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Why Winnipeg’s Convention Centre is a Destination of its Own

With its stunning design and massive footprint, the RBC Convention Centre represents the vibrancy of Winnipeg’s downtown. 

By Joelle Kidd
Photo courtesy RBC Convention Centre

Photo courtesy RBC Convention Centre

Even the most lively discussion seems to pause when a group of travellers reaches York Avenue. Suddenly, they are awash in colourful light from glittering bulbs suspended over their heads. Most likely, the colours were chosen by an event organizer; rainbow stripes for the city’s Pride Parade, the logo colours of a corporation hosting a conference. Streetside, it hardly matters—all eyes are gazing upward.

This display is part of what has surely become downtown’s new showpiece. It’s hard not to gush about the newly expanded RBC Convention Centre, with its colourful lights, spectacular glass facade, and airy, open spaces stretching on and on.

What can’t be seen are the years of dreaming and meticulous planning that led to this building’s creation.

Photo courtesy RBC Convention Centre

Photo courtesy RBC Convention Centre

The Vision

The Winnipeg Convention Centre (as it was then called) has been a staple of the city’s downtown since 1975. Holding the distinction of being the first purpose-built centre of its kind in Canada, the space was imagined as a revitalizing force for Winnipeg. The project had its share of detractors—after all, it involved recognizing the destination potential of a relatively small prairie city. But jump forward a few decades and demand had far outgrown the building’s limitations.

Winnipeg, steadily and surely, has been growing, and with that growth have come numerous attractions: the MTS Centre and the return of the beloved Winnipeg Jets, an award-winning airport, the state-of-the-art Journey to Churchill Exhibit at Assiniboine Park Zoo and the stunning Canadian Museum for Human Rights. The energy is infectious, and the Convention Centre found itself at the heart of it all. With everything from annual trade shows to massive conventions clamouring for the space, it was clear that it was time for an upgrade.

Plans for the expansion began in 2000, when the Convention Centre’s architectural firm, LM Architectural Group, was approached by President and CEO Klaus Lahr. As architect Terry Danelley remembers, “We made drawings, created budgets … and then we waited.” The process of approval for plans and funding led to a 16 year gestation period. Finally, ground was broken for the new addition in 2012.

More than three years and countless man-hours later, in late November of 2015, the project was nearly complete. A one-day occupancy permit was secured to celebrate the way Canadians do: by watching the Grey Cup. The Big Game was being hosted in Winnipeg. It was the perfect time to show off the new space. At the end of the glittering gala that took place in the newly completed City View Room, a shower of fireworks rained over the glass walls.

The showy display was not just a celebration of the city and the event; it was recognition of an accomplishment more than a decade in the making.

Spectacular Space

Photo courtesy RBC Convention Centre

Photo courtesy RBC Convention Centre


The most striking feature of the new Convention Centre is its glazed facade, the glass walls of the third floor exhibition space (the City View Room) flooding the building with sunlight during the day and transforming it into a glowing beacon at night. This design choice was born out of the need to create a large enough exhibition space by spanning over York Avenue, which presents an architectural challenge: to build across the street without blocking light or disrupting flow. The floor to ceiling windows of the Centre’s public spaces along York Avenue and Carlton Street keep these downtown thoroughfares pedestrian friendly, giving passersby a glimpse at the excitement inside.

Photo courtesy RBC Convention Centre

Photo courtesy RBC Convention Centre


By its very nature, a convention centre has to be able to transform into anything—which makes it difficult to build a space that captures the spirit of its city. From first designs to final result, maintaining a local connection in the building has been an important consideration. In the planning stages, Winnipeg-based companies LM Architectural Group and Number Ten Architecture partnered with a design team from LMN Architects in Seattle. To ensure the design represented Manitoba and its people, they prepared a collection of 18 images of the province, carefully selecting photos that showed off the colours and textures of Manitoba’s many environments. The open design showing the vast prairie sky, colour scheme, and use of wood all reflect these themes. Most impressive is the lighting installation criss-crossing the ceiling of the City View Room, the snaking, geometric pattern of which was inspired by a photo of cracked ice. The commitment to Manitoba’s land and people goes beyond stylistic choices, however: the building is LEED Silver Certified for sustainability, and on the walls you’ll find a donated collection of 60 pieces of Indigenous art.

Photo courtesy RBC Convention Centre

Photo courtesy RBC Convention Centre


The original building has been seamlessly integrated into the new addition with its own décor update. Along with multipurpose meeting and conference rooms, the space houses the Centre Place Café. The Centre’s stellar food service team shows off their skills to visitors at this cafeteria-style spot. Full entrées are offered daily for lunch, like fillet of salmon and carved roast beef, ringing in at a very per-diem-friendly $10-$15. In lieu of a dining room, seating is spread throughout the glass-enclosed walkway over York Avenue that separates the original building and the new addition, giving diners a birds eye view of the downtown street.

