GFL Memorial Gardens

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GFL Memorial Gardens
The Hound Pound
Essar Centre - Interior.JPG
Former namesSteelback Centre (2006–2008)
Essar Centre (2008–2018)
Location269 Queen Street East
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
P6A 1Y9
OwnerCity of Sault Ste. Marie
OperatorCity of Sault Ste. Marie
Capacity4,928 - Hockey
6,497 - Center-Stage Concert
5,524 - Side-Stage Concert
4,923 - End-Stage Concert
3,143 - Middle-Stage Concert (Theater Set-Up)
Surface200' X 85'
Broke groundJune 6, 2005
OpenedSeptember 29, 2006
Construction cost$25 million
($30.6 million in 2018 dollars[1])
ArchitectEPOH Inc.
PBK Architects
Structural engineerM. R. Wright & Associates Co. Ltd.[2]
General contractorBondfield Construction Ltd. Co
Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
Sault Major Hockey Association (2006–present)
Soo Thunderbirds (NOJHL) (2012–present)

The GFL Memorial Gardens is a 4,928 seat sports and entertainment centre in downtown Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada. It opened on September 29, 2006, replacing the now demolished Sault Memorial Gardens. The new building was constructed directly next door to the former Memorial Gardens and incorporated its most distinctive feature, the Memorial Tower, into its plans. The block surrounding the arena is called "Memorial Square."

The Garden's primary tenant is the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League.[3]


The main entrance to the facility is located in the north west corner of the building, adjacent to the Memorial Tower, in the corner where the box office is located.

Concourse level[edit]

There are major entrances to the concourse level from each of the four corners of the GFL Memorial Gardens. Located on the concourse level are four main concessions, as well as the Molson Canadian Hockey House restaurant, multiple beer stands, and a coffee vendor. On the west side of the concourse level is the Greyhound merchandise store.

Event level[edit]

The event level of the Gardens houses all dressing rooms for players and officials, kitchen facilities, multi-purpose and break-out rooms, as well as technical, storage, and shipping and receiving functions. Also included on the event level is the Greyhounds' dressing room complex which is equipped with coaching and training rooms, weight rooms, showers, and physiotherapy areas.

Suite level[edit]

The suite level of the Gardens houses 13 private suites, a VIP room located on the north end, media and broadcasting rooms, and administration offices for both the Greyhounds Hockey Club and City of Sault Ste. Marie staff. Private suites ranging in seating size from six to ten persons. The VIP Room seats 100 people..


The Gardens includes a $500,000 scoreboard with an installed video component with live broadcast (up to five cameras), replay and T.V. capability. Wireless internet access is available throughout the facility. The facility also includes a state-of-the-art $250,000 sound system.

External features[edit]

The block on which the Gardens is located is named "Memorial Square," as it is located on the grounds of the former Sault Memorial Gardens, the Greyhounds' former home. Memorial Square features the Memorial Tower, the last standing remnant of the former Gardens; the tower was preserved and refurbished after the previous Gardens was demolished in the summer of 2006.

The sidewalk in front of the GFL Memorial Garden's north end (facing Queen Street) features the Sault Ste Marie Walk of Fame, a series of markers honouring those from the Sault Ste Marie area who have made significant contributions to the community or their chosen field of work. The Walk of Fame was formally unveiled on September 30, 2006, during the grand opening weekend.

Naming rights[edit]

Steelback Brewery[edit]

Naming rights to the new building were purchased by Steelback Brewery of Tiverton for $1.35 million over ten years. The proposal was approved by Sault Ste. Marie's city council on May 29, 2006, in a 9–1 vote.

The City of Sault Ste. Marie, in conjunction with Steelback, held an official logo unveiling for the Steelback Centre on Saturday August 26, 2006, at the Roberta Bondar Pavilion in Sault Ste. Marie.[4] There the new logo was officially unveiled, along with a list of upcoming shows.

In November 2007, Steelback Brewery filed for bankruptcy protection and defaulted on its second payment of $135,000 to the city. Ward 1 Councillor James Caicco was quoted in the January 17, 2008, Sault Star as saying, "nothing can be done until the court creditors protection process with Steelback Brewery is completed. If Steelback comes out of court protection as a restructured company, then we still have a contract with them. If it declares bankruptcy, options will be presented to city council that include searching for a new naming rights sponsor." Steelback later terminated its deal with the city and the search for a new sponsor commenced.

