Ricoh Coliseum

Site Analysis

Location: Ricoh Coliseum

Address: 100 Princes’ Boulevard

            Ricoh Coliseum is a sports and entertainment complex located at Exhibition place in Toronto. It is the home arena of the Toronto Marlies hockey team, the AHL affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs. It hosts a wide array of events from hockey games, concerts, WWE events, the Toronto international boat show, and even agricultural events such as the Royal Agricultural Fair. However with all these events taking place it is still primarily known for being the home of the Toronto Marlies. It is also known for its intimate fan experience with its seating capacity of approximately 10,000 people. With its location in downtown Toronto it allows for easy access for all commuters with the GO train and TTC both stopping there. My analysis of the site will focus on the site during a Toronto Marlies home game.

         Ricoh Coliseum was built in 1922 and originally known as The Civic Arena. It was built as a 6,200-seat coliseum stadium (Ricoh Coliseum: History). When it opened it was claimed to be the largest structure of its kind in North America. On April 4, 1922 it played host to 11, 900 boxing fans who attended the Coliseum to watch a fight between Johnny Dundee and Jimmy Goodrich (Ricoh Coliseum: History). This would set a new indoor sport attendance record until the construction of Maple Leaf Gardens in 1931 (Ricoh Coliseum: History). From 1942 to 1945 the building was used as a training base for the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War Two. During this time entertainers such as Wayne and Shuster, Bob Hope, and Spike Johns would come to the arena to entertain the troops (Ricoh Coliseum: History). After the war the arena mainly hosted equestrian events for the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, the CNE and other events, and was also used as a horse barn. From the 1960’s to the 1970’s Ricoh Coliseum played host to up and coming rock stars such as The Doors, Jimmy Hendrix, The Who, Genesis, and Vanilla Fudge (Ricoh Coliseum: History). Finally in 2003 Ricoh Coliseum underwent an elaborate renovation to become the building it is today. The renovation added more seating and updated the interior of the building in order to enhance fan experience (Ricoh Coliseum: History). Since the renovation Ricoh Coliseum has primarily been used for professional ice hockey, first with the Toronto Road Runners the former AHL affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers, then in 2005 the Toronto Maple Leafs announced that it would be moving their AHL affiliate to Toronto and renaming them the Toronto Marlies. It also continues to host a numerous amounts or prestigious events such as the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, The Toronto International Boat Show, and the Canadian National Exhibition.

Photo Courtesy of Ricoh Coliseum Website

The Early Days of Ricoh Coliseum. Photo Courtesy of Ricoh Coliseum Website.

           Ricoh Coliseum has changed throughout the years but it has always remained a public space, and it has always been a space, which was constructed to entertain people. Music has also always played a key role in experiencing this site. From bringing in musicians to entertain troops during World War Two to hosting up and coming musicians in the 60’s and 70’s. Even today music plays a large part in the events being hosted at Ricoh. Music is used all throughout a hockey games to entertain and pump up the crowd. Music is an important aspect to any sporting event. Music is used to set the atmosphere inside Ricoh Coliseum and it changes depending on the event. During a Toronto Marlies home game loud rock music is played in between play stoppages and intermission and at key points during the game. During the agricultural fair it is used as background noise to set the mood and theme for the event. Therefore a lot of country music is played in order to emphasize the western theme of the fair. Since a lot of events take place at Ricoh Coliseum music can be used as a way of disguising the events from one another because different types of music is played at different events. No matter which way you look at it Ricoh Coliseum is a space filled and influenced by music.

            The focus of my analysis is Ricoh Coliseum, but on a night when the Toronto Marlies are in town to play in front of their hometown fans. During these nights Ricoh Coliseum is different from any other professional hockey arena in Toronto because it is filled with true hockey fans. Unlike the Air Canada Centre you don’t come to watch a Toronto Marlies game if you don’t like hockey. Immediately upon entering the arena you know you’re in for an intimate hockey experience, with only ten thousand seats every seat is close to the action. Unlike most other sports arena that have a much larger seating capacity and the intimate fan experience is often lost in those arenas. With the large jumbotron in the middle of the arena and the numerous large speakers set up all along the stadium to play loud music and pump up the crowd. Ricoh Coliseum is designed to give the fan the most intimate experience. Unlike other arenas which tend to have multiple levels Ricoh has just one level, it is one large open level where fans can interact with the game through music, social media, and videos all designed to get you into the game. Ricoh uses social media to enhance the fans musical experience by asking them to use twitter to “tweet the dj” a song they would like to listen to during the game.

The Calm Before The Storm. Photo taken by Justin Ricardo

The Calm Before The Storm. Photo taken by Justin Ricardo

            While the building is designed to produce an intimate fan experience Ricoh is also a predominantly masculine space. Ricoh can be seen as a type of Yogi enclosure according to Lucci in Keightley’s article (Keightley 149). At the Ricoh large speakers surround the crowd and they sit in the enclosure that is Ricoh Coliseum while they speakers blast loud music and the lighting lights up the ice. Lucci describes this high fidelity technology as a way transforming and escaping the domestic space (149). This is exactly what happens at Ricoh when the music comes on and the opening video plays, it transforms the crowd, it tells them that it in this space it is socially acceptable to be loud, in fact they want you to get as loud as you can and support the team. This is accomplished through immersing yourself in the sounds and music of the arena. During this experience the audience members are not outside the music but rather right in the middle of it feeling every emotion that comes out of it (150). The music, which is played during the hockey game, is also predominantly masculine. The majority of the music being rock music from various male artists. This music is used to excite and enthuse the crowd during the game and get them into the game.

