In 1976, the doors to the Aitken Centre opened with plans to become the epicenter of events in the city, which would ultimately draw more people to the city of Fredericton. 


Being the largest seated facility in Fredericton, the Aitken Centre features 17,000 sq. feet of floor space, portable staging, lighting and an in-house electronic ticketing system, as well as phone and online sales.


As time passed, the Aitken center did indeed become the hub of entertainment like architects and planners hoped, hosting cultural and educational events, even being coined as the home arena of the UNB Men’s and Women’s hockey teams, with both teams playing their home games and practices on the 200 ft by 85 ft ice surface. Seating in the area is able to accommodate 3,278 people during on-ice events and 4,258 for concerts, which leaves plenty of room for attendees to enjoy the show. 


Thus, it would make sense that the Aitken Centre has continued to be the center of all events held within the Fredericton city limits… But that is very far from the truth. 


The Aitken Centre’s history is rich with great performers and experiences : Rush in 1980, Bob Dylan in 1997, Snoop Dogg & Ice Cube in 2007, and even Tragically Hip in 2007. Oddly as of 2022, there have been just 2 concerts in the past 8 years. 


To compare, approximately one concert was scheduled to play every year from 2002 all the way to 2014. Then, as if the Aitken had been decommissioned in the blink of an eye, the ticket booth slowly stopped selling concert tickets and the music slowly faded from the walls of the Aitken. 


Well, with all this talk of events, how do you even plan one? The Bruns spoke with Director of Operations, David Sadd to help better understand that exact process. 


Sadd began his career with the YMCA in 2010, later applying for facility manager for the Curry Centre. After acquiring the role of facility manager, his list of responsibilities grew to involve The BMO Field, The Currie Center, The Aitken, the swimming pools, gyms, and even the Kinesiology building.

Sadd and many others work tirelessly towards scheduling and preparing for events, leading them to prepare the year before and execute that following year. Activities like hockey games, soccer games, volleyball, basketball, rugby, and lacrosse. 


When it comes to concerts, the third party will begin by approaching Sadd and others with some concerns and ideas related to their proposed third-party event. The Aitken team then works thoroughly to see whether the third party’s proposed time would fit within the already previously planned sporting events. 


Floor planning comes after scheduling, starting by giving event-specific estimates such as how much food would be required, how much seating, the speakers, lights, tables, chairs, pipe and drape etc.


Despite the availability of assistance in event planning, the Aitken Centre still finds itself devoid of concerts. 


“So I think initially, as you go into the event center, you take a walk around, and you can see all the concerts that we used to do in the past. Then all that went to the Harbor Station, and it was filled. I think we lost some of that,” said Sadd, explaining that the direct reasoning for the transition to the Harbor Station was confidential. 


COVID has also played a major role in the event schedule, with the facility only beginning to bounce back, recently. 


“The Last few years have put us in a place which we haven’t been before, just now the people are just starting to come back into the Arena. So COVID really has really impacted us,” Sadd said. 


Sadd explained some of the future plans which he hopes will aid in bringing some new traffic into the Arena. Beginning with a wrestling event, it will be a fun, family event at the Lord Beaverbrook gym. 


“We are getting back into doing events again, but it’s gonna take a while to get to where we want to be – I’m talking about both the Aitken and Currie Centre both, because they are our main facilities for hosting events,” he explained. “I’m quite confident that once we get rolling again we will be able to start running events. Obviously, the court sports and the ice sports teams take a lot of the time but there are windows of opportunity for us to run events again.” 


Sadd, and other members of the Kinesiology faculty and the team, have presented a plan that aims to have people gathering again, filling the seats, rumbling the floors, singing along, drinking beers, and celebrating the space. 

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