G.I. Joe


North Bay Battalion

Arena Name: North Bay Memorial Gardens
Capacity: 4,246
Built: 1955
Franchise Date: 2013-14
OHL Championships: None
Memorial Cup Championships: None
Colours: Olive, Yellow, Black & White
Official Web Site: http://www.battalionhockey.com/
Address: 100 Chippewa Street West, North Bay, Ontario, P1B 6G2
Ice Surface Size: Regulation
Google Satellite: Click Here

OHL
North Bay Memorial Gardens
North Bay Memorial Gardens
What's the Arena Like?
If the North Bay Centennials had always been as successful at the box office as the North Bay Battalion now are, odds are they never would have left. The Battalion franchise left indifference and purple seats in Ontario's capital for a passionate fanbase, a beautiful old arena with modern amenities, and, one would imagine, profit. The North Bay Memorial Gardens, built in 1955, is located on a quiet residential street just outside downtown North Bay, and is minutes away from Highway 11/17. It's in the middle of a community sportsplex which also has several baseball diamonds and soccer fields. The Gardens used to have gold bricks, gold aluminum siding, and a green tile front entrance that betrayed its 1950's origin, but the renovations have clad a new glass and steel facade onto the building.

Once inside the Memorial Gardens you find you're in a long, wide hallway with memorabilia everywhere. North Bay's entire sporting history seems to be on the walls of the Memorial Gardens, with pictures not only of the old Centennials teams but also of teams dating back to the 20's, and pictures of every former Centennial or North Bay resident who played in the NHL. One would imagine this trend will continue with the Battalion.

When I last visited in 2007, the North Bay Memorial Gardens was unlike most other OHL rinks I'd ever seen, built almost like a college football stadium, with two huge grandstands running the entire length of the ice along the sides, but absolutely nothing in the ends. The 2013 renovations built seats in the area that used to be closed off with a huge pink curtain, which previously had been the Zamboni garage and storage. In the one end there was a combination bar and Sports Hall of Fame, a scoreboard, and a portrait of H.M. the Queen, which is always a nice touch.

The press box is easily one of the coolest I've ever seen - it is high up in the rafters, and hangs over the ice. You often hear that something "hangs over the ice" when someone is trying to say that you feel like it, but in North Bay, the press box is literally directly above the ice surface on the one side of the rink. Getting up there requires navigating a scary-looking catwalk across half the length of the building.

Seats are all old, wooden originals from the 1950's. There are only eight sections of seating in the whole building - I imagine it would be hard to navigate the rows during a game with a full house. The scoreboard works well. Overall the North Bay Memorial Gardens was always viable if the OHL ever returned, and now that it has, it's been pressed into full and proud service. The Knights' travelling schedule was terrible in 2013-14, but I plan to finally see a game up there sometime in 2014-15.

Steve McLean says:
After 11 long years the old arena on the quiet residential street near downtown North Bay is once again the centre of attention for the northern city that has longed for major junior hockey ever since the Centennials packed up and left for Saginaw, Michigan. But this time, the Battalion call the North Bay Memorial Gardens their home, and with a massive $12 million renovation nearing completion and a 15 year lease signed by Battalion owner Scott Abbott it appears the Ontario Hockey League is back in North Bay to stay, a city it should have never left in the first place.

It's not just the inside of the Memorial Gardens that has had drastic changes. Once seeing the front the old arena you immediatly notice the brand new front facade which is now all glass which replaced the old gold siding. The glass facade houses the hallways for the upstairs levels of the west side of the building which is the side the new press box and suites are for the rink. Several new enterances on the west (main) side of the building have been constructed which are all glass doors which brings alot of sunlight into the northwest corner of the concourse inside. There is also a massive new expansion on the south east corner of the building which houses the Battalion's new dressing room, lounge and coaching offices.

Just to the right of the main enterance is the building's box office which has its own entrance into the rink. After going through one of these entrances you are in the main concourse which is at ice level. There are two main concession stands on the west side of the rink under the stands with Battalion logos all over them. One concession stand which hadn't opened yet was advertising "Chef Sargeo's Battaliano Pizzeria" which made me cringe as Sarge's hat from the logo is replaced with a chef's hat.

The northwest corner of the rink holds the elevator which takes you up to the suite level, however as of the home opener this was not yet complete. Pretty much the entire north concourse of the building wasn't complete yet as it was a bare concrete hallway with windows which at least let in some light. On the right side of this wide hallway was a ramp leading up to the north end suites which are located under the portrait of the Queen in the rink. The team store is also located at the northwest corner, though barely complete. The store had no signage yet but was easily to spot as two sides were all glass windows that you could peer into the store. Nothing was really set up at the time of this review, but there was a fair amount of North Bay Battalion merchandise on tables set up around the room. The store isn't huge, but it's a good size by OHL standards.

The East side concourse is a much narrower hallway that you can only walk about halfway down before a curtain closes you off from the dressing room areas. All the entrances to the main seating bowl are on ice level, though there are stairs located at these entrances that take you to up to the first row of seating for the main bowl. When entering the bowl you notice many changes that have taken place since the spring of 2013. First of all, the massive 4 sided HD video board that now hangs from centre ice. The video board however shows no scoring or penalty info. Instead there are several scoreboards located throughout the rink, one of which hangs just above the north end suites. One hangs in the rafters on each side of the arena that faces the crowd for those up high, and one that faces the ice surface for those sitting in the lower seats. During the renovation the rink was actually narrowed to fit regulation size, which made the area between the ice and main seating wider, so along the west side of the rink two rows of grey seats were added to be right on the glass.

