By Peter Saunders
Toronto’s Exhibition Place, a publicly owned mixed-use district, is home to Canada’s largest entertainment complex and plays host to a wide range of trade shows, sports, special events, conferences, conventions, consumer shows and meetings, attracting more than 5.5 million visitors per year. Navigating the 78-ha (192-acre) site can be challenging, as these disparate events are held in different facilities at various times of the year, with different parking lots allotted for arriving vehicles. Few repeat visits are ever the same.
Given the facilities’ events and functions change daily, Exhibition Place requires a wayfinding system that can dynamically manage and route its vehicular and pedestrian traffic on an as-needed basis. With this need in mind, local environmental graphic design (EGD) firm Entro recently developed a series of digital pylons to replace older static signs throughout the site.
The project began in 2014, when the management of Exhibition Place and of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE)—owner of the Toronto Football Club (FC) and Marlies, which play soccer and hockey at Exhibition Place’s Bank of Montreal (BMO) Field and Ricoh Coliseum, respectively—approached Entro to discuss the possibility of digital directional signs. As the site’s largest non-exhibition tenant, MLSE was interested not only in promoting its teams’ home games, but also in helping to prevent visitors’ frustration with finding parking spots.
“Exhibition Place has many parking spaces that sit empty for much of the year, only to fill up quickly when there’s a big game,” explains Aleks Bozovic, design director for Entro. “There are also a number of different entrances and exits, so it’s easy for people to end up driving around a lot more than they would like.”
At the time, some directional information was provided with large vinyl overlays in painted steel frames on concrete pedestals, which were movable only by forklift. Changing their temporary messages was only possible by swapping out the vinyl graphics, which took a lot of work compared to updating a digital screen. It was also unclear which sign positions were optimal for the area.
“Working with Exhibition Place staff, we undertook an extensive planning study for the site’s walking and driving paths,” says Bozovic. “The staff had first-hand knowledge of all of the ins and outs, including where traffic would cause bottlenecks and which events would bring visitors to which corners of the property.”