Quebec’s Place Bell Opens
$155-million arena opens to hockey, prizefights and Megadeth
- by Tom Gresham
- Published: November 8, 2017
Quebec's new Place Bell opened Aug. 31. (Photo Credit: Sophie-Poliquin)
Place Bell, a new arena in Laval, Quebec, has already hosted an array of major events since its Aug. 31 opening, including a sellout home debut for the Laval Rocket, the American Hockey League franchise now based at the venue; concerts by famous performing artists on tour and a slew of community-based ice hockey, speed skating and figure skating competitions.
The multipurpose cultural and athletic facility, which carried an approximately $155-million construction price tag, features an amphitheater and main arena, an National Hockey League-style skating and practice rink (cap. 500 spectators) and an Olympic-style rink (cap. 2,500 spectators). The main arena seats 10,000 maximum for events such as Laval Rocket games, but it has flexible seating configurations to adapt to different crowd sizes and types. The arena is located in the city’s new downtown area with convenient access to a metro station and interior parking for 700 vehicles.
Christiane Hemond, general director for the City of Culture and Sport Laval, a nonprofit created to manage the construction of Place Bell and to operate the complex, said the Laval community has shown “big interest” in the arena since its opening. She said the venue clearly was a need in Laval, a city of more than 430,000 people located just north of Montreal.
The versatility of Place Bell allows for a wide variety of events, including professional and amateur hockey games, concerts, family entertainment, theatrical performances, and community and corporate events. The facility has the technical capacity to host complex shows and to transition between differing events.
The Laval Rocket franchise represents Place Bell’s most prominent featured performer. The franchise, which was founded in 1969, previously played in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, and was known as the St. John’s IceCaps. The team serves as a minor-league affiliate for the nearby Montreal Canadiens, one of the NHL’s original members. The Rocket christened Place Bell with a 3-0 defeat of the Belleville Senators on Oct. 6 before an announced capacity crowd of 10,000. On the following night, 5,800 fans attended a 6-2 win over the Senators.
Charles Saindon-Courtois, manager of communications and community relations for the Laval Rocket, said the team’s new home “is the best place to play hockey in the American Hockey League with state-of-the-art facilities for the players.”
“Place Bell is really the perfect home for the Laval Rocket. It has been great to the hockey club so far,” Saindon-Courtois said. “First off, it allows the Montreal Canadiens management to have a closer look at their most promising prospects and to keep an eye on their development. It is also easier — logistics-wise — to call up a player when someone is injured in Montreal. The city of Laval has passionate hockey fans. The Montreal Canadiens prospects will play and grow in a real hockey market.”
Saindon-Courtois said the arena also will provide a helpful boost for figure and speed skating and youth hockey in Laval, because the community rink and Olympic rink give Laval residents ready access to top-flight facilities. Both rinks can be reserved by local teams and other groups, and Place Bell schedules public skating times throughout the year. The arena also hosts shinny hockey, allowing community members to sign up to join pick-up style games.
In addition to the indoor facilities, Hemond noted that Place Bell features a public space linked with the street that makes it possible to host larger exterior events. A commercial area accommodates an array of shops on two floors, and Place Bell is the new home of the Laval Sports Hall of Fame, which was created in 1996 and so far has 30 inductees.
Hemond said creating a facility that involved robust offerings for community members was a critical piece of the creation of Place Bell.
“It was the priority right at the beginning since there was a lack of interior ice rinks for the Laval population,” Hemond said.
Place Bell is especially geared toward ice-based events and activities, but Eloise Boutin-Masse, marketing and PR coordinator for Place Bell, said the amphitheater has proved popular as a stage for performing artists and others. Place Bell will be the site of a headline boxing fight on Dec. 16 when Billy Joe Saunders and David Lemieux clash in a World Boxing Organization middleweight championship bout that will be broadcast on HBO. The arena’s first rock concert featured the Scorpions and Megadeth on Sept. 19. Upcoming performances include such shows as Marvel Universe Live! and an LCD Soundsystem concert.
“We already have a lot of shows booked, and we are planning on having many more various events,” Boutin-Masse said.
The City of Culture and Sport Laval owns and operates Place Bell, while Evenko, a Quebec-based independent event promoter, producer and presenter, is the arena’s manager and the driving force to securing concerts and other events at the venue. Pomerleau, a Quebec-based construction company, oversaw the construction of Place Bell, which was designed by architectural firms Lemay and CannonDesign.
- by Tom Gresham
- Published: November 8, 2017