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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.

Highlights of the 10th Edition of the Luminato Festival

The James Plays Trilogy (credit: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan)

JUNE 10 TO 26  For the last 10 years, the Luminato Festival has captivated audiences with a range of dance, music, theatre, literature and visual arts. In all, the event has commissioned nearly 100 new works of art, and hosted more than 3,000 performances by 11,000 artists from 40 countries, and inspired a cultural dialogue about the nature of art and how it can be shared and consumed by the masses. The milestone is a bittersweet one however: it also marks Jorn Weisbrodt’s swan song as the organization’s artistic director, a position he’s held for the last five years.

For the first time in the event’s history, it’s taking up residency at The P.L. Hearn Power Generating Station (440 Unwin Ave.) in the Port Lands, which will house a 17-day programming hub that includes a 1,200-seat theatre, a second floor art gallery, a stage for music and dancing, along with a beer garden, bars and restaurants.

Among this year’s highlights—and North American premieres—is the award–winning video installation Situation Rooms (June 10 to 19), in which the audience donning earphones and equipped with iPads—become the protagonists, seeing first hand the lives of individuals from different countries whose lives are shaped by weapons and violence, including an Israeli soldier, a Pakistani lawyer and a member of a Mexican drug cartel.

Scotland’s reign under three generations of Stewart kings during the 15th century is the inspiration for The James Plays (June 16 to 26), a trilogy of theatrical works written by Rona Munro. The only North American stop for this touring production from The National Theatre of Scotland examines the nature of Scottish culture and independence. The three works, James I—The Key Will Keep the Lock, James II—Day of the Innocents, and James III—The True Mirror, can be seen independently or in its entirety over 11 hours in a single day.

Modern dance work Monumental (credit: Yannick Grandmont)

In Monumental (June 15 and 16), a dark and somber take on modern life is presented through dance and music. Oppression, isolation and mistrust are among the themes explored by Vancouver–based company The Holy Body Tattoo, who is backed by music by Montreal’s post-rock collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

Weisbrodt’s farewell season includes a special show by his spouse, Rufus Wainwright. For the first time, Toronto audiences can see Rufus Does Judy (June 23 and 24), a homage to Judy Garland’s 1961 spectacle at Carnegie Hall. Wainwright has previously mounted the production in New York, London, Paris and Los Angeles.

For a complete schedule of Luminato programming, visit luminatofestival.com.

Where can you hear Ottawa’s JUNO Award nominees?

Ottawa’s 2016 JUNO Award nominees are as diverse as the National Capital Region, from a world-music sensation  to a classical pianist.

We shine a spotlight on our Top 3. While none of these homegrown artists reached the podium at JUNO Weekend in Calgary, they will all be reaching a stage in Ottawa, or a nearby city, this spring.

Case and point, The Souljazz Orchestra, nominated for top World Music Album, are headlining Westfest on Saturday, June 4. One of Ottawa’s major spring festivals, Westfest is free and moves to Laroche Park this year. For a preview of the band’s international rhythms:

Ottawa-born indie songwriter Kalle Matson contended for Video of the Year with his song “Avalanche.” While not scheduled to play the capital, his next nearby show will be in Kingston on May 11. Toronto cinematographer Philip Sportel helped Matson recreate 35 classic album covers for their heralded video, which lost to Adele’s “Hello,” directed by Canadian Xavier Dolan. Fall for “Avalanche” yourself:

Meanwhile, Classical Album of the Year nominee, pianist Angela Hewitt, recently played with her hometown NAC Orchestra on March 22, and will be touring North America and the world this summer. But those heading to Toronto on April 13-14 can see her perform one of two shows with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

Here Hewitt discusses her recording of Mozart with the NAC in 2003:

Stand-up city

web Bob Marleyweb JulieKimweb Dave HemstadThe Halifax Comedy Fest returns this month for its 21st year, showcasing top international comics alongside East Coast up-and-comers. From April 27 to 30, some 30 comedians will perform 14 shows at venues around the city.

Returning for his third appearance at the festival is Bob Marley. With a wry take on daily life, Marley is always a fan favourite. He hosts the All Star Show on April 28 at Casino Nova Scotia and performs at the Gala of Laughs on April 29 at the Spatz Theatre.

This year sees the return of another long-time favourite, as Rich Hall comes back to Halifax’s stages for the first time since 2007.

Rich Hall, along with his trademark sour expression and cantankerous gravelly voice, appears at the All Star Show on April 28 at Casino Nova Scotia and the Gala of Laughs Finale on April 30 at the Spatz Theatre.

Also on the calendar is two-time Canadian Comedy Award nominee Julie Kim. She’s a mainstay of the country’s stand-up circuit, appearing on national TV and radio, and plays shows from coast to coast. She performs at the Opening Gala, Laugh@Lunch, and Gala of Laughs.

