Budweiser Gardens

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Budweiser Gardens[1]
House of Green, Bud Gardens, The Bud
Budweiser Gardens - Interior 2015.JPG
Former names John Labatt Centre
Location 99 Dundas Street
London, Ontario, Canada
N6A 6K1
Coordinates 42°58′57″N 81°15′9″W / 42.98250°N 81.25250°W / 42.98250; -81.25250Coordinates: 42°58′57″N 81°15′9″W / 42.98250°N 81.25250°W / 42.98250; -81.25250
Owner London Civic Centre Corporation
Operator Global Spectrum
Capacity 9,046 - Hockey
9,000 - End stage concert
3,200 - Theatre mode (smaller concert)
2,800 - Theatre mode (with proscenium)
10,200 - Centre stage concert
Surface 200' X 85'
Broke ground March 2001
Opened October 11, 2002
Construction cost $42 million, plus $10 million for land
Architect Brisbin Brook Beynon Architects (BBB Architects)
Project manager Trinity Planning & Projects Consulting[2]
Structural engineer VanBoxmeer & Stranges[3]
Services engineer The Mitchell Partnership, Inc.[4]
General contractor EllisDon[5]
London Knights (OHL) (2002-Present)
London Lightning (NBL) (2011-present)

Budweiser Gardens is a sports-entertainment centre, in London, Ontario, Canada – the largest such centre in southwestern Ontario. Until 2012, it was known as the John Labatt Centre, usually referred to as the "JLC".

The John Labatt Centre, which opened on October 11, 2002, was named after John Labatt, founder of the Labatt brewery in London. Labatt still has a large brewery in London to the present day, although its head office was moved to Toronto in the early 1990s. The John Labatt Centre's name was changed to Budweiser Gardens in Fall 2012, as approved by London City Council on Tuesday, June 26, 2012 with a vote of 12-3.[6]

The centre was built, in part, to be the new downtown home of London's Ontario Hockey League team, the London Knights, replacing the 40-year-old London Ice House in the south end of the city, near Highway 401. Since 2011, it is home to London's National Basketball League of Canada team, the London Lightning.

Ownership and management[edit]

Budweiser Gardens is leased from the city of London by the London Civic Centre Corporation, an example of a public-private partnership. The Corporation is owned in turn by EllisDon, and Global Spectrum, the Philadelphia-based subsidiary of Comcast, the American cable company. Global Spectrum also manages the Budweiser Gardens, and operates more than 100 other arenas, stadiums and convention centres. Because of this, the Philadelphia Flyers, a corporate cousin of Global Spectrum, customarily have played a preseason game at Budweiser Gardens each year.

Seating and ticketing[edit]

Approximate capacities:

  • 9,046 - Hockey
  • 9,000 - End stage concert
  • 3,200 - Theatre mode (smaller concert)
  • 2,800 - Theatre mode (with proscenium)
  • 10,200 - Centre stage concert

In addition to the standard end stage configuration for large concerts, the arena can be set up to accommodate touring Broadway shows or smaller concerts in its theatre mode. The theatre mode features a small, intimate atmosphere and a 30-line fly grid to suspend scenery or lighting and sound.

The centre features 38 luxury suites and more than 1,000 club seats.

Budweiser Gardens complies with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act and has 55% more public washrooms than required by the law.

The arena formerly sold tickets through Ticketmaster. On August 1, 2005, the arena switched ticketing systems and now uses an in-house system, provided by New Era Tickets (itself a subsidiary of one of the arena's partners). The arena is consistently listed in industry magazines for its high ticket sales. In late 2005, Pollstar magazine, a concert industry publication, listed Budweiser Gardens as 21st on its list of top arena venues in the world, based on ticket sales for the first nine months of 2005. The three-year-old Budweiser Gardens attracted 189,026 concert-goers in the first nine months of 2005.[citation needed]

History, cost, construction and controversy[edit]


Budweiser Gardens was built at a cost of approximately $42 million by the London, Ontario-based construction company, EllisDon Corp., builders of Toronto's Rogers Centre. The City of London contributed $32-million for arena construction and $10-million to purchase the land, while the London Civic Centre Corporation added $9.5-million to the arena's construction.[7]

The construction of this sports-entertainment centre was decided upon as a part of the city government's overall effort to revitalize the city's downtown. As part of that effort, London city council committed to building the sports-entertainment centre, and agreed to fund much of the cost, which has amounted to significant debt payments causing property taxes to drasitically increase in early years of the arena. Another controversial part of the management deal is while revenue at the sports-entertainment centre has been much higher than forecast, the city's share has been minimal, with much of the balance going to the London Civic Centre Corporation, the public-private partnership that owns the arena. Though many businesses close to the centre report they have benefited as a result of the increased number of people coming downtown, the exact economic benefit - if any - is hard to quantify.