Photo courtesy RBC Convention Centre

Photo courtesy RBC Convention Centre


A far cry from the fusty images of chintz and chandeliers that may be conjured up by the word “ballroom”, the York Ballroom is an ultra-modern and tech-integrated addition with free Wi-Fi, massive projection screens, and a stylish mix of hanging pendant and round lights to match the glittering eye candy hanging over York Avenue. The ballroom, like the third floor exhibition space, is infinitely customizeable. This flexibility was proven over one weekend, when the RBC Convention Centre played host to a business forum with attendance in the thousands, a national dance competition, and the biennial convention of the Liberal Party of Canada. Since opening, the third floor exhibition space has hosted events as diverse as a massive boat show, volleyball championship, and International pow wow. Visit the RBC Convention Centre’s website for upcoming events.

City Secrets

Courtesy King + Bannatyne

Courtesy King + Bannatyne

Uncover a new side of Winnipeg at these historically significant spots that have been reborn as tourist destinations, foodie favourites, hip shopping locales, and learning centres.


Ultimate Halifax

History, entertainment, fun on the water and more—discover everything we love about Halifax

By Trevor J. Adams


Photo: NS Tourism Agency

Photo: NS Tourism Agency

At the tip of Halifax’s historic South End, Point Pleasant Park is a popular year-round destination with native Haligonians and visitors alike. The park’s coastal and woodland trails are a hit in any season, but Point Pleasant really comes to life in summer when it hosts theatre al fresco withbarrington-cemetary-web Shakespeare by the Sea throughout the summer.

History buffs will be pleased to find the Prince of Wales Tower National Historic Site in the centre of the park. Back downtown on Barrington Street, the Old Burying Ground is a secluded historic cemetery and the burial site British Major General Robert Ross, who burned Washington, D.C. in the War of 1812.

Uptown on Spring Garden Road, the Halifax Public Gardens are one of the finest Victorian gardens in North America. In the summer, its bandstand hosts Sunday afternoon concerts. Across the harbour, the Dartmouth Common features lovely flower gardens and panoramic views of the Halifax skyline.


Nautical adventures abound at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic on Lower Water Street. With lots of hands-on exhibits and a laid-back, welcoming atmosphere, it’s a great spot for kids to explore and learn about the Titanic, fearless explorers, swashbuckling pirates and the world wars. See shipbuilders at work and explore a scientific vessel moored dockside.

Just up the hill on Barrington Street, the Discovery Centre is a hands-on science centre where kids can explore trippy optical illusions, stand inside a giant bubble and even freeze a banana in liquid nitrogen.

The Museum of Natural History on Summer Street offers hours of entertainment for inquiring young minds. Explore Nova Scotia’s forest and ocean environments with interactive exhibits. Visit legendary Sable Island and experience Science on a Sphere. Live amphibians, reptiles, bees, a new Tide Tank and Gus, a 92-year-old tortoise.


The Hydrostone. Photo: Lisa Enman

The Hydrostone. Photo: Lisa Enman

This province is the birthplace of hockey and boasts a long line of sports heroes—most recently, Sidney Crosby. Learn all about them in Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame at Scotiabank Centre on Duke Street.

Looming over the downtown, the Halifax Citadel Canada’s most popular National Historic Site and home to the Army Museum. Visit at 12 pm to see historical animators fire the fort’s signature Noon Gun.

Perched on the side of Citadel Hill, you’ll spot Halifax’s iconic Old Town Clock on Sackville Street.

Shop and dine where privateers once stashed their plunder—the stone warehouses of the Historic Properties on the Halifax waterfront.

Devastated in the Halifax Explosion during the First World War, Young Street east of Robie is now a stylish neighbourhood called The Hydrostone noted for unique architecture, quaint shops and fine dining.


The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 reopens this month after extensive renovations. From 1928 to 1971, almost 1.5 million immigrants and military personnel passed through Pier 21. Today, the museum (Canada’s only national museum outside Ottawa) tells the story of Canadian immigration from first contact to present day.


With centuries of history, Halifax teems with mysteries, folklore and reputed hauntings. Explore the city’s darker side with the Halifax Ghost Walk. Meet the group at 8:30pm at the Old Town Clock on Citadel Hill (just up from Sackville Street). Narrators lead you through historic Halifax’s nooks and crannies, sharing tales of pirates, ghosts and murder most foul.


Peggy's Cove

Peggy’s Cove

Centrally located, Halifax is an ideal day-trip base. Take a 45-minute drive east, and you’ll find the Memory Lane Heritage Village, a living-history museum re-creating life in rural Nova Scotia as it was 70 years ago.

Take a 45-minute drive west, and you’ll find the historic fishing village of Peggy’s Cove. Its iconic lighthouse, perched on the rocks just above the wild Atlantic waves, is Nova Scotia’s most photographed site.



At the foot of George Street on the Halifax waterfront, NovaScotian Crystal is one of the province’s most unique tourism attractions. In the workshop, you can watch craftsmen use Old World techniques to create functional art: mouth-blown, hand-cut crystal creations.

