SaskTel CentreEdit profile
SaskPlace was constructed as a replacement for the Saskatoon Arena, a concrete building constructed in Saskatoon's downtown core in the 1930s, and which was in use until 1988, hosting its final hockey game only a week before SaskPlace opened. Nicknamed "The Barn", the facility had outlived its usefulness some 20 years earlier and had become infamous for leaky roofs and substandard amenities, yet Saskatonians were hesitant to lose the landmark and a number of years passed between the 1970s proposal to replace the structure and the eventual demolition of the Arena and the opening of SaskPlace.
In 1982, Bill Hunter, a local sports promoter, attempted to purchase the St. Louis Blues NHL team and bring it to Saskatoon. Part of his plan included building an 18,000-seat arena. Two locations were suggested: the site of a decommissioned power plant downtown, just west of the then-present Saskatoon Arena, and another site east of the city's airport in the North Industrial area. Despite Hunter's best efforts, the NHL rejected his offer and Hunter's plans to relocate an NHL team and build a new arena collapsed.
The site eventually chosen for SaskTel Centre was initially, and still is, unpopular with some Saskatoon residents. Situated in the remote Agri Place industrial park at the north end of the city, accessible only via highways 11 and 16 and Marquis Drive, SaskPlace was accused of being too inconvenient for seniors and people of limited transportation to access, as opposed to the original downtown arena site which was close to most bus routes. The city's original plan was to relocate Saskatoon's exhibition grounds alongside SaskPlace as well, but this proposal was defeated in a civic plebiscite following public protest over access and safety concerns. Plans to build interchanges on the two major access routes into the facility were announced soon after the arena opened, but as of 2010 construction has yet to occur. However, in the past twenty years, the city has grown to the north, so that while at the time of its construction there wasn't anything around the arena, it is now surrounded by other buildings.
In the early 2000s, Saunders Avenue, which is a street leading into the parking lot of Credit Union Centre, was renamed Bill Hunter Avenue in honour of Bill Hunter, who died in 2002. This was considered ironic by many Saskatonians, given Hunter lobbied for the facility to be built in another location. The city then transferred the 'Saunders' name to a new street in the River Landing redevelopment area—running through the former site of the Saskatoon Arena.