While the sports-entertainment centre has been claimed to be a success to London's economy on supporting and reinvigorating downtown London, there's little denying the financial drain on both the City of London and taxpayers with both drastic increases in property taxes and paying for the sports-entertainment centre. For example, in 2004 City of London property taxes increased 10.4% from the previous year of 3.2% due to the arena's debt payment of $4.5-million. That same year the City of London earned about $75,000 net revenue from the revenue meaning a loss of about $4.425-million was incurred.[8] Between 2001 to 2014, the City of London invested about $48,298,046-million into paying off debt and interest to the arena while receiving about $5,547,104-million in net revenue for a total loss of about $42,750,942-million for the City of London.[9] [10] In a sense, Londoners are paying for the sports-entertainment centre twice. First with property taxes being used to pay down debt and interest then a second time through ticket prices.

Year Debt Servicing Cost (Debt and Interest) Interest City Share of Net Revenue Total City Loss
2001-2010 $36,562,005 $16,555,303 $3,018,021 $33,543,984
2011 $2,823,132 $1,289,887 $513,330 $2,309,802
2012 $2,977,746 $1,109,328 $465,459 $2,512,287
2013 $3,013,258 $996,974 $577,347 $2,435,911
2014 $2,921,905 $895,235 $972,947 $1,948,958
2015 $2,830,551 $792,927 N/A N/A
2016 $2,739,198 $690,018 N/A N/A
2017 $2,647,845 $586,474 N/A N/A
2018 $2,556,492 $482,261 N/A N/A
2019 $2,465,139 $377,343 N/A N/A
2020 $2,373,786 $271,680 N/A N/A
2021 $2,282,433 $165,232 N/A N/A
2022 $923,752 $57,955 N/A N/A
2023 $336,030 $13,171 N/A N/A
Totals $67,453,272 $24,283,788 $5,547,107 $42,750,942

[11] [12]

The City of London and the City of London Arena Trust have a 50-year lease with the City as the landlord and the Trust the tenant. In turn, the London Civic Centre Corporation is in a 50-year participatory occupancy lease with the City of London Arena Trust. The London Civic Centre Corporation maintains the sports-entertainment centre and is on the hook for improvements, but they also have a facility fee on tickets to accumulate money for those improvements and they have a confidential agreement with Global Spectrum to manage the facility. While the City of London may take slight annual profits, which are dashed by the annual debt payments, those don't include further costs such as maintaining parking and Jubilee Square in front of the sports-entertainment centre. From years one to five, the city's share of net profit was 20% and increased to 45% in years six to 10 then 70% for years 11 to 50. The private aspect anticipated profit returns of about 12% with City of London staff estimating the city's return on investment would be between 1 and 2%. Though it sounds financially beneficial to the City of London longterm, especially given the increase in profits after the 11th year, events filling the sports-entertainment centre nearly every other day during the year and City of London revenue averaging about $650,000 annually between 2011 and 2014, the risk far outweighs the rewards. Though sports-entertainment centres have a serviceable life of 40 to 60 years, in recent years that has shrunk to 20 to 30 years before teams or municipalities begin demanding new arenas. However, the most risky aspect for the City of London is the possiblity of an early and zero termination fee being exercised by the London Civic Centre Corporation during the first six months of the 21st fiscal period (year). The existence of that clause and the possibility of others among several of the mostly secret agreements in accordance with the sports-entertainment centre could give the London Civic Centre Corporation leverage in a new agreement. If the London Civic Centre Corporation were to enact the early termination, the City of London would be on the full hook for financial and operational costs as well as capital repairs that will likely be needed as the sports-entertainment centre ages, largely nullifying the need of ever having a private partner.[13]

The Talbot Inn[edit]

Budweiser Gardens million-dollar facade at its northeast corner is a replica of the Talbot Inn using "retumbled" yellow brick (new yellow bricks that have been scuffed up and scarred to appear old).

The Talbot Inn is a 19th-century building that stood on the site for more than 125 years—a designated heritage property under the Ontario Heritage Act (facade only via a registered heritage easement).

Originally planning to re-use the old bricks from the Talbot Inn on the northeast facade of Budweiser Gardens, the City of London suddenly had the building demolished on the morning of Sunday, June 3, 2001—without a demolition permit or delisting the Talbot Inn's facade as a designated heritage property.

Instead, the City of London had previously obtained a "heritage alteration permit", permits which are routinely used for minor changes to heritage properties, changes that don't affect the by-law reasons for designation.

According to officials with the Ontario Heritage Foundation (now called the Ontario Heritage Trust), it is the first known time in Ontario's history and possibly Canada's, that a "heritage alteration permit" was misused to outright demolish a designated heritage property.

The rationale cited by civic officials was that the Talbot Inn bricks were not salvageable due to their moisture content after a contractor had power-washed the paint off the bricks. Some of the original bricks, however, were used for the interior walls of the restaurant on Budweiser Gardens second level and the rest were trucked to TRY Recycling in London where they were re-sold.

