By far the best of the "clone" rinks in the OHL, Oshawa's GM Centre is the result of a line of thinking that says "screw the budget, we're building something wonderful". The GM Centre is champagne and caviar to the old Civic Auditorium's beer and hamburger, and inside and out, professionalism and attention to detail make the rink one of the OHL's finest buildings.
Architecture: Grade A
High and imposing in Oshawa's low-rise downtown, the GM Centre's brown-brick sprawl dominates its neighbourhood. The postmodern architecture is interesting, and the outside entrance plaza complete with miniature community skating rink gives the building a sense of timelessness. The building's signature tower and understated entrance completes the package nicely.
Interior Layout and Design: Grade A
Essentially a clone of Sarnia's layout, the GMC features a wide, open concourse overlooking the seating bowl around three sides of the ice with a fourth side dominated by a restaurant. However, the grade for Oshawa is elevated by the openness of the fourth side (as compared to Sarnia's bottlenecks), and also by the signature Grand Staircase in the corner of the building, which is an absolutely terrific touch.
Seating: Grade A
Once again, attention to detail is phenomenal in Oshawa - all of the standing room spots have their own individual coathooks. The seats themselves are wide, comfortable plastic, with decent viewing angles. There really aren't any bad seats in the house. However, the grade for the seats misses the plus because of one tiny but belief-defying detail - their colour. Installing maroon seats in Oshawa is like painting a Canadiens' logo at centre ice of the ACC.
Scoreboard: Grade A
A gigantic, four-sided and imposing video scoreboard complete with perfectly audible sound system give Oshawa yet another A. The video board is technically decent enough, and it's run professionally. Again, it's only a couple minor details that drop Oshawa from the plus - in this case, the absence of a time clock and the fact that replays are always delayed until the play is back on again. There is enough time in stoppages to show replays of goals, but in Oshawa they don't do this.
Arena Employees: Grade A
Helpful without being annoying, I had no bad experiences to speak of, and one gentleman in particular allowed me post-game access to the upper deck to take pictures. In a world where so many employees love to enforce the absolute letter of the rules, in Oshawa it felt like they knew how to enforce the spirit of them instead.
Facilities: Grade B
Much like the JLC in London, the GM Centre is blemished by having not nearly enough parking and not nearly enough washrooms. The parking issue is forgiveable given the rink's downtown location - I definitely prefer arenas downtown rather than in the suburbs - but four or five tiny washrooms for a building designed to hold 5,500 is just inexcusable.
Atmosphere: Grade B
I was supremely impressed by the GM Centre. Most new arenas require a couple of years to truly settle in and gain their crowd noise, but the GMC doesn't appear to have missed a beat. While it's not nearly as loud as the old Civic Auditorium - few buildings are - the new arena is still an excellent home for the OHL's oldest franchise. While the rink doesn't have any A-pluses in any category, it has an excellent spread of A's, and is by far the best new arena in the OHL.