London Gardens/Ice House
Now closed and converted into a cycling velodrome, the former London Ice House was a drab box of a building with the soul of Rocky. Battered but never beaten, the homely arena hosted the OHL's best gameday atmosphere for years, and its closure was mourned by longtime Knights fans even as its replacement wowed the junior hockey world.
Architecture – Grade D
A drab, grey concrete and brick building built in the heart of the 1960’s, the Ice House is essentially a plain box with no ornamentation, no windows, no built-in details of any kind to make it stand out. The large marquee sign and team logos on the front of the building are the only things saving it from the minus.
Interior Layout and Design – Grade B
The twin concourse, four stairway design popular in the 1960’s is used here to good effect. While concourses are narrow in places and traffic can bottleneck around the top of the building when it’s full, it’s still a well-laid out and navigable building.
Seating – Grade B
Steeply angled sections leave a great view of the ice, while the sides of the building have comfortable new plastic seats. Older wooden two-man chairs abound in the ends of the building, but for wood they’re surprisingly comfortable.
Scoreboard – Grade C
A refurbished clock hanging above centre ice and shot counters in both ends handle all of the building’s chores. Both still work perfectly fine, but the Ice House has no “time” clock to let you know what time of day it is outside save for a small, barely legible analog clock mounted on the press box. Meanwhile, the sound system is old and garbled to the point that making out announcements is nearly impossible, while music played at the building sounds like mush.
Employees – Grade B
Ushers are practically non-existent, but otherwise the Ice House employees handle their chores well. Most of the building’s personnel have been there as long as the paint on the walls, and handle their roles well. Meanwhile, the kids working the concessions are competent enough.
Facilities – Grade C
There aren’t enough washrooms and those that do exist rival the Sault’s for the OHL’s most medieval. However, the Ice House’s location in the industrial suburban fringe of London means that there’s plenty of land for parking, and while the team’s gigantic lot behind the building has a minimal charge, that belonging to the mall plaza in front of the building is free.
Atmosphere – Grade A+
The sign in the vestibule to the Ice House’s main entrance reads “The Best Fans in the OHL Pass through These Doors” and I don’t think it would be too homerish of me to agree with it. The Ice House’s atmosphere rivals Erie for the league’s loudest, and when the fans get going it’s difficult to hear yourself think. The fans still came out in droves to the run-down dank pit of an arena during the years when the Knights were the worst team in the CHL, and the A+ grade is only given because the rankings don’t go any higher.
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