Winnipeg Arena

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Winnipeg Arena
Ol' Barn on Maroons Road
Location 1430 Maroons Road
Winnipeg, MB R3G 0L5
Coordinates 49°53′13″N 97°11′52″W / 49.88694°N 97.19778°W / 49.88694; -97.19778Coordinates: 49°53′13″N 97°11′52″W / 49.88694°N 97.19778°W / 49.88694; -97.19778
Owner Winnipeg Enterprises Corp.
Operator Winnipeg Enterprises Corp.
Capacity Ice hockey: 10,100 WHA
Ice hockey: 15,393 NHL
Ice hockey: 13,985 AHL
Construction
Broke ground October 19, 1954
Opened October 18, 1955
Closed November 7, 2004
Demolished March 26, 2006
Construction cost $2.5 million CAD
($21.8 million in 2014 dollars[1])
Architect Herbert Henry Gatenby Moody Moody and Moore Architects
Tenants
Winnipeg Warriors (WHL) (1955-1961)
Winnipeg Jets/Clubs/Monarchs (WCHL) (1967-1977)
Winnipeg Jets (WHA / NHL) (1972-1996)
Winnipeg Warriors (WHL) (1980-1984)
Manitoba Moose (IHL / AHL) (1996-2004)
Winnipeg Thunder (WBL) (1992-1994)

The Winnipeg Arena was an indoor arena located in the Polo Park district of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The arena was the city's premier ice hockey venue from 1955 to 2004 and is best remembered as the home of the first Winnipeg Jets franchise, which played in the World Hockey Association (WHA) from 1972 to 1979 and the National Hockey League (NHL) from 1979 to 1996. It was also home to junior and minor league teams, including the Manitoba Moose (1996–2004) and Winnipeg Warriors (1955–1961). The arena closed after the completion of the MTS Centre in November 2004 and was later demolished. A retail and commercial complex occupies the site today.[2]

History[edit]

Construction on a new facility to replace Winnipeg's obsolete Shea's Amphitheatre began in October 1954. Situated between Winnipeg Stadium and the Polo Park Racetrack, the new arena opened its doors for the 1955-56 hockey season and, in its original configuration, had a seating capacity of approximately 9,500. During the 1950s and 1960s, the Winnipeg Arena was considered to be the finest facility in the western half of North America.[3][4]

The Winnipeg Arena's grand opening occurred in conjunction with the first hockey game played on October 18, 1955, a Western Professional Hockey League game between the Winnipeg Warriors and the Calgary Stampeders. The ceremonial opening face-off was conducted by Warriors Hockey Club president J. D. Perrin, Sr. before a sell-out crowd (including standing room) of 9,671, a then-record for the league. The following year, Perrin offered to purchase the arena and Winnipeg Stadium from Winnipeg Enterprises Corporation.[5] In keeping with the tenor of the times, when public ownership was thought to be advantageous, the offer was rejected.[3] The Warriors called the arena home until 1961, when the club was sold and relocated.[3] Six years later, the arena found a new tenant in the Winnipeg Jets junior hockey club when it began play in the new Western Hockey League. The club would later be renamed the Monarchs and played at the arena until 1977.

On September 6, 1972, the Winnipeg Arena found itself in the international spotlight when it hosted the third game of the infamous Summit Series between Canada and the Soviet Union. Approximately 9,800 spectators packed the arena to witness the two teams battle to a 4-4 draw.[6]

The same year, a new era for the Winnipeg Arena dawned with the birth of the Winnipeg Jets, playing in the upstart WHA. Their on-ice success during the 1970s brought three WHA championship banners to the rafters of the arena and made the Jets the pride of the city.[7]

In 1979, the Jets were one of four teams admitted into the National Hockey League after the demise of the WHA, which would necessitate a major expansion to the arena. The seating capacity was expanded to 15,565, mostly through the construction of upper decks on the east and west sides. The construction of these upper decks created an overhang above the lower deck seating areas, obstructing views according to many spectators. That same year, a painting of Queen Elizabeth II was commissioned for the arena by Francis Lawrence Jobin, the Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba. The painting measured 5 by 7 metres (one of the largest ever painted of the Queen) and hung from the arena's rafters.[8] A White Way sign centre-hung scoreboard with colour matrix animation boards replaced an American Sign and Indicator centre-hung scoreboard Circa 1987. The American Sign and Indicator scoreboard, in use since the 1980-1981 season, was moved to Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario.[citation needed]

During the 1980s and 90's, the Winnipeg Arena earned the reputation as one of the loudest arenas in North America. Jets fans initiated a tradition known as the "White Out", when fans would dress in all-white during playoff games, creating an intimidating environment for opposing teams.[7]

Financial troubles forced the Jets to leave Winnipeg in 1996. It was a big blow for the city, but the arena was not without a tenant for long, as the Manitoba Moose of the International Hockey League moved in the next season.[7] Renovations once again took place, with the addition of club seats and a new club lounge in place of the North End ice level seats. The Moose would be the arena's last tenant.

