Kitchener Memorial Auditorium
Perhaps it's ironic that a team that I dislike intensely plays in my favourite building in the OHL. No matter. The Aud is a gem. Sixty years old, the building has a wonderful old facade, worn floors and painted bricks inside, great atmosphere, and views so good that they make you gasp, yet it also has been maintained immaculately, frequently renovated, and has all of the amenities that you'd expect from any modern building. Featuring the best combination of old-style charm and new-style facilities I've encountered in hockey at any level, the Aud truly is deserving of its number one title. It's too bad it's filled with damn Rangers fans!
Architecture: Grade A+
A sprawling complex built of tan brick, the main entrance has a gorgeous grey stone facade and the name of the building in large letters. Built somewhat in a modernist style, it still has artifice in the design and a sort of institutional charm to it. While it's not a building that would send Architectural Digest running, it's quite a beautiful building.
Interior Layout and Design: Grade A
The building's main entrace runs between the OHL arena and the two smaller pads, and features a large set of stairs that lead up into the main building. Once inside the old arena the age hits you; it feels old but the concourse is still wide and runs all the way around the building. There is also a secondary concourse located underneath the main one that isn't much used. Traffic does bottleneck somewhat in intermissions, but overall it's a classic and good design.
Seating: Grade B
The only Kitchener grade below an "A", the Aud loses marks because of one thing alone - leg-room. The seats in the Aud have an absolutely tremendous view - among the best in the league - but they were clearly designed for smaller people. If you're taller than 5'6" or heavier than 175 lbs., you'll probably be somewhat uncomfortable by the end of the game. It's almost worth it simply for the high quality of the views of the ice, but... it's impossible to give a truly high mark to such cramped seats. Kitchener does get some points for its traditional red and gold seat design.
Scoreboard: Grade A+
Very similar to London and Ottawa's board in quality, Kitchener gets the "+" for the same reason as Ottawa, and for the same reason that London loses it - it's professionally run. Music selection is pretty good and the video board is used to great effect. Every game begins with "RangerVision" - a cute introductory film. They also show clever homemade videos featuring the mascot, Tex, visiting other arenas and raising havoc, and - inexplicably - the "SpongeBob SquarePants" theme song. Whatever. It's fun and it's well worth full marks.
Arena Employees: Grade A
The old men and teenagers here are passionate hockey fans for the most part, and most would be disappointed in the young guy we talked to in the 2004-05 playoffs who told us he wanted London to win Game 5 so he wouldn't have to work on Sunday!
Facilities: Grade A+
For an older building - heck, even for a newer building - the facilities here are top-notch. Washrooms are plentiful, parking is on-site and free, and the Rangers possess the best team store in the OHL in the Outpost, where just about anything you can imagine with a Ranger logo on it is available for sale.
Atmosphere: Grade A
Nearly as loud as Windsor or Erie, Kitchener fans make noise with the best of them. The Aud is a jewel of an arena, a lovely old building with new facilities, filled with screaming and passionate hockey fans. Spread the word, sports fans! The best arena in the OHL is in Kitchener, Ontario.