Essar Steel Algoma Inc.[edit]

On July 23, 2008, the City of Sault Ste. Marie, along with Essar Steel Algoma executives held a press conference to announce that Essar Steel Algoma Inc. had purchased the naming rights to the new downtown entertainment facility. This deal had been rumored for weeks, but only confirmed a day before by a source to the Sault Star. The deal was worth $1.5 million for 10 years, and unlike the first contract with Steelback Brewery, the amount was paid upfront in a lump sum, instead of yearly payments. Essar also paid for all new signage for the facility as part of the deal. Jamie Caicco, councillor and chair of the sports and entertainment committee for the facility told reporters that 6–7 companies showed interest in becoming the new naming rights sponsor when the invitation was first sent out looking for a new name.

GFL Environmental Inc.[edit]

In May 2018, it was announced that GFL Environmental had signed a 10-year, $750,000 deal for the naming rights, beginning August 1, 2018. The arena was renamed GFL Memorial Gardens.[5]

Notable events[edit]

On October 11, 2006, Ontario Hockey League commissioner David Branch announced that the 2008 OHL All-Star Classic had been awarded to the Greyhounds and the City of Sault Ste. Marie.[6][7] The game was played at the Steelback Centre on February 6, 2008, with the Eastern Conference squad defeating the West in a shootout, 8–7.[8]

The Essar Centre hosted the 2010 Scotties Tournament of Hearts, Canada's women's curling championships.

In January 2010, The Essar Centre was a part of the Olympic Torch Relay. The Centre hosted the torch as it made its way across Canada and the world on its way to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games.

The Essar Centre hosted the CARHA world cup in March 2012. The tournament features the top recreation hockey teams from around the world and is held every four years.

The GFL Memorial Gardens has played host to a number of popular musical acts including Jerry Seinfeld, Sir Elton John, KISS, Mötley Crüe, John Mellencamp, Neil Young in '09, Tom Cochrane & Red Rider, Hilary Duff, Three Days Grace in '08, Seether, Gordon Lightfoot with Stompin' Tom Conners in '09, Blue Rodeo, Hedley in '10, Billy Talent with Alexisonfire in '10, Against Me!, The Cancer Bats, The Used, Default, Jackyl, Slaughter, The Backstreet Boys, Girlicious, Blue Man Group, Charley Pride, Bryan Adams in '09, Sheryl Crow, Anne Murray, INXS, The Tragically Hip in '07, Barenaked Ladies in '07, Down, Heaven & Hell, Megadeth, Jeff Dunham, The Wiggles, Bachman-Cummings in '07, and Heart in '14.

In April 2013, the arena hosted the Telus Cup, Canada's midget hockey championship.

On October 5, 2016, the Essar Centre hosted an NHL preseason game between the Buffalo Sabres and the Carolina Hurricanes, which the Hurricanes won by a score of 3-2.



  1. ^ Canadian inflation numbers based on Statistics Canada tables 18-10-0005-01 (formerly CANSIM 326-0021) "Consumer Price Index, annual average, not seasonally adjusted". Statistics Canada. Retrieved March 6, 2019. and 18-10-0004-13 "Consumer Price Index by product group, monthly, percentage change, not seasonally adjusted, Canada, provinces, Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Iqaluit". Statistics Canada. Retrieved March 6, 2019.
  2. ^ Williams, Patricia (June 14, 2006). "Hometown Team Building Sault's Steelback Centre". Daily Commercial News. Archived from the original on 2013-03-12. Retrieved October 17, 2013.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-02-05. Retrieved 2006-10-12.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-10-28. Retrieved 2006-09-03.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ "Look who's about to get naming rights for the Essar Centre!".
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-10-22. Retrieved 2006-10-12.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ [1][dead link]
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-09-25. Retrieved 2008-09-12.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 46°30′49″N 84°20′13″W / 46.51361°N 84.33694°W / 46.51361; -84.33694