Local fans are also excited to see emerging star Aisha Alfa at this year’s festival. Born in Nigeria and raised in Canada, she won Winnipeg’s Funniest Person with a Day Job, was a finalist for NBC’s Stand Up for Diversity, was one of the first Toronto Bob Curry Fellowship recipients from Second City, and was regional finalist for SiriusXM’s Canada’s Next Top Comic. Her TV appearances include The Second City Project, Superchanel’s Too Much Information, MTV’s Degrassi: The Next Generation, and the Emmy Award winning Odd Squad on PBS. She also co-hosted on Much Music’s Video on Trial.

This Hour Has 22 Minutes veterans Mark Critch and Cathy Jones—local favourites—along with Elvira Kurt, Tim Steeves, Trent McClellan, Chuck Byrn, John Sheehan, Erin Foley, Caitlin Langelier, Marito Lopez, Adrian Cronk, Chris James, John Cullen, Mayce Galoni, Graham Kay, Ivan Decker, Rob Bebenek, Jean Paul, Michelle Shaughnessy, and Nathan Macintosh.

Casino Nova Scotia on Upper Water Street hosts the Opening Gala on April 27 and All Star Show on April 28, while the Spatz Theatre at Citadel High School on Bell Road is home to the Gala of Laughs on Friday, April 29 and Gala of Laughs Finale on April 30. The Lower Deck Pub in the Historic Properties hosts a double feature of matinee shows on April 30.

The festival also includes two nightly Not Made for TV shows at Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club at the Westin Nova Scotian Hotel on Hollis Street from April 28 to 30. You can also sample the comedy with a free Laugh@Lunch show at the Halifax Central Libraryon April 29.


For tickets and schedule information, surf to halifaxcomedyfest.ca.

Mingle with Locals at the Canmore Mountain Market

On Thursday, June 11, the sun was shining during the first Canmore Mountain Market of the season. Vendors from Canmore and the surrounding area came to peddle their wares, drawing crowds of locals and tourists alike.

The Raven and The Fox provided entertainment, filling the market with singer Julie Chang’s melodious voice and acoustic guitarist Sean Isaac’s accompaniment. The duo played a few of their original songs and covered bands including Guns N’ Roses and Damien Rice.

Spring brings an abundance of new seasonal fruits and vegetables, which were out in force. Fresh and colourful produce filled every corner of the market. Favourites like crunchy sweet peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes and black kale sat beside baskets of beautiful strawberries, raspberries, cherries and grapes. Interesting additions include garlic scapes and heirloom eggplants.

Red, orange, yellow and green peppers provided a rainbow of healthy snacks. Photo by Ashley Materi

Red, orange, yellow and green peppers provided a rainbow of healthy snacks. Photo by Ashley Materi


Top 5 Bow Valley Indoor Venues

Photo: Robyn Moore

Photo: Robyn Moore

By Afton Aikens

Some of our favourite places to escape the cold:

Cascade Shops: Indulge your inner fashionista at Banff’s largest indoor shopping centre.

The Banff Centre: See top international talent at a music, dance or theatre performance.

Fairmont Banff Springs: Admire the baronial architecture at the historic hotel while shopping, dining or rejuvenating at the luxurious spa.

Lux Cinema: (shown above) Catch a flick at the Bow Valley’s independent (and only) movie theatre.

Elevation Place: Try Canmore’s impressive climbing wall, exercise room and aquatic playground.

Okay, so we couldn’t name just five…

Stoney Nakoda Resort & Casino: Try your luck at the Alberta Rockies’ only casino.

Field of Dreams

chronic creative

chronic creative

Winnipeg Blue Bomber Glenn January knows good things really do come to those who wait. While construction of the team’s new home at Investors Group Field was neither rapid nor without hiccups the boyishly handsome offensive tackle points to the final score, a win for Winnipeg. “I’m happy it was done the right way it was worth the extra time because this is a fantastic facility that is going to be absolutely at the top for years to come.”

Investors Group Field celebrated its grand opening June 27 with the kickoff to the 2013 Canadian Football League season that saw Winnipeg face the Montreal Alouettes. Situated on the University of Manitoba’s sprawling Fort Garry campus, the world-class athletic field was built to replace the inadequate and crumbling Canad Inns Stadium (1953-2012). The new, modern facility is home turf for both U of M Bisons and Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

The city’s former CFL digs were set in a concrete jungle, a far cry from the lush greenery surrounding Investors Group Field. Visible from Pembina Hwy, the structure’s fluid form and gorgeous architecture has quickly established the field as a point of civic pride. Winnipeg’s latest and greatest landmark joins the ranks of quintessential ’Peg places such as Esplanade Riel, The Leg and Manitoba Hydro Place.

