|Ol' Barn on Maroons Road|
|Location||1430 Maroons Road
Winnipeg, MB R3G 0L5
|Broke ground||October 19, 1954|
|Opened||October 18, 1955|
|Closed||November 7, 2004|
|Demolished||March 26, 2006|
|Owner||Winnipeg Enterprises Corp.|
|Operator||Winnipeg Enterprises Corp.|
|Construction cost||$2.5 million CAD
($21.2 million in 2013 dollars)
|Architect||Herbert Henry Gatenby Moody Moody and Moore Architects|
|Capacity||Ice hockey: 10,100 WHA
Ice hockey: 15,393 NHL
Ice hockey: 13,985 AHL
|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 was particularly known for being the home of the National Hockey League's first Winnipeg Jets franchise from 1972 to 1996. The arena also had several junior and minor league tenants throughout its existence, including the Manitoba Moose (1996–2004) and Winnipeg Warriors (1955–1961). The arena was demolished after the completion of the MTS Centre in downtown Winnipeg in November 2004. A retail and commercial complex occupies the site today.
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 (both now demolished), the new arena opened its doors for the 1955-56 hockey season and originally had a seating capacity of 9,500. During the 1950's and 1960's, it was considered to be the finest facility in the western half of North America.
The first hockey game was played on October 18, 1955, a Western Professional Hockey League match between the Winnipeg Warriors and the Calgary Stampeders. The ceremonial opening face-off was conducted by Warriors owner J. D. Perrin 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 Winnipeg Arena and Stadium from Winnipeg Enterprises Corporation. In keeping with the tenor of the times, when public ownership was thought to be advantageous, the offer was rejected. The Warriors called the arena home until 1961, when Perrin was forced to sell the club. 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.
The same year, a new era for the Winnipeg Arena dawned with the birth of the Winnipeg Jets, a new club playing in the upstart World Hockey Association. Their on-ice success brought three WHA championship banners to the rafters of the arena and quickly made the Jets the pride of the city.
The Jets were admitted into the National Hockey League after the NHL–WHA merger in 1979, which would necessitate a major expansion to the Winnipeg Arena. The seating capacity was expanded to 15,565, mostly through the construction of upper decks on the east and west sides of the building. 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. A centre-hung scoreboard, with a color matrix screen on each side, was installed in 1985; the scoreboard it replaced was relocated to the newly-completed Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario.
Junior hockey returned to the Winnipeg Arena in 1980 with another WHL expansion team, the Winnipeg Warriors. The Warriors never caught on with local hockey fans and after four seasons, the team left for Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.
During the 1980's 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 the Jets' playoff games, creating an intimidating environment for the opposing teams.
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. 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 major tenant.
The 1999 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships played at the Winnipeg Arena were a major success, with a then-record 170,000 fans taking in the games. With the support of the raucous home crowds, the host Canadian team advanced to the gold medal game, but lost to Russia in overtime.
During the 1990's, the Winnipeg Arena was frequently utilized for sports other than hockey. The Winnipeg Thunder, an independent professional basketball team, called the arena home from 1992 to 1994. On October 21, 1995, the Toronto Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies met at the arena for the inaugural Naismith Cup, won by the Raptors. When the city hosted the Pan American Games in 1999, the arena was called upon to host the 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.
The Winnipeg Arena was a film location on several occasions, used in 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. The arena was a frequent stop for professional wrestling tours, including premier events such as WWE In Your House in October 1995 and WWE SmackDown in July 2004.
The opening of a new downtown arena, the MTS Centre, in 2004 would mean the end for the Winnipeg Arena. On November 4, 2004 a sold-out crowd took in the American Hockey League match 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.
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. The new complex, known as Polo North, opened in 2013.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Winnipeg Arena|
- 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. Last modified 2011-01-25. Retrieved January 16, 2012
- "There's a new Marshalls in town". Winnipeg Free Press. March 3, 2013.
- 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.
- "Memorable Manitobans: John Draper “Jack” Perrin (1915-1992)". Manitoba Historial Society. Retrieved May 28, 2013.
- "Game 3 tie in Summit Series left Canada disappointed". NHL.com. September 6, 2009.
- "Winnipeg Hockey History". CBC.ca. May 31, 2011.
- "Queen's portrait needs home". Winnipeg Sun. June 6, 2010.
- Wiebe, Ken (July 4, 2004). "Curtain closes on Winnipeg Arena". Winnipeg Sun.
- Lawless, Gary (November 7, 2004). "Nostalgic Farewell Honoured Arena's Proud History". Winnipeg Free Press. Retrieved June 1, 2013.
- "Polo Park scores -- arena to be torn down". Winnipeg Free Press. July 10, 2004.
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