Driving Arts, Culture & Business in Downtown London
Tonight is going to be fun: you and your best friends have tickets to a big event that you’ve been anticipating for months, and you know that it’s going to be a blast. This is your town and your scene, after all.
Your evening starts at a downtown pub with a round of a few local craft beers, where overnight parking is just a stone’s throw away. Afterward, you and your crew hit one of the many available dinner options. It’s busy, but fortunately you made a reservation in advance.
A few hours of banter and catching up with one another sets the stage perfectly. You each enjoy a five-star meal including steaks, tapas, and a bottle of Ontario wine. Eventually, you and your friends have to settle your tab and make tracks to get to your seats on time. And so, in anticipation of the evening’s main event, you waste no time in walking only a few blocks to Budweiser Gardens. That’s right… You’re not in Toronto. You’re in London, Ontario, taking part in the city’s quickly growing cultural and entertainment scene that brings more and more people to its hip downtown area every year.
The lights in the Gardens go down, and your evening’s entertainment is about to begin!
In the heart of the city’s downtown core, Budweiser Gardens stands alone as London Ontario’s premier large-scale entertainment venue for sports, live music, theatrical performances, and more. Originally opening its doors as the John Labatt Centre (named after the founder of Labatt Breweries), the complex was renamed in October of 2002, and is home to both the London Lightning basketball and London Knights hockey teams, offering seating for over 9,000 fans per game.
Consistent with the city’s longstanding mission to support the vibrancy, culture, and growth of its downtown neighbourhoods – while at the same time preserving as much heritage architecture as possible – the facility was originally intended to incorporate materials from the Talbot Inn, a 19th century hotel that had previously occupied the site for over 125 years.
Though the plan to preserve the original structure for the centre’s northeast facade turned out to be largely unfeasible, the end result has done well to blend in among the older, yellow Chicago-brick buildings found throughout downtown, especially given its considerable size. What bricks could be salvaged from the Talbot Inn now make up the walls of the Talbot Bar & Grille restaurant found on the Gardens’ second level.
In their quest to deliver event programming that holds something for everyone, the designers at Budweiser Gardens made accommodation and accessibility a top priority. From comfortable standard seating, to the boxes and VIP sections, to multiple accessible entrances and viewing areas, the venue is fully equipped to satisfy its diverse audience’s needs and provide an exceptional experience every time.
To help attendees plan their night out and find their way around the facility, the Budweiser Gardens website offers loads of information and interactive features, including downloadable maps that show the locations of the various amenities on each level. These include, but are not limited to, gates and box offices, escalators, elevators, washrooms, food concession stands, bars, ATMs, merchandise booths, and, of course, the restaurant. Each event is also staffed by friendly and courteous ushers, security personnel, and customer service reps who are happy to answer any questions from patrons and help them find what they’re looking for.
“I love the fact that I don’t always have to go to Toronto to see the bands I love”, insists frequent concert-goer Erik Jenner of Springbank Drive. “It’s just a short walk from where I live, which keeps things simple. I was just there for the Queens of the Stoneage show, and it was awesome. They always run things tightly on schedule, and getting to your seats is easy, so there’s no endless waiting around. What’s more is that events always seem to end right on time too, so it’s no hassle if you want to make plans with friends for later.”
The event listings and calendar on the Gardens’ site are simple to navigate, quickly and clearly showcasing what’s coming up in the Gardens’ impressive schedule. From regular sporting events to some of the biggest rock’n’roll tours in the world, picking your pleasure is the only hard part. From there, you are taken directly into the ordering process, complete with colour-coded seating charts for the different sections of the venue, and pricing for each. Any special conditions (e.g., a maximum of 8 tickets per customer) are featured in bold red text to help avoid confusion. Once your order is added to your cart, you have an opportunity to see the total cost of your order and how it breaks down before checking out. But don’t wait too long… Your booking will time out after a few minutes, so get your choice of seats while you can!
According to the Budweiser Gardens website, anyone can attend an event as a group! Group bookings are entitled to discounts on select events, preferred seating options, and additional attention from staff who will be on hand to ensure that your evening out together is a magical and memorable experience.
Group ticket sales are also made available for select shows – even before they go on sale to the general public! Budweiser Gardens will also drop the per-ticket service charge, and even provides incentives for the organizers of group bookings which may include tickets for other events, gift certificates, and merchandise (depending on the number of seats booked).
Certain shows have dinner packages available with event viewing from the Talbot Bar & Grille located within Budweiser Gardens. Select menus are listed on the website enabling patrons to customize every detail of their meal, guaranteeing that a perfect evening will be enjoyed by all.