While football is the building’s bread and butter, it has already hosted a multi-denominational Christian service of 14,000 worshippers and a sold-out Taylor Swift concert. Sir Paul McCartney is scheduled to rock the gridiron mid August.

Spectator comfort is much improved here, it is easy to get about the stylish structure with six elevators and spacious corridors. The sunken bowl design (the first 12 rows of seats are below street-level) creates great sightlines at every level and fans will appreciate twice as much legroom and a cup holder on each seat. Eighty per cent of the seats are sheltered from the elements by the second-largest canopies in North America. Swanky private suites offer gourmet grub, complimentary WiFi and a bird’s eye view of golden Bomber helmets shimmering on the green turf.

Plenty of accessible washrooms and a designated booze-free family zone promise to make game day a great experience for everyone. A tempting roster of concessions (twice as many as Canad Inns Stadium) offers a wealth of choice reflective of the city’s food scene ranging from fresh sushi and gelato to bison burgers and local bratwust. At Shawarma Khan you may even be served by owner and former Blue Bomber, Obby Khan.

Bomber Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer Jim Bell uses a suitably sporty analogy of adrenaline to describe the frenetic energy cloaking the facility as everyone, from Bomber Store staff to football players to construction crews, puts in finishing touches. Finally standing on glistening turf at centre field beneath epic undulated fins and NFL-sized video boards, Bell gets emotional, “It’s been a long process that included all of the planning, not just bricks and mortar. You feel six feet off the ground with goose bumps down your back.”

Bomber and Bison brass know their shiny new digs are attractive to prospective athletes and energizing to current ones. Players are excited about the state-of-the-art training facility that includes a jet propulsion hot tub, an underwater treadmill and an underwater bike, super spacious locker room and player’s lounge, 2,200 sq. ft. weight room, multiple meeting rooms and an 80-seat theatre with descending projection screens.

Signature canopies and bowl seating were designed with the team’s 13th player in mind, this city’s notoriously boisterous fans. Ripples of the roof amplify the crowd’s roar, intimidating opponents and adding to the Bombers’ home field advantage. “Winnipeg was already the hardest city to play in due to the fans and how knowledgeable they are of the game and how rambunctious they get so this is just going to add to that,” January says. “Hopefully it makes Winnipeg a city that nobody wants to come and play in.”

A formidable, unnerving environment to visiting teams is an exciting, energetic environment for fans. Investors Group Field is a winning spectator experience. Now all we need to do is sit back, enjoy a cold one with a hot dog and watch as the Bombers bring home the Grey Cup. Go Blue!

Your Guide to the Calgary Underground Film Festival

Two aliens form a band in Brooklyn in The History of Future Folk. Photo courtesy CUFF.

Two aliens form a band in Brooklyn in The History of Future Folk. Photo courtesy CUFF.

The Calgary Underground Film Festival runs April 15 to 21 at the Globe Cinema. Film genres include documentary, animation to horror. Festival producer Brenda Lieberman shares her top five festival selections, which she describes as “shocking, funny and all definitely worth seeing.”


Hot Dates

 Leonard Cohen is on the Avenue

Oak Bay’s Avenue Gallery celebrates spring with its second exclusive showing of artwork by legendary Canadian singer, writer and artist Leonard Cohen. The exhibition and sale will feature a select grouping of the many pieces that make up Leonard Cohen: Art Work collection.

This visual record of 40 years is an exhibit of works from Cohen’s archive of drawings and journals. The artist has maintained a visual art practice since his early days in Montreal and Hydra. Until now, his drawings have been private visual records of things, places and people captured in his sure and modest hand. Later, these drawings found their way onto CD covers and most recently into the pages of Book of Longing.

The exhibit runs from March 1 to 9, with an opening reception planned for March 1 from 5 to 7pm.

Fans also have the chance to see Cohen live this spring when he brings his Old Ideas World Tour to the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre March 6.  For details, visit www.saveonfoodsmemorialcentre.com


 Stage Struck

Langham Court Theatre brings two popular productions to its storied stage this spring, beginning with the classic 39 Steps, March 7 to 23. Walking in the footsteps of author John Buchan and filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock, this is sure to be an audience favourite.

The playhouse continues in the vein of dark comedies in April with its production of George F. Walker’s Better Living, April 25 to May 11. Joining Nora as she jackhammers her way to a safe haven in the basement of her eccentric Toronto home, theatre-goers will wonder “what next?” at every plot turn of this action-packed farce.

Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre adds a little star power to Victoria’s spring theatre scene, welcoming Canadian stars Bruce Greenwood and Janet Wright to star in A.R. Gurney’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated drama Love Letters.

