Gaels’ home north of Princess infringed

Queen’s Athletics renews lease for Memorial Centre for five years despite new schedule restrictions

The annual “Kill McGill” game is one of the Gaels’ more popular games at the Memorial Centre. On Oct. 30 about 350 fans watched the McGill Redmen beat the men’s hockey team 6-4.
The annual “Kill McGill” game is one of the Gaels’ more popular games at the Memorial Centre. On Oct. 30 about 350 fans watched the McGill Redmen beat the men’s hockey team 6-4.
Photo: 
Jock Harty arena, previous home of the Gaels until 2006, was built in 1922 on Arch St. before being relocated to Union in 1971. Above is a 1952 hockey game at the Arch St. location.
Jock Harty arena, previous home of the Gaels until 2006, was built in 1922 on Arch St. before being relocated to Union in 1971. Above is a 1952 hockey game at the Arch St. location.
Credit: 
Supplied by Queen's Archives

Since the closure of the on-campus Jock Harty arena in 2006, women’s hockey head coach Matt Holberg has been trying to make their off-campus arena feel more like home—he helped paint a large Q in the main area this year.

Last summer Queen’s renewed their lease of the Memorial Centre for another five years, but they weren’t the primary tenant as they had been for the past four years. A local minor hockey association, Church Athletics League (CAL), was forced to move to the arena after the Harold Harvey Arena was closed.

“Just as we’re starting to make some strides to it being home, another new tenant comes in and it feels like we’re sharing an apartment with a roommate we never see,” Holmberg said.

In accordance with city policy, the CAL was given priority during prime ice-time slots because of their youth league status. Queen’s varsity hockey teams, that used to practice at the Memorial Centre between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., now practice in the late evening after 8 p.m. or in the early morning around 6 or 7 a.m.

The men’s hockey team’s final home game is scheduled at Royal Military College’s Constantine arena against the University of Toronto Varsity Blues. And both men’s and women’s hockey have played a home game at the Cataraqui Community Centre due to scheduling conflicts at the Memorial Centre.

“It’s been a source of frustration,” Holmberg said. “For those schools that do have their own rink, the benefits of that are incalculable.”

Holmberg said the Memorial Centre wasn’t available for use during September because it was occupied by the annual Fall Fair.

“We only got two or three practices at the Memorial Centre before we played our first home game,” he said. “Whether it be on main campus or West Campus, I know that the women’s hockey team would welcome our own arena.”

Queen’s Athletics Director Leslie Dal Cin said a location has been set for a new arena near West Campus, but the project’s dependence on funding makes it difficult to set a date for its construction or completion.

Queen’s initiated a clause in the new agreement, providing themselves the opportunity to opt-out of the five-year lease after three years if such a project is nearing completion.

Dal Cin said Athletics decided renewing their lease at the Memorial Centre was the most attractive option despite the scheduling issues posed by a shared tenancy. The arena, located at 403 York St. near Albert St., is about a 20-minute walk from campus.

“A major benefit of the Memorial Centre is it’s closer to the University than any other arena and they basically have a home base,” she said, adding that Athletics considered moving the team to other Kingston arenas as well as arenas in Nappanee and Gananoque before res-igning the Memorial Centre lease.

“The fact that we can establish a home for the teams at the M Centre outweighed the reality of the teams wanting to travel further,” she said.

Queen’s hockey spent a majority the 2007-08 season following the closing of Jock Harty Arena playing home games in Nappanee.

“Our teams really felt like they never had a home ice and a home base,” Dal Cin said.

“They felt like gypsies in terms of always being on the road.”

She said although the Memorial Centre is currently the best option, the time slots available to Queen’s hockey programs aren’t ideal.

“Practicing in the morning is not the ideal condition for an interuniversity team,” Dal Cin said. “Physiologically you really like to practice at the same time you play so that your energy systems adjust to that.”

The new lease agreement will see Queen’s spending between $200,000 and $250,000 per year depending on how far the two varsity hockey teams advance into playoffs. Dal Cin said the new cost-per-year is about $50,000 less than the previous agreement because of the decrease in Athletics’ use of ice time.

Representatives from the City of Kingston were unavailable for comment to the Journal.

While varsity teams are using the Memorial Centre, Queen’s intramurals have partially moved to the K-Rock Centre in downtown Kingston. Jeff Downie, manager of recreation and sports programs, said the new arrangement hasn’t had a negative effect.

“It actually hasn’t been a huge adjustment for us,” he said, adding that the intramural season was only cut by one game this year.

“We ended up with fairly similar times compared to previous years with the addition of the K-Rock Centre. We calculated it as about a three minute more hike going in a different direction.

“So on certain nights of the week we’re over at the K-Rock Centre compared to the Memorial Centre.”

Downie said the two locations are the furthest he’d expect students to travel to participate in intramurals.

“We need a walking distance location,” he said. “K-Rock and Memorial Centre are really in the same radius but outside of that you’re going too far.”

With the Memorial Centre located about four blocks north of campus, coaches and players worry the distance is resulting in poor attendance.

Men’s hockey head coach Brett Gibson was with the Gaels for two years before Jock Harty was closed. He said the team doesn’t see the same fan turnout at the Memorial Centre.

“We got a lot of walk-ins from the students that were just either studying or working out,” he said. “It is a jaunt to get out to the Memorial Centre. Realistically it’s only four blocks but you don’t get the same walking up as when the arena is on campus.

Gibson said he hopes his team, currently ranked fifth in the Ontario University Athletics East Division, will draw fans with success.

“It truly does baffle me sometimes why we can’t get the students to our games but we have to be creative,” he said. “We aren’t on campus so we have to provide a team that’s exciting to come watch and I think we are this year. It’s just a matter of getting the word out.

“When you’re playing in front of just girl-friends and parents it does get tough some nights.”

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