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Winnipeg’s Best New Attraction 2016

Anything But Conventional

With its stunning design and massive new expansion, the RBC Convention Centre represents the vibrancy of Winnipeg’s downtown. For helping to cement our city’s status as an outstanding destination, WHERE Winnipeg Magazine has named the RBC Convention Centre as Best New Attraction for 2016.

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 faÇade, 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 faÇade, 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.

Upcoming Events

See the space for yourself during these public events held within the Convention Centre:

Jul 6-10ScotDance Canada Championship Series

Jul 15-17Ai-Kon Anime Convention

Jul 31-Aug 6Folklorama Cuba pavilion

Aug 7-13Folklorama Mexico pavilion

Hot Dates: Get Jazzed

Courtesy Jazz Winnipeg

Courtesy Jazz Winnipeg

JUN 16-26

The annual TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival returns. A range of artists span genres from blues to pop, with headliners including the eclectic Tedeschi Trucks Band, pop crooner Royal Wood (pictured), and jazz legend Oliver Jones. Stop by Old Market Square for free lunchtime and evening open-air concerts featuring local bands. Various venues. Call 204‑989‑4656 or visit jazzwinnipeg.com for full schedule and tickets

Hot Dates: Take Pride

Courtesy Pride Winnipeg

Courtesy Pride Winnipeg

MAY 27-JUN 5

Strut your stuff during Pride Winnipeg, the annual LGBTTQ* inclusive celebration, festival, and parade. This year’s theme, “Be Authentic”, is a call to live out your true self every day. A week of community events leads up to the 2 day outdoor concert and festival at The Forks, featuring local artists like Iskwé and Mise en Scene, and a Pride Parade through downtown Winnipeg. Visit pridewinnipeg.com for full schedule of venues and events

Hot Dates: Sacred Celebration

Courtesy Tourism Winnipeg

Courtesy Tourism Winnipeg

MAY 18-22

Named after a sacred site in Manitoba, translated as “where the Creator sits”, annual festival Manito Ahbee brings together art and Aboriginal culture in an inspiring celebration. Five days of musical performances, workshops, and youth education culminate in an International Pow Wow. Features traditional dancing and drumming, jigging competition, art expo, and Indigenous trade show and marketplace. Most events at RBC Convention Centre, 375 York Ave, manitoahbee.com

Hot Dates: Music In Motion

Photo by Armand Thomas Photography courtesy Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra

Photo by Armand Thomas Photography courtesy Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra

MAY 13-15

Orchestral classics are paired with stunning balletic performance in a collaboration between circus group Cirque Mechanics and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. Aerialists, trapeze artists, and contortionists perform acrobatic feats staged on mechanized contraptions that contrast the human form with machine. The centerpiece, an 18-foot, pedal-powered “gantry crane”, brings the show thrillingly close. Centennial Concert Hall, 555 Main St, 204‑949‑3999, wso.ca

Hot Dates: Yuk It Up

Photo courtesy Winnipeg Comedy Festival

Photo courtesy Winnipeg Comedy Festival

APR 3-10

The annual Winnipeg Comedy Festival celebrates 15 years of hilarity with an anniversary fest packed with big names and big laughs. Headliners include Louie Anderson, Norm MacDonald, Kevin Nealon, and Canadian comic Brent Butt of Corner Gas fame. See stand up comedians perform in a variety of venues, from free shows to comedy galas, including Gastrocomique, a multi-course meal followed by an intimate comedy show, and CBC’s The Debaters. Also look out for special events like Weird Al Karaoke, or French-English improv show, Lost in Translation, Perdu en Quoi? Visit winnipegcomedyfestival.com for full schedule and tickets.

Hot Dates: Studies in Movement

Photo by Vince Pahkala

Photo by Vince Pahkala

APR 1-3

Founded by choreographer Peter Quanz, Q Dance showcases a group of talented dancers from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers. This year’s production, Untitled, invites the audience into the creative process, with works in progress shown alongside polished ballets. Performed in modern dress with minimal staging,  choreography is innovative and engrossing. Burton Cummings Theatre, 364 Smith St, rwb.org, 204‑956‑2792

Hot Dates: Tour of Treats


APR 1-30

Indulge in everyone’s favourite craving during Ciao! magazine’s month-long Chocolatefest presented by The Forks Market. This cocoa powered celebration showcases signature sweets from bakeries, cafes, and restaurants around the city, all for a set price. Decadent highlights from last year’s event include chocolate bacon pancakes, chocolate cherry perogies, and bison chili spiced with mole. Visit ciaowinnipeg.com for more information.

Hot Dates: All About Ayckbourn

23779_final_art_things-3000-4500 Photo courtesy of Manitoba Theatre Centre.

FEB 3-21, 2016

The yearly Master Playwright Festival celebrates the work of London’s West End legend Alan Ayckbourn. The festival features 12 of the writer’s fanciful farces and charming comedies, including the darkly hilarious Things We Do For Love. Following the story of a woman who begins an affair with her best friend’s fiance, the play is a cheeky blend of humour, love, and pain. Tom Hendry Warehouse Theatre, 140 Rupert Ave, 204‑942‑6537, royalmtc.ca.

Hot Dates: Fresh Sounds

SoAction2_LiveWellPhotoSo Percussion, photo courtesy Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra

JAN 23-29, 2016

The Winnipeg New Music Festival is now in its 25th year, and is celebrating with works of epic proportion. Hear big sounds, like composer Gavin Bryar’s Sinking of the Titanic, which sees the Pan Am Pool transformed into a concert hall. Headlining guests include New York’s So Percussion, and experimental icon Stephen O’Malley. Centennial Concert Hall, 555 Main St, call 204‑949‑3999 or visit wso.ca for tickets.

Hot Dates: RAW:almond

RA-EXTERIORPhoto courtesy RAW:almond.

JAN 21-FEB 15

Set directly on the ice of the Assiniboine River, pop up river restaurant RAW:almond serves diners a multi-course menu prepared by talented chefs, from Winnipeg’s finest to international stars of cuisine, like ramen master Richie Nakano. Winnipeg-based Etcetera Projects won the annual contest to design the structure, with a cinematically inspired “frame” that gives diners a glimpse into the kitchen. Tickets: $120. Visit raw-almond.com for more information.

Paint Night at Tavern 1883

Dec. 17, 2015
By Afton Aikens

I wasn’t sure what I was getting into when my friend Kaari and I signed up for the Christmas in Canmore Paint Night event at Tavern 1883. I’d heard about these fun, casual painting classes taking place at Calgary restaurants, but hadn’t seen any pop up in the Bow Valley and was eager to try it (I need the instruction!).

When I met Kaari at the Tavern, it seemed like the fun had already started. Our ticket included a free drink, but many people had already grabbed a beverage and the excited energy level was contagious. (So much so that at one point someone spilled a drink into another attendee’s paint).


The set-up was as follows. Our stations were complete with easel, canvas, paint, brushes, water and apron. The instructor Wanda Ellerbeck, a Canmore-based artist and art teacher, had a canvas displayed at the front of the room with the finished product we were to create—a raven sitting on a moonlit, snow dusted tree branch.