Sault Memorial Gardens
Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
The Sault Memorial Gardens was in many ways one of the OHL's best buildings, with a terrific atmosphere and a beautiful classical design. However the building had also been allowed to deteriorate since its construction and its age showed through in many places. The Gardens was demolished over the summer of 2006, and while it was hard for many diehards to say goodbye to such a historic building, it made more sense to replace it than to pump millions into an arena that is so obviously past its prime.
Architecture: Grade A+
The Sault Memorial Gardens is one of the most beautiful buildings in the OHL. The arena is designed in a streamline moderne style and coated in thick layers of whitewash paint, and has a high, rounded roof and an old-style sign reading "Sault Memorial Gardens". Best of all is the War Memorial tower, with its beacon that shines through the dark northern night. The Gardens has a terrific exterior design and shines as a beautiful example of postwar arena architecture.
Interior Layout and Design: Grade D
The Gardens has a small main lobby that gets very, very crowded on gamenights; furthermore, there are no public concourses under the stands so spectators are expected to move around at the tops of the rows. Bottlenecks are common and wandering isn't easy to do. The interior architecture is as nice as that outside, but it unfortunately wasn't designed for ease of movement.
Seating: Grade D-
It's tough to say whose seats are worse - Sault's or Kingston's. The best seats in the house are pretty good for ancient wooden chairs, but seats nearer the back devolve until you're ultimately left with wooden benches. In the ends the seats seem to be nothing more than a pair of 2X4's nailed together in a vague "L"-shape. In addition there are the four slanted sections, where the entire section is tilted to one direction. Views are decent and there aren't many obstructed views, but the poor quality of the seats is one of the Gardens's biggest flaws.
Scoreboard: Grade C
The Soo board was once OHL-standard but is no longer in perfect working order, with a few odd bulbs missing. The sound system is also muddled.
Arena Employees: Grade B
Soo's employees are nice people who seem happy to welcome guests into the building. I suppose they don't get a lot of travelling fans so far out of the way, and Northerners tend to be very nice and welcoming people as a rule anyway, but the Soo employees are nice without being outstanding.
Facilities: Grade D
The Gardens's downtown location means little parking on-site, although there is enough across the street at the Station Mall. Washrooms are both few in number and medieval in character. Try to remember to go beforehand!
Atmosphere: Grade A
In spite of the building's advanced age, attending games in Sault Ste. Marie is a terrific experience. Northern blue-collar diehards give the building an atmosphere among the best in the league. Sault fans are loud and passionate about their team, and are also expert hecklers. They don't turn on opposing fans, though - they're also genuinely nice and welcoming towards visitors. There's only one season left in the Gardens before the wrecker's ball moves in - go there.
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