Getting Up Close and Personal With the Players. Photo taken by Justin Ricardo

Getting Up Close and Personal With the Players. Photo taken by Justin Ricardo

            Ricoh Coliseum provides hockey fans with a way of transforming and escaping the domestic space it also adds to the hockey subculture. Hockey subculture is filled with its unique style and lexicon. One look around Ricoh during a Marlies game and this subculture is evident with how fans interact with one another, how they dress, and even the team apparel they sell at the arena. Hockey subculture is reinforced through wearing a team jersey or team colors. A sense of community is also established. Youth brings a different degree of commitment to subculture (Hebdige 62). For many people attending the game it is important they also look the part in order to fit in with the rest of the crowd. If a subculture is really going to catch on and become popular, it must say and do the right things in the right was at the right time, it must also encapsulate a mood a mood or a moment (63). Hockey’s sensibility is embodied in tradition, passion and unity. Within the confines of Ricoh Coliseum these embodiments of this subculture is on full display during a Toronto Marlies game. People attending a game will dress and act a certain way because it is socially acceptable within the confines of Ricoh Coliseum as it relates to the subculture that it is part of. It may not be socially acceptable to yell, cheer, and listen to loud music in certain places however it is at Ricoh because it is part of the subculture it helps to establish. It is a place where all fans share a common goal and are able to express themselves through music, they way they dress and the sounds of the crowd during the game. The hockey subculture is more straightforward then other subcultures and places a higher priority on the construction and projection of a firm and coherent identity, which is shown throughout Ricoh coliseum (63). The relationship between experience, expression, and signification creates a unity, which strives towards a common goal and reflects the experience of breaks and contradictions (65).

            When interviewing Jordan, who has been a Marlies fan from the beginning and is a frequent visitor to Ricoh Coliseum throughout the season, about his experience at Ricoh he stated that “the music gets me more excited for the game, it gets me pumped, it makes the game more fun. Especially since it’s a lot more of an intimate experience, your so close to the ice.” When asked if Jordan could picture the event without music he said he could but didn’t think the game would be as entertaining or as fun. “The music is good because when there is a break in play it gives you something to have fun with and it can really pump you up especially if Toronto isn’t playing that great. It can be really helpful to get the crowd back in the game and help the team out”. One of Jordan’s favorite aspects of a Marlies game at Ricoh is the “tweet jay” feature, where the crowd can tweet your song choice with the hashtag MarliesLive and have it play during the game. He feels as if he has more of a connection with the team. “It adds to the intimate feel they try to create here at Ricoh. I haven’t seen this at any other hockey arenas I’ve been too, and I’ve been to quite a few throughout the years.”


            The music at Ricoh also creates a connection between players and fans because it is getting them both pumped before and during the game. It gets the fans up and out of their seats cheering on the team. At one of the games I went to the fans had made a failed attempt to start a crowd “wave” throughout the arena. This would not be possible nor would the excitement be there if not for the music being played throughout the game. Whenever there is a stoppage in play the music comes on and excites the crowd, from then on you can hear the chants of “Lets go Marlies” echo all throughout Ricoh. Music from artists such as The Black Keys, Mettalica, Kings of Leon, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers can all be heard throughout a Toronto Marlies home game. When I asked Caitlyn, who is a new Marlies, on why she came to the game she said “honestly the first time I came to a game I was dragged by my boyfriend. From then on I just loved the whole experience. The music, the game, the intimacy. You really can’t watch a high quality hockey game like this anywhere else”. When asked how she felt about the musical experience at Ricoh she said, “it’s like a rock concert mixed with a hockey fan. It’s almost impossible to just sit in your seat and watch the game, the music makes you want to get up and cheer the boys on!”

Lets go Marlies

            Ricoh Coliseum has a rich history involving music. Music is a source of energy inside Ricoh. During a Toronto Marlies home game it excites the building and when the music starts to play it allows for the crowd to escape the domestic space. It puts the crowd right in the middle of the game. In fact I believe it would be a completely different sports experience if music were not involved in it. Music is such a large part of the game experience at Ricoh that I feel that it would suffer greatly on all aspects. This loud music is part of the hockey subculture and according to Jordan, “rock music is a big part of hockey subculture because it reinforces the demographic of the sport”. During the game a sense of community is established, everyone has one common goal, and that is to cheer on their team. Through this passion they are all united. Ricoh provides them with a space and team to share and enforce this passion for hockey and music.

 Work Cited:

“History.” Ricoh Coliseum. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Nov. 2013.

Keightley, Keir. “‘Turn It Down!’ She Shrieked: Gender, Domestic Space, and High Fidelity, 1948–59.” Popular Music 15.02 (1996): 149-51.

Hebdige, Dick. “Signifying Practice”. Subculture: The Meaning of Style. Routledge: London, 1979.

Jordan. Personal Interview. 16 Nov. 2013.

Caitlyn. Personal Interview. 19 Nov. 2013

History. N.d. Photograph. Ricoh Coliseum Website, Toronto.