Fort William Gardens
|Location||901 Miles Street
Thunder Bay, Ontario
|Owner||City of Thunder Bay|
|Opened||6 March 1951|
|Fort William Canadians (TBJHL) (1951-78)
Fort William Figure Skating Club (Skate Canada) (1954-Present)
Westfort Hurricanes (TBJHL) (1966-72)
Thunder Bay Twins (USHL, OHA Sr. A, OHA Sr. A) (1971-91)
Thunder Bay Vulcans (TBJHL) (1971-73)
Thunder Bay Centennials (CAJHL) (1972-73)
Thunder Bay Westfort Hurricanes (CAJHL, MWJHL) (1972-75)
Thunder Bay Beavers (CAJHL) (1973-78)
Thunder Bay Kings (TBJHL) (1980-84)
Thunder Bay Flyers (USHL) (1984-2000)
Thunder Bay Hornets (TBJHL, MJHL) (1982-86)
Thunder Bay Thunder Hawks (CoHL) (1991-93)
Thunder Bay Senators (CoHL) (1993-96)
Thunder Bay Thunder Cats (CoHL, UHL) (1996-99)
Lakehead Thunderwolves (CIS) (2001-Present)
Thunder Bay Twins (HNwO) (2003-04)
Thunder Bay Bombers (HNwO) (2004-06)
Thunder Bay North Stars (SIJHL) (2005-Present)
Thunder Bay Hawks (HNwO) (2007-08)
Thunder Bay K&A Twins (HNwO) (2008-Present)
Previous tenants include the Thunder Bay Flyers, of the 'Junior A' United States Hockey League, the Thunder Bay Senators/Thunder Bay Thunder Cats, of the Colonial Hockey League (which became the United Hockey League) and the Thunder Bay Twins (senior men's hockey). Since 2001, the Gardens has been home to the Lakehead Thunderwolves men's university hockey program and has also played host to a Superior International Junior Hockey League team. The Thunder Bay Bulldogs called the Gardens home, from 2001 to 2005, then were replaced by the Fort William North Stars.
The Gardens has a long history of hockey, however, the isolation of Thunder Bay and travel costs have prevented the Gardens from retaining most teams. It once hosted an NHL pre-season game in 1993 between the Ottawa Senators and Washington Capitals, and two pre-season AHL games in 2002 with St. John's Maple Leafs vs. Manitoba Moose, and 2 in 2003 with Manitoba Moose vs. Toronto Roadrunners.
The Gardens also hosted the 1988 Air Canada Cup National Midget Hockey Championship (now renamed The Telus Cup to reflect this competition's present title sponsor), with the Regina Pat Canadians defeating the Calgary North Stars in the tournament's Championship Game (the host Thunder Bay Bearcats defeated Oshawa Kiwanis to win the Consolation Final for the tournament.)
The Gardens has also hosted several national curling championships:
- 1960 Tim Hortons Brier
- 1976 Women's Canadian Junior Curling Championships
- 1991 Canadian Mixed Curling Championships.
- 1996 Scott Tournament of Hearts
- 2002 M&M Meat Shops Canadian Open (Grand Slam Event)
The arena has hosted Remembrance Day ceremonies, festivals, circuses and many concerts including such artists as The Beach Boys, Johnny and the Hurricanes, Bob Dylan, B.B. King, The Guess Who, John Lee Hooker, Burton Cummings, Roy Orbison, Celine Dion, Willie Nelson, The Bee Gees, Rush, REM, AC/DC, Slade, Ted Nugent, Skid Row, The Black Crowes, Foreigner, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Black Oak Arkansas, Pearl Jam, Our Lady Peace, Nickelback and The Tragically Hip.
The future of the Gardens is uncertain. Most concerts are now performed at the more intimate Thunder Bay Community Auditorium, which seats approximately 1,500. Lakehead University has proposed working with the city to build a new, larger arena and convention centre to replace the Gardens. City council has agreed for the need for such an arena, but believes that the Gardens is still in usable condition. City council turned down the most recent proposal in October 2006. In February 2007, city council decided to lease a new boiler for the facility, holding off a decision to purchase a new one in the event that a replacement is successfully approved.
In November 2009, Thunder Bay city manager Tim Commisso put forward a report with a plan to pay for future infrastructure projects, including a $70 to 128 million replacement for the Gardens. The report, was approved in principle, and plans are now underway to decide on the right location. Latest news, The event Centre was shut down for federal funding (July 2016)