Nov. 1, 2021

Olympic Oval goes dark in the best possible way

New event brings hundreds of UCalgary students to the Oval for an evening of fun, fitness and a little bit of horror
A devilishly diabolical student from Crowsnest Hall joins the fun at OVAL AFTER DARK.
A devilishly diabolical student from Crowsnest Hall joins the fun at OVAL AFTER DARK. Katie Hill

The Olympic Oval is no longer just The Fastest Ice in the World — it's also The Scariest Ice in the World. The Oval is a busy building with thousands of users, as well as operating as a high-performance athlete training facility. This means there's not much time to create special events there during the ice-in season. However, after an unexpected scheduling change, an opportunity presented itself to the Oval: a late-night haunted Halloween skate called Oval After Dark.

The Oval partnered with the UCalgary Residence Student Leadership Council who helped promote the event to students and their friends. The result — an unprecedented attendance of students who have never been to, or skated at, the Oval. Oval After Dark is now the second-most successful public skating event after Family Day. Hundreds of deliciously dreadful students made their way to the ice for the late-night affair.

Hundreds of skaters at Oval After Dark event

Hundreds of skaters attended the Oval After Dark event.

The experience included a considerably darkened facility, big-screen horror movie clips on rotation on the three main jumbo video screens, Halloween music, a tunnel of terror (the haunted access tunnel beneath the ice) and a cast of Oval staff ghouls, ghosts and zombies terrorizing the skaters in good Halloween fun.

"We knew we had to approach this differently if it was going to be a success. We had to have the right buy-in from staff, the right guests, the right attitudes and just the right amount of horror to scare the skaters," says Ari Messer, guest relations representative and architect of the event's design.

How to create Halloween in such a massive facility

It is no easy task to transform 150,000 square feet — Oval staff had to be strategic and mindful of where the key "terror" points were going to be. Focusing on the lobby entrance and the underground tunnel enhanced the Halloween atmosphere for maximum effect. Staff transformed the access tunnel into a Halloween tunnel of terror, with costumed staff terrorizing the guests.

"It's very easy to scare people with simple lighting effects and atmosphere. It worked very well, and we had enormous fun scaring everyone to death," says Stephanie Griffiths, guest relations supervisor.

What's next for Halloween 2022

This event proved that people love skating and love to be scared. The Oval managed to introduce fitness and fun to hundreds of new students with a terrifying twist. As part of the Faculty of Kinesiology, the Oval's mission is dedicated to health and well-being — and with a little bloodcurdling creativity, it was accomplished. The year 2022 promises to be bigger and scarier. Additionally, the Oval is planning more exciting, themed skates, so stay tuned by following them on social media at @theOlympicOval.