large un-braced column lengths, transfers of major column lines, large irregularly shaped slab openings and occupied floors hung from the long-span roof. Its main long-span roof consists of two primary queen post trusses with a box truss for the upper chord. These stable chord elements allowed for simplified erection of the spans. To adhere to the building’s overall geometry, the trusses could not be centered on a column bay; instead, one side bears on a stiff transfer beam to the nearby column. Certain columns, including one carrying a main roof truss, are further complicated by the need to span nearly 20 meters unbraced from the main to the upper concourse.
“Through the opportunity afforded by the design assist process, we were able to collaborate with the fabricator and erector to design a roof system that provided significant erection efficiencies and minimized tonnage, all while maintaining the signature architectural features,” Vice President Mark Upton, who served as project manager for the long-span roof, said. “This included the impressively sized scoreboard, which required an innovative roof design approach. Taking part in the collaborative process to create this one-of-a-kind building was truly gratifying.”
Because the arena’s design features a series of curvilinear glass façade elements, Thornton Tomasetti’s CORE studio team was brought in to perform computational modeling, surface rationalization and warpage analysis so that the glass apertures could be built using cold-bent, quadrangular, insulated glass. The team scripted a custom tool that uses Kangaroo – a Grasshopper plug-in developed for form-finding – to speed warpage analysis of the curved façade.
With Kangaroo, our CORE studio team was able to devise a functional panelization scheme. Green denotes panels that are within the specified maximum warpage constraint of 20 millimeters.
“The complexity of the arena’s surface geometry and its integration with the structural elements supporting it necessitated advanced computational modeling,” Principal Rob Otani said. “Nick Mundell, senior integration engineer, created a parametric BIM model that enabled the structural engineering team to simulate the structural behavior of the arena and winter garden roof for analysis, saving hundreds of hours of modeling time and coordination with the steel fabricator. Similarly, the interactive and parametric façade warpage tools created by Director of CORE studio Jonatan Schumacher and Ben Howes, director of application development enabled the architect to have full control over the degree/angle of the Winter garden glass façade tilt while constantly being informed of the level of warpage and cold bent glass allowable tolerances.”
Rogers Place is the centerpiece of a new mixed-use sports and entertainment complex billed as the largest in Canada. The $2.5-billion ICE District, to be developed over the next four years, will eventually cover 4.4 million square feet on 25 acres. A winter garden bridge structure connects the arena to the ICE District. The 25,000-square-foot atrium, known as Ford Hall, serves as a grand entrance to Rogers Place as well as a multi-use event space.
The 1,800-meter-long bridge, which features tall glass walls and ceilings that soar up to 25 meters, spans 40 meters over a busy 104th Street. To avoid unsightly exterior expansion joints, the bridge is fully integrated with the arena. Slide bearings and hidden expansion joints are located below the bridge at the far side of the roadway.
Ford Hall provides a grand entrance into Rogers Place and will serve as a multi-use event space. Photo by Jesse Chrismer.
“The iconic Ford Hall was certainly one of the greatest structural challenges in a project full of them,” Associate Jesse Chrismer, who was the project manager for the arena. “The design called for a very large space to truly welcome the city into Rogers Place, but because of its large volume, there was a concern that it would seem too massive from the street. This was countered with the use of huge glazed walls with a minimum of opaque structure. To minimize the impact of the structure behind the glazing, all the steel was hung from the long-span roof, which travelled more than 130 feet over the roadway. Hanging the wall allowed for slimmer members, not subject to compression, and avoided loading the bridge deck. The deck, in turn, was then kept very slender. The plate girders running across the roadway were limited to 6 feet deep and tapered at the ends. It was certainly a lot of challenges, but it resulted in an exceptional entry that will engage the entire city.”
With the addition of Rogers Place and the adjacent ICE District, downtown Edmonton is being transformed into an exciting, world-class destination for hockey and a whole lot more.
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