No charges were ever laid against the City of London under the Ontario Heritage Act for the unusual demolition and the facade of the Talbot Inn remained designated under the Ontario Heritage Act for approximately 17 months after it was demolished.

The "Talbot Tot"[edit]

Prior to the construction of Budweiser Gardens during an archaeological assessment of the property, the skeletal remains of an infant, believed to be from the 1830s or 1840s, were found in the soil at the site. The discovery caused an uproar and delayed construction for a few months and likely contributed to the sudden demolition of the Talbot Inn in 2001. The human remains were dubbed the "Talbot Tot" and subsequently were reinterred at Oakland (pioneer) Cemetery on Oxford Street West in London.

Sporting events[edit]

Within a few years of opening, the London Knights had a spectacular championship season in the 2004-05 season and the centre was well positioned to take maximum advantage of the team's popularity.

Budweiser Gardens hosted the 2005 Memorial Cup, the CHL championship series which the Knights also won after winning the OHL championship. The arena also hosted the 2014 Memorial Cup in which the Edmonton Oil Kings were champions defeating the Guelph Storm by a score of 6-3.

The University of Western Ontario Mustangs hockey team used Budweiser Gardens as their home arena from 2005 until 2007. They have since moved back to Thompson Arena.

In addition to hockey, the arena is used as home play area for the London Lightning professional basketball team.

Budweiser Gardens is host to national-level events, such as the 2005 Canadian Figure Skating Championships, the 2006 Scott Tournament of Hearts (curling), the 2007 World Synchronized Skating Championships, 2011 Tim Hortons Brier, as well as a wide variety of family entertainment such as Disney on Ice, the Harlem Globetrotters, Monster Jam and Stars on Ice. It also hosted an international jousting tournament two years in a row, and the World Figure Skating Championships in 2013. The facility,The London Knights and the City of London will also host the 2014 MasterCard Memorial Cup. The arena also hosted on September 22, 2014, a NHL preseason game between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto won 3-2 in a shootout.

Other events[edit]

The arena has also hosted many other well known artists and Broadway Shows. Budweiser Gardens was launched as a concert venue with Cher's "Living Proof: The Farewell Tour" in 2002. The tour returned for an encore performance in 2005. In 2007, Meat Loaf's "3 Bats Live" DVD from the "Seize The Night" tour was recorded here. Cirque du Soleil chose Budweiser Gardens to stage its first-ever arena show, a rebuilt production of Saltimbanco. Sting performed during his Symphonicities Tour on July 21, 2010, along with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

In 2010, Budweiser Gardens was awarded as the Canadian Venue of the Year [14] at the Canadian Music and Broadcast Industry Awards.



  1. ^ "Budweiser Gardens". Budweiser Gardens. September 27, 2012. Retrieved September 27, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Projects". Trinity Planning & Projects Consulting. Retrieved October 17, 2013. 
  3. ^ "John Labatt Centre". VanBoxmeer & Stranges. Retrieved October 17, 2013. 
  4. ^ "John Labatt Centre" (PDF). The Mitchell Partnership, Inc. Retrieved October 17, 2013. 
  5. ^ "John Labatt Centre". EllisDon. Retrieved October 17, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Move aside John Labatt". London Community News. June 27, 2012. Retrieved July 5, 2012. 
  7. ^ McLeod, Phil. "The JLC: Still profitable but not quite so much". The McLeod Report. The McLeod Report. Retrieved 28 July 2016. 
  8. ^ Belanger, Joe. "Cost of JLC to drive up city's taxes". Canoe. www.lfpress.com. Retrieved 28 July 2016. 
  9. ^ Maloney, Pat. "London's take from Budweiser Gardens nears $1M". London Free Press. www.lfpress.com. Retrieved 28 July 2016. 
  10. ^ Turner, Mike (Deputy City Treasurer) (March 30, 2011). "Expenditure and Debt Information Update on John Labatt Centre" (PDF). Finance and Administration Committee Meeting on March 30, 2011: 5. Retrieved 28 July 2016. 
  11. ^ Maloney, Pat. "London's take from Budweiser Gardens nears $1M". London Free Press. www.lfpress.com. Retrieved 28 July 2016. 
  12. ^ Turner, Mike (Deputy City Treasurer) (March 30, 2011). "Expenditure and Debt Information Update on John Labatt Centre" (PDF). Finance and Administration Committee Meeting on March 30, 2011: 5. Retrieved 28 July 2016. 
  13. ^ Turner, Mike (Deputy City Treasurer) (March 30, 2011). "Expenditure and Debt Information Update on John Labatt Centre" (PDF). Finance and Administration Committee Meeting on March 30, 2011: 5. Retrieved 28 July 2016. 
  14. ^ "JOHN LABATT CENTRE TOPS BILLBOARD MAGAZINE’S 2010 TOP VENUES". LondonTourism.ca. January 10, 2011. Retrieved July 5, 2012. 

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