The Canada Life Centre, formerly known as the Bell MTS Centre and home to the Winnipeg Jets, greatly enhances the downtown culture of Winnipeg. This state-of-the-art multipurpose arena and entertainment complex is equipped to host diverse events.

Covering 425,000 square feet, the centre was built with flexibility in mind: It can hold up to 17,000 concertgoers or be “curtained down” to accommodate 2,500, thereby creating a more intimate atmosphere. The convergence of sports, entertainment, retail and restaurants means visitors can take part in additional activities both before and after a featured event. 

The centre was constructed on the original site of the Eaton’s department store, built in 1905. In keeping with its historic roots, an original display window, two memorial plaques and a large statue of Timothy Eaton were incorporated into the new structure. 

This project was completed in two phases. In phase one, the old Eaton’s building and annex were demolished, and the 147,000-square-foot Eaton’s site was cleared and prepared for new construction. Phase two consisted of the actual construction. The concrete superstructure required about 20,000 cubic yards of concrete and 616,000 square feet of formwork.

The original schedule for the construction phase was 24 months, but we reduced that to 21 months by working closely with the group of owners and undertaking initiatives such as doubling the quantity of formwork, increasing our labor force and working overtime on the concrete work. By accessing the building early, the owners could host events and earn revenue sooner than expected.

The concrete work was completed using our own labor force and our own equipment, including four freestanding tower cranes. All other construction activities were tendered to trade contractors; however, PCL still bore responsibility for all on-site supervision and the scheduling of contractors’ activities. Hence, PCL had to examine the subcontracts closely to ensure all work was accounted for, there were no gaps in scope and no overlap existed between trades. To achieve this, communication between all groups was paramount and was documented throughout the project.

The final project schedule encompassed more than 1,100 activities. The project team included PCL, nine consulting groups, 35 subtrades under contract to PCL and a very engaged ownership group. Quite the challenge considering all activities had to be done following an extremely aggressive schedule and on a constricted job site. 

The completed Canada Life Centre comprises a private suite level, food outlets, a themed restaurant and sports bar, three wide concourses, a sports retail store, ample washrooms and more. Four connections to Winnipeg’s skywalk system, along with three underground tunnels, link the centre to heated indoor parking and provide easy access to and from the facility.

This centre — the highest-profile project in the province of Manitoba at the time — was greatly anticipated, not only by more immediate stakeholders but also by the public at large. Everyone was well rewarded with a sparkling new world-class venue that adds to the vibrancy, diversity and welcoming vibe of downtown Winnipeg. 

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