Premium Club Memberships
Budweiser Gardens rewards regular attendees for their loyalty. With a Premium Club Membership, you can take advantage of regular season tickets to all London Knights games, the chance to reserve your seats for all the hottest events before general tickets go on sale, member parking at the Covent Garden Market across the street, invitations to all Premium Club member parties, and more.
The Premium Club is currently full according to the Budweiser Gardens website, but there is an online form that can put you on the waiting list today.
Presale & Promo Codes
The Garden’s ecommerce portal also supports promo codes that offer discounts to certain groups for specific events! Check online to see what’s currently available. Want to catch that big upcoming tour? Follow their social media channels to be the first to take advantage of great deals when these offers go live.
Planning Your Night
Budweiser Gardens instantly became one of the major cornerstones that characterizes downtown London’s newly dubbed ‘entertainment district’ due to the wealth of options that are available to the public, allowing them to customize the perfect experience with a focus on what they want to do. And options are abundant.
For the convenience of many out-of-towners that come to in to London for games, shows, and events each year, Budweiser Gardens is nestled among a number of amenities that meet their unique needs for parking, food, and accommodation. Nearly twenty separate paid parking lots surround the facility, with plenty of free street parking in nearby residential neighbourhoods.
“Honestly, I often prefer going out of town to see some of the same things that I could potentially see closer to home”, offers Toronto’s Danielle Kenedy, a live music and hockey enthusiast. “Sometimes it’s nice to not have to deal with Toronto’s congested downtown traffic or exorbitant parking fees and see a new city at the same time. It’s also great to be able to catch a touring band in a slightly smaller and less overwhelming venue that still has all the perks. I saw Green Day at the Budweiser Gardens a little while back. The sound was fantastic and there seemed to be great stage visibility from every area of the venue. I’m not that tall, so this is kind of a big deal for me.”
Roughly a dozen hotels to suit various budgets are available to event-goers in the downtown core alone. This is complemented by an ever-growing number of upscale and competitively-priced Air BNB options in both homes and condos for those who want to have a truly unique experience, and not have to worry about getting back home the same night.
Driving Business Downtown
Community feedback from nearby business owners is universally positive, given that events at Budweiser Gardens bring a great amount of overflow traffic into their places of business. There are numerous sports bars nearby where fans can grab a great meal and a drink before puck-drop, ideal to serve a large and diverse public in search of exciting evening entertainment with friends and family.
“You can’t get a seat in here on game night” says Gord Pellett, manager of The Squire Pub & Grill. Having the Gardens right here is extremely good for business.” Gord is also excited to see the area develop further with the city’s plans for Dundas Place, which are currently underway. “It’s a little painful right now with all the roadwork, but we’re very excited for the finished product. A pedestrian area like that is going to bring even more foot traffic into the downtown core, and will enable cafés and bars to set up outdoor patios and feature live music of their own. With the Gardens right at the end of the stretch, it will be the perfect scene for people to plan a fun-filled day in anticipation of seeing a spectacular event in a world-class venue at the end of it all.”
Another business owner, Jocelyn de Groot of zen’Za Pizzeria, says that having the Gardens across the street is absolutely ideal for their business. “It’s really helped us connect to countless new faces who have since become regular customers”, she explains. “It’s definitely made us feel a part of the scene down here. Not only do we feed countless attendees both before and after events, but we’re even known now to many of the performers and athletes that routinely come around. We have a wonderful open-door relationship with the management at the Gardens so we can simply call them up and ask how many tickets they’ve sold on any given night. This lets us ensure that we’ve scheduled enough staff. Many bands will arrive at the venue and will ask for a good pizza recommendation, so we’re constantly running pizzas over there. It’s been really great for us.”
Bob Usher, CEO of Covent Garden Market, is thrilled to have the Gardens as a neighbour. “When the city began reinvesting in the downtown core we were very much the flag-bearers of that initiative. Of course, we can’t do it alone. While the Market caters to all kinds of daytime interests and activities, the Gardens gives people another reason to stay downtown and spend their evening here. We’re proud to partner with Budweiser Gardens in supplying parking for their preferred members and look forward to working together in supporting downtown London.”
Though it has existed for barely more than a decade, it seems impossible to imagine London’s downtown area without the prominent presence of Budweiser Gardens. Our downtown has come a long way thanks to the value it brings to our culture and nightlife, alongside the countless unique businesses that work together to make it a fun and exciting part of town. The area continues to change and evolve, most notably with the imminent completion of Dundas Place. The end result will be a stylish community scene that supports downtown businesses, reduces congestion, and offers something to satisfy everyone, regardless of their tastes or interests.
Make a day of it! Do some shopping. Enjoy some great food. Socialize with friends and strangers alike. And reserve your seats to the next awesome event happening at Budweiser Gardens, so that you, too, can live and experience everything that the new downtown London has to offer.