The arena found itself back in the international spotlight when it hosted the 1999 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships. The tournament was a major success, setting a new attendance record, with 170,000 fans taking in the games. With the support of the raucous home crowds reminiscent of the former Jets days, the host Canadian team advanced to the gold medal game, but lost to Russia in overtime.

Aside from hockey, the Winnipeg Arena was often used for basketball, including home games for the Winnipeg Thunder, an independent professional team in the early 1990s; the original Naismith Cup between the Toronto Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies on October 21, 1995; and 1999 Pan American Games basketball tournament. In preparation for the Games, the portrait of the Queen was removed to make room for banners. It was placed in storage and never returned to the rafters.[8]

The arena was also a frequent concert venue and a stop for professional wrestling tours such as WWE In Your House in October 1995 and WWE SmackDown in July 2004.[9] In television and film, the arena was used for the made-for-television documentary Inside the Osmonds and the ESPN film A Season on the Brink. The arena, along with its multiple hockey tenants, was a major plot point in director Guy Maddin's 2007 film My Winnipeg.

Demolition[edit]

The opening of a new downtown arena, the MTS Centre, in 2004 meant the end for the Winnipeg Arena. On November 4, 2004 a sold-out crowd took in the American Hockey League game between the Manitoba Moose and Utah Grizzlies, the last official event to be held at the 49-year old arena. Several former Jets players, including Bobby Hull and Teemu Selanne, were present for a special ceremony as the banners hanging from the rafters were lowered before the game.[10]

The City of Winnipeg took on the $1.45 million expense of demolishing the vacant arena. After the building was gutted, final demolition took place on March 26, 2006. On that morning, hundreds of hockey fans gathered to watch the building fall, while chanting, "Go Jets, Go!" However, the planned implosion failed to bring the entire structure down. Construction vehicles later pulled down the rest of the structure. The vacant site was purchased by Ontrea Inc. for $3.6 million and used as a parking lot for Canad Inns Stadium across the street until construction of new retail and office space began in 2011.[11] The new complex, known as Polo North, opened in 2013.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Canadian inflation numbers based on Statistics Canada. "Consumer Price Index, historical summary". CANSIM, table (for fee) 326-0021 and Catalogue nos. 62-001-X, 62-010-X and 62-557-X. And Consumer Price Index, by province (monthly) (Canada) Last modified 2013-12-20. Retrieved January 8, 2014
  2. ^ a b "There's a new Marshalls in town". Winnipeg Free Press. March 3, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c Mott, Morris (1994). ""You couldn’t run a game on Saturday night": The Winnipeg Warriors, Television, and the Business of Pro Hockey, 1955-1961". Manitoba History. Manitoba Historical Society. Retrieved April 21, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Memorable Manitobans: John Draper "Jack" Perrin (1915-1992)". Manitoba Historial Society. Retrieved May 28, 2013. 
  5. ^ Staff report (6 January 1956). Perrin Seeks Entire Sports Site. "Winnipeg Free Press"
  6. ^ "Game 3 tie in Summit Series left Canada disappointed". NHL.com. September 6, 2009. 
  7. ^ a b c "Winnipeg Hockey History". CBC.ca. May 31, 2011. 
  8. ^ a b "Queen's portrait needs home". Winnipeg Sun. June 6, 2010. 
  9. ^ Wiebe, Ken (July 4, 2004). "Curtain closes on Winnipeg Arena". Winnipeg Sun. 
  10. ^ Lawless, Gary (November 7, 2004). "Nostalgic Farewell Honoured Arena's Proud History". Winnipeg Free Press. Retrieved June 1, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Polo Park scores -- arena to be torn down". Winnipeg Free Press. July 10, 2004. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
First Arena
Home of the
Winnipeg Jets

1972–1996
Succeeded by
America West Arena
(as the Phoenix Coyotes)
Preceded by
Saint Paul Civic Center
Home of the
Manitoba Moose

1996–2004
Succeeded by
MTS Centre
Preceded by
Polideportivo Islas Malvinas
Mar del Plata
Pan American Games Basketball Tournament
Venue

1999
Succeeded by
Palacio de los Deportes Virgilio Travieso Soto
Santo Domingo