TRUE North Sports & Entertainment has taken a sledgehammer to some of the luxury suites at the MTS Centre.
There's no buyer's remorse among the executive team that finalized the purchase of the Atlanta Thrashers last week, but some changes need to be completed for the building to house NHL hockey this fall.
Scott Brown, director of corporate communications for the still-unnamed team, said the best suite in the house, which belonged to MTS, True North's biggest sponsor, had to be converted into a broadcast suite to house centre-ice cameras.
"We had to move the walls on some of the other suites. Some of them became a little smaller," he said.
However, in all the renovations, True North was able to boost the overall number of suites to 55 from 48. If you include two party suites, which may be sold to companies on the luxury-box waiting list, the suite count is now 57.
Brown said the construction is taking place at the north end of the rink. He said the John Labatt Lounge will remain as it is and will not be converted into additional suites.
Brown said the overall seat count in the luxury boxes has also increased to slightly more than 1,000. He said all of the arena's suites have already sold out and there's a "significant" waiting list.
One suite owner said he had no problem with the reconfiguration, even though he's now in a box with 12 seats, down from 16 last season.
"They're making (the building) fit to NHL requirements. There's nothing wrong with that at all. True North has been really good about communicating with the suite-holders and keeping us up to date," said Wade Miller, CEO of Pinnacle, a Winnipeg-based recruiting and human resources firm. "We're happy to have the NHL back and can't wait for the first game."
In other renovation news, True North is also planning to nearly double the number of camera positions that it had for Manitoba Moose games to 37. In the process, an unspecified number of seats will be eliminated.
Brown said the press-box upgrade, which started earlier this year, is on schedule to be completed this summer, too.
The bottom line is the building's capacity isn't going to change appreciably from 15,000. Brown said people who have speculated True North could raise the roof of the MTS Centre to add additional seats aren't wrong, but such a move is not currently in the plans.
"Nothing is physically impossible, but raising the roof is next to impossible. Given the tremendous amount of work that would have to go into it and the issues that it would create for the downtown around (the MTS Centre), it's not something we have looked into very seriously," he said.
Brown said True North's extensive research previous to the MTS Centre opening in 2004 revealed the ideal size for the building in this market is 15,000. Despite last week's euphoria over season tickets, True North is taking the long-term view to ensure demand is high not just for this year, but for decades into the future, he said.
Extra luxury boxes
THERE are going to be a few more big spenders in luxury boxes at the MTS Centre when the NHL returns to Winnipeg this fall.
Here's a list of some of the changes to the building:
The number of boxes has increased by seven to 55 (57 if you include the two party suites).
The number of seats in the suites has also increased slightly to more than 1,000.
Each box sold for between $104,000 and $197,000 per season.