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The Rec Room
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The Rec Room
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The Rec Room's future live events space.
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The Rec Room
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The Rec Room's David Terry and Sarah Van Lange
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The Rec Room
A mid-size concert venue will be part of a massive entertainment complex opening this summer.
Movie theatre operator Cineplex is building the Rec Room, a 40,000-square-foot entertainment space at Roundhouse Park at 255 Bremner.
Housed in a former Leon’s furniture store, the complex will be the second of its kind in Canada and part of a nation-wide chain. The first opened last September in South Edmonton, and Cineplex intends to open three more over the next two years and 10 to 15 in all.
Although Cineplex is best known for movies, the Rec Room is not a cinema. The multi-use venue will have an arcade run by the company’s family entertainment division, Player One Amusement Group, as well areas for e-sports, virtual reality and video game tournaments, and live music.
That’s good news for a city that has lost so many small and mid-sized music venues lately. However, the Rec Room will not only book music.
The live performance venue will be located at the back in a separate theatre-style room that will accommodate 300 standing or 200 seated. The company has recruited veteran punk scene promoter and former Parts & Labour booker Mark Pesci to oversee programming. Some concerts will be ticketed and others free.
“We’ll at least do [live music] on a weekly basis,” Rec Room general manager David Terry told NOW during a construction walk-through. “We would like to participate in festivals and different things, just to open ourselves up as a venue, and for acts that are up-and-comers.”
So far, the Edmonton location has booked a variety of events, including swing dancing, DJs, singer/songwriters, comedians, live-band karaoke, board game nights, trivia, improv and cover bands. Kardinall Offishall has played there, and Edmonton-based booking company JCL Productions is bringing in Jenn Grant and Martha Wainwright soon.
The performance space will also house a massive screen for movies and can partner with local festivals. Eighty smaller screens placed around the venue – including a large one behind the bar – will display sports games and live events happening within the venue.
Within the Rec Room’s clubby/industrial/sporty/midway aesthetic, each room has a theme: the Shed (a grab-and-go restaurant), the Hall (the dining area), the Yard (arcade games) and the Trophy Case (a store for gamers). There’s also a huge patio.
The cuisine is Canadian-themed casual fine dining (think wood stove pizza, fresh-baked donuts and designer lobster poutine). There will be 24 draft beer lines, 10 of them “hyper-local” craft beer, including Rec Room neighbour Steam Whistle. There will also be wine on tap.
The retro decor and theme is designed to reel in a millennial audience of 18-to-34-year-olds who are nostalgic for childhood.
“[There will be] a lot of retro, feel-good prizes like wax lips or cartoon lunch pails that relate back to your childhood and are just plain fun,” says Terry. “Drones, hover boards, candy for kids.”
In a city experiencing so many changes, it’s reassuring that Heritage Toronto protects buildings like the high-ceilinged, protractor-shaped Roundhouse, built between 1929 and 1931 for servicing trains. Roundhouse Park is also home to the Toronto Railway Museum and Steam Whistle Brewing.
The heritage designation has posed challenges during construction, but Cineplex’s design incorporates the building’s original details.
Since builders can’t penetrate the venue’s wooden beams with metal or screws, they are clamping duct work, plumbing and light fixtures that will give the space an industrial look. The interior will keep the exposed brick and wood, giving it a different feel from the metallic Rec Room in Edmonton.
They have even numbered each brick removed to create new entranceways so the building can be restored to its original condition, brick by brick, if need be.