There remains a small pathway between these seats and the main seating. There are stairs on this side as well that lead up to the main seats much like in Peterborough. These grey seats have also been added to the north end corners and the east side, however there is no seating directly behind the benches or penalty boxes. While the arena used to have the two team benches on opposide sides they are now both located on the east side of the rink while the penalty boxes are on the west side along with the new press box and 10 brand new suites which run along the top of the bowl. The old press box which literally hangs over on the east side of the rink remains. Standing room spots run down the entire length of the top of the east side seating. The south end of the rink previously had zero seating, just a large pink curtain which housed the Zamboni area. However now a huge new section of seating occupies this spot. Unlike the concrete on the sides of the rink, these blue plastic seats sit on metal supports. The Zamboni area is under this seating and an entrance in the middle allows the Zambonis access to the ice surface. There is room to walk between this seating area and the ice surface as these end seats run right to the back wall of the rink. The seating bowl is arranged now in a way that really reminds me of Peterborough if the end was smaller and the sides larger. All the seats in the rink are now new and plastic singles that follow the old colour scheme of red near centre ice and blue closer to the ends. The new rink side seats are grey. Seating is a little cramped by new standards. All seats have cupholders but they are pretty much on the floor which can make navigating a row full of people an adventure.

Several of the Battalion traditions that began in Brampton have followed to North Bay. The Troops still enter the ice from under the large inflatable tank located at the southeast corner. Bomb and helicopter sounds still ring through the PA in the minutes leading up to their return which in Brampton was always our signal to get back to our seats. Also the goal song War by Edwin Starr is also the celebration of choice for the Troops.

Concession stands seemed to have all the regular rink food, while alcohol is sold right across from the food. Apparently the rink does not yet have a licence for patrons to drink alcohol in the seating area, so for now if you would like a beer you have to drink it in the concourse - Kitchener fans can relate to this problem. Opening night had a sold out crowd of over 4,200 people which made for a very cramped concourse especially near the concession and alcohol stands. I found it quicker to get around the rink through the pathway between the ice level seats and the main bowl. The positive to this is it cant get any worse than what I saw at the opener but to me it wouldnt be worth it to leave the seat to get food or drink, though I am the type of person who fills up pre game.

There doesnt seem to be much on display from the Centennial days other than several photos of NHLers however the Battalion were sporting North Bay Centennial shoulder patches which are to be worn during all home games in the 2013-14 season.

Thanks to the renovation, parking at the arena is currently in bad shape however the city has set up a free bus shuttle from the near by North Gate Square just a few blocks from the arena. Shuttles start an hour before puck drop and begin again at 9PM. Also all bus routes in the city are free to people who show a Battalion ticket stub to that nights game.

While there have been several great upgrades to the arena overall, it is still a cramped barn by 21st century OHL standards. However the people of North Bay I am sure couldn't care less about the cramped spaces, as they are just thrilled to have the OHL back in the Bay. While the building is nearing its 60th year of existence, the recent upgrades which are scheduled to wrap up in December should keep the building open and hosting OHL hockey for years to come.
Future Developments
The Memorial Gardens underwent a $12 million renovation in the summer of 2013 in anticipation of the Battalion's arrival. The ice surface was lengthened by ten feet to the standard 200' X 85', 10 private boxes and a new 2-level team dressing room were added, and the former "curtain" end had permanent seats built in what used to be empty space, increasing the capacity by 250.
What Is It Like For Away Fans?
I haven't yet had the chance to make it back to North Bay since the Battalion arrived. A report will be forthcoming.
Inside the North Bay Memorial Gardens
North Bay Memorial Gardens

How To Get There

From the South (Hwy. 11):
Turn left at the second set of lights (Fisher Street). As you proceed along Fisher Street, turn right at the first set of lights (Chippewa St). Memorial Gardens is between 500 and 700 meters down the road on the right.

From the West (Hwy. 17):
Turn right at the fifth set of lights (Fisher Street - the Northgate mall is on the left as you approach Fisher Street). As you proceed along Fisher Street, turn right at the first set of lights (Chippewa St). Memorial Gardens is between 500 and 700 meters down the road on the right.
North Bay Memorial Gardens, 2007
North Bay Memorial Gardens
Franchise History
Brampton was added to the OHL in 1998-99 as an expansion team, owned by Scott Abbott of Trivial Pursuit fame. Abbott banged his head trying to convince Bramptonians to go to games for fifteen years, but finally gave up and moved his team north in 2013. The Battalion's uniforms, history, and traditions all moved north with the team.
Retired Numbers
None
Local Rivals
Brampton's main rival was always Mississauga, but with the Battalion now in North Bay, the other two northern teams are now far more of rivals. The Sault is definitely a rival, but the former clashes between the Sudbury Wolves and North Bay Centennials were always epic, and it's expected that the new Wolves-Battalion rivalry will, well, rival the old.

Feedback

If anything is incorrect or you have something to add, please e-mail me at email and I'll update the guide.







Copyright Kevin Jordan 2002-13.
All rights reserved.
Last Revised: December 24, 2013