Guelph Storm


Guelph Storm

Arena Name: Guelph Memorial Gardens
Capacity: 4000
Built: 1948
Last Game: 2000
Torn Down: 2006
Address: 33 Carden St. Guelph, Ontario N1H 3A2
Ice Surface Size: 185' X 85'
Official Web Site: http://www.guelphstorm.com/
Google Satellite: Click Here
Demolition Photos:
March 2006
April 2006
May 2006

OHL
Guelph Memorial Gardens
Guelph Gardens
What was the Arena Like?
The Guelph Memorial Gardens was built in 1948 and hosted various hockey teams over the years, including the Guelph Biltmore Mad Hatters, Guelph Platers and Guelph Storm. It hosted its last Storm game on March 24, 2000, and closed its doors permanently in November 2001. The Gardens occupied prime land in downtown Guelph and City Hall, which is next door, tore down the arena in 2006 to use the land for municipal offices. Fortunately, there are some very nice people working at Guelph City Hall, and Mr Daryl Fowler, the former building superintendent, was kind enough to show me around the old building in February of 2004, before it met the wrecker's ball.

Guelph Memorial Gardens was an imposing white building in downtown Guelph. From the outside it was all white stucco and there was a small front entrance jutting out from the building. Inside, a huge sign greeted you - "Welcome to Storm Country". When I visited, there was still a portrait of the Queen present although all of the memorabilia had been moved. The halls were all painted a sky-blue colour and were of a decent size on the front of the building, but around the back they tended to bottleneck, including at one point where the hall narrowed to about three feet wide! The wall leftover from the Gardens's past life as the Royal Winter Fair ran down the front of the building and was ridiculously thick - a good two feet thick. It may have been covered in stucco but the original bricks were under there.

Once into the arena bowl you were immediately floored by the strange arena colour scheme. Mr Fowler tells me that back before the 1960's nearly everything was painted battleship grey, but the new colours felt like a bit of an overcompensation. All of the halls and railings were painted bright day-glo orange, while the good seats were pastel lemon yellow and the seats at the back were lime green. It makes you wonder whoever thought the colour scheme looked good... but it was also very endearing at a time when most new buildings have all their seats one uniformly bland colour. The seats were all still wooden originals, and were sold at auction before the Gardens's demise. Some were folding chairs, some were merely benches.

The arena was an odd shape, as dictated by the train tracks which ran behind the building. Section 10 was so narrow that there was only room for two rows of seats before the back wall. The arena's back wall came across on an angle so the corner at the other goal line had a massive amount of seating behind it. There was also one area behind one of the nets which still had support columns holding the roof up.

There were a few more interesting quirks to the Gardens's design. All of the emergency exits along the back side of the building emptied directly onto busy railroad tracks! In the event of an emergency, I'm told that the arena management tried to funnel people out the front exits whenever possible so as not to risk having any accidents with passing freights! Mr Fowler also took us up into the press box, which was a later addition to the building. The stairway leading up to the box was an impossibly steep and narrow metal staircase reminiscent of a ladder aboard a ship. Once you emerged from the bowels of the arena you found yourself suspended over the seating area, which finally led into the press box. The view was incredible. Our tour also included the old Zamboni room, which was being used for storage by the City when I visited, and the old Storm dressing room. The dressing room was nondescript now, with all the furniture moved out, but it was surprisingly big by old-building standards.

Behind one net there was an area known as "The Loft" which was once the Storm's lounge and restaurant area. The room is mainly original from the Winter Fair days, and it feels like an Alpine skiing lodge, with wood paneling and beams in the ceiling and white wainscotting, and a collection of medieval-looking windows along a far wall. The Loft's heritage designation saved it from the wrecker's ball, and hopefully the city will find a use for it.

The Guelph Memorial Gardens was the first old OHL arena to really "close" in the modern sense. Most former OHL buildings are still standing as the cities use them for rec hockey and other things, plus when a team leaves, there is always the chance that they will someday return. In Guelph, one of the conditions of the construction of the Sleeman Centre was that the Gardens would close so as not to compete against the new arena for concerts and special events. The city of Guelph has now torn down the Memorial Gardens and built municipal offices on the site. I feel extremely fortunate that I was given the opportunity to see the building before the wreckers moved in, and I thank the City of Guelph and Daryl Fowler for allowing an amateur webmaster and historian the chance to see one of the grand old barns of the OHL.
Inside Guelph Memorial Gardens
Guelph Gardens
Arena History
The Gardens was originally built as a Provincial Winter Fair Building in 1899. This building was set back from Carden St. Due to the success of the fair, the complex was expanded in 1909 with the construction of a separate buidling south of the railway tracks that served as a horse stable and had a tunnel running under the train tracks to connect it to the main exhibition building. This building is the current Farmers' Market building. At some point again the complex was expanded (though I can't find any references to exactly when) and a more ornate building was built in front of the 1899 building extending right out to Carden Street.

According to the book Guelph: Perspectives on a Century of Change published by the Guelph Historical Society in 2000, the complex was taken over by the Federal Government in October of 1939 for the billeting of troops (I'm not sure what troops but there was an RCAF radio school at the Ontario Agricultural College, the present day University of Guelph, so it may have been Air Force people). The building fronting Carden Street served as the market for many years after the war once Memorial Gardens was opened. This buidling was later torn down and the main lobby/entrance of the Gardens was re-located to its present location from the old main entrance immediately beside City Hall. In 1948 the barracks was mostly torn down for the construction of the Gardens, although the heavy stone front wall and one room on the end was retained. The Gardens opened November 11, 1948, costing $425,000. It was used for various municipal functions over the years and was the home of many of Guelph's junior teams, including the Biltmore Mad Hatters, the Storm, and the Platers.

Thank you to Mike Forestell for providing information.
Another Look Inside Guelph Memorial Gardens
Guelph Gardens

How To Get There

From Hwy-6:
Hwy-6 to Wellington St/Hwy-24 exit. East on Hwy-24 to Wyndham St. Left on Wyndham to Carden St. Left on Carden to Guelph Memorial Gardens. Arena is on the left side of the road.

From the Sleeman Centre:
Exit through the mall side and walk up Wellington St. towards the Cathedral. Once you're close to the cathedral look left. The Arena should be one block over.
The Site of Guelph Memorial Gardens, May 2010
Guelph Gardens
What's it Used For Today?
Demolition of the Guelph Memorial Gardens commenced in December 2005, as the City of Guelph, which owns the building and the land, has decided to build a new municipal office complex on the site as an expansion of Guelph's tiny, nineteenth-century City Hall next door. The Gardens is now history, and the new complex is well underway. Click here for a photo, courtesy Kevin Fox. Click here to see an architectural drawing of the municipal offices which will be built on the site, courtesy the City of Guelph's website.

Many thanks to Brian Barton for the old Gardens picture.
Guelph Memorial Gardens, 1967
Guelph Gardens

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 2002-10.
All rights reserved.
Last Revised: October 31, 2010