OHL Arenas: Big, Small, Old, NewTeam Sports
Like in most spectator friendly sports leagues, a number of the teams in the Ontario Hockey League have moved into new, higher capacity and more spacious digs in recent years. However, there are still some old buildings around the league that have a certain amount of character that you just can’t find in the new arenas.
The seating capacity range of the OHL arenas goes from the cosiest at 3,145 to the largest at 9,862. The oldest was built way back in 1938 and the newest was build in 2008. Nine of the twenty teams are playing out of arenas that were constructed in or after 1998. Three of the arenas were built in the 1950’s.
The oldest and smallest of the OHL arenas are the same. Jack Gatecliff Arena is home to the Niagara IceDogs. Jack Gatecliff was built in 1938 and was originally dubbed the Garden City Arena. The seating for IceDogs games is just 3,145. Previous to the IceDogs, two other OHL franchises called the Garden City Arena home. The St. Catherines Tee Pees/Black Hawks were the first and are now located in Saginaw, Michigan where they are known as the Spirit. The St. Catherines Fincups played one season at the Garden City, 1976-77. The Fincups eventually became the current Erie Otters who play out of Erie, Pennsylvania.
Two new OHL arenas were built in 2008. The K-Rock Centre came first with the Kingston Frontenacs playing their first game in their new home on February 22. The K-Rock Centre can seat 5,380 for Frontenacs games and replaces the Kingston Memorial Centre that had a capacity of just 3,079 and was built in 1950.
The Windsor WFCU Centre was also built in 2008 but the Spitfires didn’t open in their new arena until December 11. The WFCU seats 6,500 and replaces the Windsor Arena which had a capacity of 4,400. The Windsor Arena was an ancient building that housed the NHL’s Detroit Cougars for the 1926-27 season. The Cougars eventually were renamed the Red Wings. While the Cougars played at the Windsor Arena it was called the Border Cities Arena and had a temporarily expanded capacity of 9,000.
There are two OHL arenas with seating capacities over 9,000. The John Labatt Centre in London was built in 2002 and seats 9,100 for Knights games. The only OHL arena that seats more is the Ottawa Civic Centre, which is now called the Rona Centre. The Rona Centre was built in 1967 and has a capacity of 9,862 for Ottawa 67's games. The Rona Centre was the temporary home of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators when they first re-entered the league in the 1990’s. The Rona Centre was also home to Ottawa’s two WHA franchises, the Nationals and Civics.