Kingston Memorial Centre
Kingston's Memorial Centre is a beautiful old arena which saw its golden age expire about twenty-five years ago. While the Memorial Centre has a great atmosphere and is a fun place to watch a hockey game, the ancient building barely stands up on its own these days and desperately needs either millions of dollars in renovations or outright replacement.
Architecture: Grade B
The Memorial Centre's yellow-bricked facade is classical and lovely. The building has a high roofline and a few architectural details that date it from the immediate postwar period. There is a plaque on the front of the building celebrating the glorious dead of two wars as well. The building stands out surrounded as it is by fields, and the marquee sign on the front looks good as well. Unfortunately, the facade looks as tired as the rest of the building, and seems to need a good facelift.
Interior Layout and Design: Grade C
The Memorial Centre uses a split upper/lower concourse system like many older buildings. The lower concourse works well; it's not too small and there is enough room to handle both the crowds and the concessions and team store and other necessities. The upper concourse on the other hand is nearly impossible to navigate, as it is barely three feet wide in most places. If the crowd is standing-room only then it is virtually impossible to fight your way through the bottlenecks; if the crowd is smaller it still is not easy to move around. There is also an ice-level concourse, but it is difficult to move around in it due to players benches and other hockey-related things. In addition, the ticket booths are too few in number and inconveniently located in a vestibule where it is impossible to stay warm if you're waiting for the willcall lineup.
Seating: Grade D-
Oh, my aching ass! Kingston's seats are all ancient, battered benches, with wooden slats. The wood has been shaped by fifty years of use, and as a result it's nearly impossible to get comfortable watching a game on them. This in itself would be enough to warrant a D-, but Kingston also, for some reason, paints their row numbers directly on the seat backs, instead of on the aisles. Consequently, if you have an aisle seat, be prepared to answer the question "Excuse me, what row is this?" approximately fifteen times a game. It's a good thing I promised not to flunk anybody - in seven categories and twenty OHL buildings, Kingston's seats are the most deserving of an F.
Scoreboard: Grade C
Kingston's scoreboard is unique in the league - it looks odd and is definitely not the "standard scoreboard". It uses line lights rather than the usual dot lights, and is black with orange and red lights. Two shot counters compliment the main board, and somewhat surprisingly, the system works very well. It's a standard OHL B-grade board, but the grade is lowered due to the ancient sound system which blasts out announcements and music. It's old to the point that it sounds like the announcer is broadcasting from underwater, and music also tends to get lost in the din.
Arena Employees: Grade A
Kingston's biggest saving grace is the wonderful people working in the building. Many employees are either younger than the players or old enough to be their grandparents. Ushers are friendly and helpful. Overworked concessionaires are nice. I especially want to give a thank you to Fronts' marketing director Jeff Stillwell, who went out of his way to meet me and congratulate me for this website. Jeff even offered me complimentary tickets to the Memorial Centre in recognition. The Frontenacs are a class organisation in the front office and I am more than happy to give them their recognition here.
Facilities: Grade D-
Kingston is by far the most run-down building in the OHL. While a fair-sized parking lot helps, washrooms are few and far between and just about everything in the building is fit to rust out at any given moment.
Atmosphere: Grade B
Hockey in Kingston survives in spite of having one of the OHL's least-appealing buildings. Fronts' fans are good fans - you kind of have to be to brave the Memorial Centre week-in, week-out - and they cheer and make noise as well as any in the league. It hurts me in some ways to rank Kingston so low, as I would sooner go back there than many buildings more highly-rated... yet the Memorial Centre needs to be replaced. In the meantime, the gameday atmosphere is a fun one, and I would recommend Kingston to any travelling fan.