The Chilliwack Chiefs fan experience has changed significantly over the 30 years the team has been in the BCHL. The Chiefs played out of the Chilliwack Coliseum from 1990 to 2004. The original Coliseum was a very old building built in the 1950s. Its seats were wooden benches, there was no netting going around each end of the rink, and the opposite side from the benches was double boarded with glass on top. The Coliseum was one of the most intimidating arenas in the BCHL.
Before the Chiefs moved into their new home in 1990 when the franchise relocated from Richmond, BC, the Coliseum had to undergo some renovations. The renovations were to remove the roofs on the player’s benches and penalty boxes, upgrade the sound system, and install a wheelchair lift.
The seating capacity of the Coliseum was about 2,300, it was close to 2,500 with standing room. The visitor’s end of the ice was set up with the most seating right down to ice level, which made it very tough for visiting teams and goalies. The Chiefs dressing room was in the right corner of the home end with stairs leading down. The visitor’s room was attached to their bench, also accessed by stairs. At times if a player was kicked out of a game, they just jumped over the railing to get to the dressing room.
— Scott Taylor (@heyzamboniguy) January 14, 2014
The atmosphere for Chiefs games was always electric, whether a regular-season game or playoff game. It was exciting, loud, and ready to make any visiting team uncomfortable. That atmosphere is missing from the new Chilliwack Coliseum.
A different kind of atmosphere
The new Chilliwack Coliseum was built in 2004 and signed a naming agreement with Prospera Credit Union to call the building Prospera Centre. The Chiefs played two seasons in the new building before the WHL put an expansion team in Chilliwack.
Originally, the Coliseum had no seats behind the visiting team’s end and it was the Rinkside Grill that is now up above the seats that were installed in 2006. Since the new arena was built, the atmosphere of the old barn, unfortunately, didn’t come with the team. With the crowd being farther away from the ice surface, it just doesn’t have the same feel.
When the Chiefs returned with the relocation of the Quesnel Millionaires in 2011, a lot of people came back who were fans as kids during the first 20 years. The crowds are often dominated by an older population.
While walking around the concourse, the ratio of people in their 20s and 30s vs. people who are 50-plus is almost two-to-one for the elders. There are a fair amount of young fans which is always the best thing to see, especially minor hockey players. While most arenas in the BCHL allow you to bang on the glass, have lots of notice makers, chat, and cheers, the Chiefs don’t. When kids and people bang on the glass they are told to stop by either security or ushers.
If you bring a noisemaker like a drum, lots of people stare and frown at you and unless you have approval from the team, a volunteer or security tells you to stop. At the old Coliseum, it was encouraged and people would initiate the “Go Chiefs Go” chant when the mascot Chief Wannawin got it started and continue on well after he had stopped.
Cut back on the PA announcing
In my opinion, the public address announcing currently at the Chilliwack Coliseum is oversaturated. From when the scratches and lineups are announced to the three stars, at almost every stoppage in play the PA announcer is saying something about a sponsor, prize giveaway, pet of the game, and so on.
At the old Coliseum, there would be lots of stoppages with just music while the teams get ready for the faceoff and not a bunch of announcing that most people don’t listen to anyway. I think most people only care about the goals, penalties, and 50/50 draw.
The current sound system doesn’t help with all of the announcements either. The Chiefs upgraded their sound system about three years ago and it didn’t seem to make things better. The problem is the roof is metal and the floor is concrete, so the soundwaves bounce between the roof and floor with nothing to muffle the sound to make it clear for people to understand what the PA announcer is saying.
We have so many incredible memories on this ice💚 #ChilliwackTell us below what your favourite memory at the Coliseum is⬇️
I have sat in on the operations meeting before a game with the Chiefs, and everything they do is to the minute – which is good and bad. If the game carries on with no stoppages, their entire production is pushed back and ends up squished together so that on every whistle they have to do something.
It takes away from the experience of being at a hockey game because fans focus on the extra stuff instead of the game because there is so much going on.
Arena set up and maintenance
Given that the Coliseum is getting up there in age at 15 years old, the maintenance of the arena needs work. With an average of 2,000 fans a game, the arena is usually at just under half capacity and the Chiefs end of the ice is tarped off like in Penticton.
Most of the seats from when the WHL team was the tenants of the arena are still visible where it said Bruins. There are many seats that are broken from people stepping on them going up or down to their seats. The glass around the rink, especially at each end, isn’t the right height in places, which leaves a small hole between two panes of glass for the puck to squeeze through. The end netting has been in there since the building was built and hasn’t been replaced. There’s a hole they patched up with hockey tape that has moved along the netting each year they put it up.
The arena has upgraded the lights hanging over the ice, the video screen above center ice, the sound system, and lots of cosmetic stuff like adding pictures of former players, the Chilliwack Sports Hall of Fame on the concourse, the player’s cards along with the sponsor signage on the wall to the second rink, and the team store.
The seating chart at the Chilliwack Coliseum is pretty generic and cookie-cutter of other new buildings with bowl seating. With the arena never being full for a Chiefs game, other than the 2018 RBC Cup Final, they could completely redo the seating area with a smaller capacity to make it more intimate for the Chiefs and more intimidating for a visiting team.
First, they should move the seats up to board level and remove the first two rows of seats at ice level on both sides so people don’t have to look through 8 panes of glass to see the far corner on their sides. Cut the sections in half as most people sit up high to see the ice surface, which makes it hard to have a loud, intimidating crowd every home game.
The Chiefs endzone needs something more exciting than black tarps. They should redesign the tarps to have a collage of players or uniforms from the past to give it that unique look like the Vancouver Whitecaps does with having their logo on their tarps at BC Place.
The team itself does a fantastic job with marketing on social media and involvement in the community, but they need to work on the atmosphere of at the Coliseum and how they do things with their fans like in-game experiences and ticket prices.
From going to a handful of road games in the old Mainland Division, the Chiefs have one of the highest ticket prices in the BCHL, starting at $14 for an adult and increasing by a dollar for the playoff rounds.
Having that intimidating atmosphere helped the Chiefs to three BCHL championships and it’s something I think they need to get back to. There would likely be a new group of fans buying season tickets and going to games.