No plans for arena

Queen’s hockey programs close out fifth straight season off campus

Jock Harty Arena was torn down in 2007 and still hasn’t been replaced.
Jock Harty Arena was torn down in 2007 and still hasn’t been replaced.

The men’s and women’s hockey teams are still waiting for their arena.

In the spring of 2007, the 55-year old Jock Harty Arena, located at the corner of Division and Union Streets, was torn down. Since then, the hockey teams have played home games everywhere from Napanee to Strathcona to the Memorial Centre, located north of Princess Street.

A new arena was planned to be included in the final two phases of the Queen’s Centre project, until the project was postponed indefinitely in 2009.

Men’s hockey coach Brett Gibson said he initially didn’t mind moving to the Memorial Centre because of the promise of a new on-campus arena.

“It was an exciting moment because of the opportunity for a brand new arena” he said. “We didn’t know how long it was going to be, but [the arena] was going to be part of the initial planning.”

Both hockey programs found problems during that first year away from Jock Harty, struggling to even obtain ice time at the Memorial Centre — the teams routinely held 6 a.m. practices and played some home games in Napanee and Strathcona.

“The Frontenacs were still playing at the Memorial Centre,” Gibson said. “We were really a traveling roadshow for that first year.”

The ARC, part of Phase 1 of the Queen’s Centre, opened in December 2009. The building’s budget was originally set at $124 million, but wound up costing $165 million.

Because of the extra costs, the remaining phases of the project were postponed.

Queen’s Athletics’ original plan was to build the new arena where Jock Harty stood, until it was revealed in 2008 that building the arena on West Campus could save up to $20 million. But that plan hasn’t been explored since the project was halted.

The AMS originally committed $25.5 million towards the entire Queen’s Centre project, but pulled that funding in January. A student fee of $70.50 was put in place in 2005 to collect the funds — that fee, which doubled to $141 in 2009, will be cancelled now that the Queen’s Centre project won’t be completed.

“The money is just not there,” Gibson said. “Until someone comes in with a boatload of money, I don’t think [the arena] will ever be built.”

Queen’s Athletics Associate Director of Business Development and Facilities Jeff Downie couldn’t provide any budget information about the proposed arena.

Even though logistics have improved for the hockey teams since 2007-08 — both hockey teams are now permanently based at the Memorial Centre — but Gibson and women’s hockey coach Matt Holmberg said it’s been an ongoing struggle operating north of Princess Street.

“It’s out of our hands and that’s what makes it the most frustrating,” Gibson said. “For two years in a row now, [we’ve] had to play our last home game at a neutral site and that game could’ve cost us a playoff spot.”

Holmberg said an on-campus arena would also allow both hockey programs to expand in a way that’s not currently possible.

“It would be nice to run some summer camps out of a rink that would be Queen’s-owned and operated,” he said, adding that the teams also have to temporarily leave the Memorial Centre in September due to an annual fair.

“They take the ice out for that and we have to do our training camp [somewhere else,]” he said.

According to Gibson, it’s more difficult to attract recruits without an arena.

“Kids want to play in a new arena,” he said. “Just look at the results of the volleyball and basketball teams. They have the ARC they’re able to show off.

“The last thing I show kids who are coming in for recruiting is our arena.”

Gibson said the hockey program has lost fan support since moving to the Memorial Centre.

“In the Jock Harty Arena, you’d get [students] walking in, so there was more of an atmosphere,” he said. “If it’s not McGill or RMC, our crowds are pretty sparse.”

Downie said Athletics is consistently looking to attract students to games.

“[February’s] Carr-Harris cup was moved to the K-Rock Centre, [and it] was the biggest and most student attended game in probably a long time,” he said. This year’s Carr-Harris Cup game saw a 2,576-person attendance.

“Students are interested in coming out, it’s just about making it as accessible as possible,” Downie said.

He said Athletics never had a concrete plan for the proposed arena.

“There were a variety of drawings done, there were probably 12 different versions,” he said. “[But] it was just architects coming in and ... seeing what could fit. Nothing’s been done officially.”

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