Calgary Attractions: Discover Ralph Klein Park

The Environmental Education and Ethics Centre. Photo: Courtesy Ralph Klein Park.

Located in the city’s southeast, the Shepard Wetlands at Ralph Klein Provincial Park is the largest man-made urban wetland in the country and the cornerstone of the city’s wetland conservation efforts.

The wetland was created to control flooding and naturally purify urban runoff as it flows toward the Bow River.

Opened in 2011, the park is named for former Calgary mayor and Alberta premier Ralph Klein and is home to the Environmental Education and Ethics Centre. The interpretive learning venue houses an art studio, classrooms, meeting rooms and viewing decks. (more…)

Where in Toronto: Of Buildings and Bridezillas

U of T's ivy-covered campus is home to numerous historic buildings (photo by Alistair Edmondson)

I’m not a bridezilla. Really. I haven’t been planning my wedding since I was 12. I don’t have a dress picked out. And not everything has to be done my way. My wishes are simple: I just want a summer wedding and amazing photography.

My summer-wedding wish was granted fairly early in the planning process. So I was able to get straight to work on ensuring my fiancé and I would have top-notch photographs. For that I needed to find an amazing setting.

I wanted our photos to be backdropped by some classic, European-style architecture. Big columns, grand arches, rotundas, the works—like the Pantheon in Paris, or, even better, Rome’s Coliseum! I thought it would be poetic to pick an Italian-inspired building. My fiancé and I both have a trip to Italy on our respective bucket lists, our favourite movie is The Godfather, and our very first conversation happened to uncover a mutual love for Italian soccer. How cool would it be if our wedding pictures were shot in Italy? Of course, travelling to Rome would put us slightly over budget.

Thus, we looked to Toronto’s underrated stock of heritage buildings. Forget the high-rise towers and the edgy ROM and the artistic AGO. They’re nice and all, but they faded to the background of my thoughts as I rediscovered the city’s gorgeous Old World–influenced architecture. (more…)

Canada’s Best New Attractions for Summer 2011

Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta

For travellers planning their summer trips in Canada this year, the regional editors of Where magazine have released their top picks for summer travel. The winners of Where Canada’s Best New Attractions for Summer 2011 represent the most exciting attractions – new, significantly improved, or celebrating major milestones this year. A diverse group of attractions from coast to coast, this year’s winners offer a wide range of activities and events suitable for any family, art lover, sports fanatic, nature lover or adventurer. Together, these attractions serve as the top must-see and must-dos for anyone travelling in Canada this summer. (more…)

Hot Attractions: Explore with Doors Open Ottawa

7 Rideau Gate is just one of the sites on offer during Doors Open Ottawa.

June 4 and 5. Discover the city’s architectural treasures during Doors Open Ottawa. With more than 100 buildings on offer, you can tour some of the city’s finest landmarks, some of which are often not open to the public. See the sparkling dome of the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat, 7 Rideau Gate (the historic guesthouse for visiting heads of state), an assortment of embassies, and other gems. Whether you want the hallowed halls of churches or ultra-modern construction, this annual event takes you to the hidden side of Ottawa design.

Hot Date: Welcome In!

Peek inside Toronto's Old City Hall and many other buildings as part of Doors Open

MAY 29 & 30 Step out into the street and discover some very interesting buildings as part of Doors Open Toronto, an annual celebration of the city’s architectural excellence. This free event offers visitors access to 150 unique modern and longstanding structures—including Old City Hall, St. James Cathedral and the reopened City Hall Podium Green Roof—each with their own historical, cultural, architectural and even environmental stories. Some locations offer tours, interpretive materials and activities to augment your visitor experience. And don’t forget to bring your camera—some of these sites are not open to the public at any other time of the year. Various venues and times; call 416-338-0628 or click here for further details.

This Weekend: Stroll the City

photo by TorontoCityLife

Spring has officially sprung in Toronto (though if recent, relatively balmy weather is any indication, the season snuck in unannounced at least a week ago). In this city and any other, there are few better ways to celebrate the temperature’s rise than by getting outside for a nice long walk.

Tomorrow—Sunday, March 21—the Canadian Tour Guide Association of Toronto offers an extra reason to partake in a reinvigorating amble. From 10 a.m. until noon, the organization’s learned and friendly members will be leading free walking tours of Toronto’s downtown core. Starting from Nathan Phillips Square (100 Queen St. W.) and departing every 15 minutes, these hour-long excursions are sure to give you a new perspective on Toronto’s history, architecture and unique urban fabric.

30 Things We Love About Toronto This December

The Paper Place1 Pondering Audrea DiJulio’s multi-material sculptures at Loop Gallery.

2 Finding perfect paper for creating seasonal cards at The Paper Place.

3 The magnificent arched ceiling of the Great Library at historic Osgoode Hall.

4 Ambling through peaceful Mount Pleasant Cemetery after a snowfall.

5 Melt-in-your-mouth triple- cream brie from a local fave, the Leslieville Cheese Market (891 Queen St. E., 416-465-7143).