While Winnipeg has a long and solid hockey history, many still think of the old Winnipeg
Arena. The WHA, Bobby Hull and the Winnipeg Jets, the Avco Cup, the white outs, the mural
of Queen Elizabeth II hanging high from the rafters. When their team, the Winnipeg Jets, left
here in 1996 for a franchise shift to Phoenix, it left a hole in many people’s hearts and a void
in the community. But the dream never died. The community built the new MTS Centre in
downtown Winnipeg, a facility which they argued was more than ready for the NHL. An AHL
team began play in 2004-05, and the people here in Winnipeg fought to bring the NHL back
in their town. That dream was rewarded when the Atlanta Thrashers were moved here in the
fall of 2011. The Winnipeg Jets are back. It was like they were never really gone.
Getting to the venue
Portage Avenue is pretty much the main street in this city, and the MTS Centre was wedged
into a tight footprint on the site of the old Eaton’s department store. The building is built right
up to the sidewalk on three sides, offering no pubic plaza or gathering space. Public
transportation here means an elaborate network of bus lines which drop fans off right in front
of the arena as they make their way up and down Portage. Otherwise vehicle transportation
is the means of choice, and here in downtown Winnipeg parking lots and ramps are
abundant, and surprisingly cheap ($8 nearest to the venue),, given the plethora of buildings
and the density of the area.
Outside the venue
The neighborhood is a typical vibrant and energetic Canadian city – the streets are bustling,
they are clean. There are offices, condos and retail everywhere. With the harsh winters here,
most buildings are connected via an elaborate system of skybridges, and this network
seamlessly connects into the pavilion of the MTS Centre, offering fans a chance to return to
their vehicles in just about any direction and not have to brave the elements too far. There is a
large shopping mall called Portage Place about a block away, and a number of high rose
hotels are also within walking distance. There is also a minor league baseball park called
CanWest Global Park, about a half a mile east and straddling the river.
Architecture and seating bowl
The building is not dramatic or overstated, and can be easy to miss if you drive by too quickly.
The outside brick and glass façade offers a sweeping glass “wave” across the top roof line.
The main entrance is shaped a cylindrical atrium, which leads fans to the ticket offices, the
skybridge network, and into the seating bowl itself. At night they floodlight the exterior in cool
colors to give the venue a distinct look and feel.
The seating bowl is very intimate – seating just about 15,000 for hockey and two decks there
is really not a bad seat in the house. They have a 4 sided (non HD) video scoreboard and
surround ribbon boards. 50 suites ring the uppermost part of the lower seating bowl, and
one end zone is dedicated to club seating , offering its own premium lounge space for
There are three levels to this building – an upper and lower concourse, with a suite level in
between. Escalators in the main atrium take fans up and down, but remember that area is
also part of the skybridge system, so one has to rescan tickets to enter and exit at a different
level. The concourses are really tight and congest easily. Lots of murals, and the section by
section murals we liked were the overhead ones featuring memorable events held in this
building since it pend in 2004. Hockey jerseys from all the teams in the state hang high up
throughout the lower concourse, which also has a nicely appointed Manitoba Sports Hall of
Food items here run the gamut of boilerplate ballpark fare. The Voyageur Smokehouse
dishes up BBQ platters and pulled pork and brisket sandwiches, Tim Horton’s coffee stands
always raw a line, and Spuds Poutinerie offers our favorite Poutine. Down on the main
concourse is an upscale casual dining spot named Moxie’s Grill, open year round, and on
the events level is the Exchange Restaurant and Beer Market, which takes reservations in
game night. The team store is located on the northwest corner of the arena and is also
visible and accessible from outside.
What the team did was maintain their collection of “Heritage Hockey Arenas” celebrating the
venues where Winnipeg hockey was played, and added the banners of the departed AHL
Manitoba Moose, That mural of the Queen that we mention earlier is nowhere to be found.,
The premium areas are pretty modest here, all things considered. Yes, 50 suites ring the
arena, and are serviced via their own dedicated concourse. And in the north end zone in the
lower level, all seating there is designated “club seating”, cordoned off from the rest of the
bowl, and accessed via a private lounge off the main concourse.
Hat tricks, assists, penalties…
Hat trick.. to the Return of the Jets campaign and the guy who stewarded it, Darren Ford. We
promised a visit with Ford when the Sabres and Jets played their first game at the MTS
Centre, and that promise was fulfilled on this official visit.
Penalty… In this day and age, the scoreboard is barely acceptable. New technology and high
Assist...: knit hat, gloves and layered clothing, with a high of -6 and a low of -27, fahrenheit
Hat trick.. to the fans of Winnipeg, who have sold out this building and then some, despite the
demands for some eye popping ticket prices and multi year season ticket commitments.
This is the hottest ticket going in this city right about now, perhaps the hottest in the NHL.
Penalty... To our Buffalo Sabres, who stunk the place up, dropping a 4-1 decision to the
Winnipeg Jets. We'll get 'em next time!
We’ve likde Winnipeg, and have been shameless supporters of their quest to return to the
NHL. Their city is much like Buffalo – same populations, grizzled blue collar types who love
their sports teams and love their hockey. Their arena is unique in the NHL in terms of tis size
and design, where today’s venue is oversized, and replete with non sport amenities as
revenue generators. Here, things are new, shiny and gleaming, without being over the top.
Welcome back to the National Hockey League, Winnipeg Jets. Now dust off that big Queen
mural, raise it to the ceiling and make your link with your heritage truly complete
Fan Support 10
Concourses/fan comfort 3
Bonus skybridges 1, hockey jerseys in the cocnourse 1, -6 high/-27 low 1, Insane 50/50 ticket