Greenwood is known for his appearances in Star Trek, Double Jeopardy, The Core, Thirteen Days (in which he played president John F. Kennedy), Capote, and, most recently, alongside Denzel Washington in Flight. He will be joined by Wright, a stage, TV and film star whose resume includes Ontario’s Stratford Festival, her successful wonderful portrayal of Emma Leroy on CTV’s Corner Gas, Robert Altman’s film McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Bordertown Cafe, and A Perfect Storm, starring George Clooney.

Love Letters runs for seven performances only at the McPherson Playhouse from March 26 to 30.


Great Big Sea makes a great big sound

East Coast folk-pop favourite Great Big Sea returns to Victoria for a March 9 concert at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.

This East Coast powerhouse rocked the arena last time they played the Capital Region and as they return in support of their recent “best of” album, XX, long-time fans and new converts alike are sure to find this musical kitchen party is the place to be.


 Making music – Francophone style

From Quebec to BC comes Le Vent du Nord, bringing traditional Francophone folk music mixed with swing, Cajun, Celtic, Irish and jazz to Hermann’s Jazz Club April 6 and 7.

The Juno Award-winning band has become one of the most-loved Quebec folk outfits in the world, with songs ranging from traditional folk to original compositions. These four friends light up the stage, sharing their energy and enthusiasm with audiences. Le Vend du Nord know how to deliver music that will move any crowd – to their feet and in their hearts!


 Funny  Stuff

Canadian-born Jeremy Hotz, a veteran of Montreal’s Just For Laughs Festival who sold out across Canada in 2009 and 2010, returns to Victoria this spring with his all-new Magical Misery Tour.

The critically acclaimed, multi-award-winning  comic performs at the McPherson Playhouse  March 20.


Dance, Victoria!

Dance Victoria welcomes New Zealand’s leading contemporary dance company, Black Grace, to the Royal Theatre March 15 and 16. Fusing Samoan ritual dances with modern dance to create an extraordinarily dynamic form, Black Grace occupies a unique position on the world stage, celebrated for its artistry, creative excellence and innovation. Percussive, masculine, powerful…like thunder rolling across the sky.

Hot Dining: Made with Love

At De Luca’s Cooking School, Chef Anna Paganelli delights diners and cooks alike with her delicious dishes and pearls of culinary wisdom. During her classes, guests watch, learn and taste as passionate Paganelli prepares and serves four Italian courses, from eggplant caprese salad to strawberry Mascarpone cake. Paganelli sums up her culinary career, including 26 years of teaching at De Luca’s, with this recipe for success: “Cook it with love. That’s my most important thing that you can do with your food.” Winter cooking classes run Jan 10, 15, 24 & 29; Feb 5, 19 & 26. 950 Portage Ave, 204-774-7617.

5 Beatles’ Tribute Shows

Not able to get tickets to the sold-out Paul McCartney shows? Never fear! Experience the music and iconic story of The Beatles at one of these exciting tribute performances:

See RAIN: The Beatles’ Experience this weekend in Edmonton
Photo by Joan Marcus

1. Four Lads Who Shook the World: The Beatles Story Part 2
Where: The Mayfield Dinner Theatre (16615-109 Ave.)
When: Tue – Sun, now through November 4; performance times vary
Admission: $70 – $105; purchase in advance by calling 780-483-4051 or online.
What: Enjoy a spectacular buffet followed by an entertaining and moving performance that chronicles the tale of The Beatles’ success and turmoil during their 1967 – 1970 era.


Long Weekend Roundup October 5 to October 8

Patricia Piccinini. Still Life with Stem Cells, 2002. Courtesy of the Artist.

Friday, October 5  If you’re looking for activities the whole family can enjoy this weekend, check out Fairytales, Monsters and the Genetic Imagination at the Glenbow Museum. The exhibition is comprised of works by contemporary artists who are inspired by the fantastic stories and characters of myths, fairytales and science fiction in which the boundaries between human and animal are blurred. The exhibition includes approximately 60 paintings, photographs, sculptures and video works by contemporary artists from Canada and around the world. The exhibition will run until January 2nd. Tickets are $14 adults, $10 senior, $9 student and youth $9. 

Scared yet? Screamfest 2012 starts this weekend. Photo: Courtesy Screamfest.

Friday, October 5 and Saturday, October 6 This Friday and Saturday, check out the first weekend of Screamfest. During the month of October, Stampede Park transforms into a carnival of carnage. This Halloween festival includes six terrifying haunted houses, a renovated Bates Motel, indoor maze, rides, musical entertainment, food vendors and contortionists. Tickets are available at Ticketbud and range from $20 to $40. The event runs from 7 pm to midnight.

On Friday and Saturday, check out Soulocentric Festival 2012 at Vertigo Theatre. The festival showcases independent performing artists that are creating new and original solo works in dance, theatre, music and multi-media. Start times vary. To purchase tickets, call 403-221-3708 or visit the festival’s website. (more…)