Overlooking the Credit River at 40 Stavebank Road N., Port Credit Arena is more than just a prominent local landmark. Heading into its 50th anniversary year, it remains a vital hub in South Mississauga.
Here at this, the city’s first and oldest surviving public arena, generations of kids have learned to play hockey, figure skate, or just enjoy the Friday night public skating.
“This is not just a building. There’s a heritage handed down, from generation to generation. This is something you can use, live with, and be proud of,” says lifelong Port Credit resident John Holland, who is leading the push to have it designated as a heritage building.
“I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘That’s the best arena I’ve ever played in.’ It’s not necessarily warm, but it has got that warm feeling to it.”
It was Holland, as chair of the arena committee, who cut the ribbon at the official opening on October 4, 1959, with NHL stars Johnny Bower and Larry Regan, and sportscaster Bryan McFarlane on hand.
A coordinated eff ort of Port Credit’s businesses, local government, and residents, it was built over the course of two years at a cost of $360,000. The local St. Lawrence Starch Company donated the scoreboard. The Lion’s Club paid for the seating.
Before this, the only place to skate in Port Credit was on the frozen river. And the only two venues for organized hockey were at Dixie and Lakeshore Arenas, forcing a commute.
“I always wanted a safe place, where kids could come (to skate locally),” Holland says. “It’s a good place for your kids, and their kids.”
It soon became the home of the hockey associations for Port Credit, Cooksville, Cloverleaf, Clarkson, Applewood, Lakeview and Lorne Park, plus the respected Port Credit Figure Skating Club.
“On a Saturday, we’d average 900 people coming through on the day,” recalls former arena manager Archie Chase. “If you had a kid playing hockey, you were in there.”
Over the years such future NHLers as Greg Gilbert, Grant Marshall, Bob Kelly, and Doug and Larry Patey passed through the Port Credit chain – not to mention Olympic bronze medal figure skater Wally Distelmyer.
And the arena also saw crowds of 500- plus turn out to watch the hometown Sailors play lacrosse (and win the 1960 Mann Cup national championship!), and for professional wrestling cards (featuring the likes of the fl ashy Tiger Jeet Singh).
“I’d see them lined up to the Lakeshore, to get in (to the wrestling),” Chase muses.
In 1966, the City added a snack bar, kitchen, lobby, ticket office, and meeting room (which became the area’s Seniors’ Room).
Holland suggests the arena served as a “catalyst” for growth within this little village -- with Memorial Park, the relocated library, the Lion’s Club pool, the Don Rowing Club, the Mississauga Canoe Club, and J.C. Saddington Park arriving in short order. It’s now being billed by the local B.I.A., as, “the hippest place in the 905.”
With its unique throwback look, Port Credit Arena has been used in more than a few movies and TV commercials. Featuring a “Quonset hut” design, barrel-vaulted roof, and exposed B.C. fir strappings, it’s an example of 1950s era architecture, rare to Mississauga.
And in a June 17 submission to the City’s Heritage Advisory Committee, it was recommended that Port Credit Arena be considered for Heritage Designation under the Ontario Heritage Act, “for reasons of cultural, architectural, and historical significance.”
“I think it should be a historic site,” Holland adds. “Really, it’s as much a history of Port Credit (over the past) 50 years, as anything else in Mississauga. It plays a big part in a lot of people’s lives.”
And a man who has seen a rink or two, NHL Hall Of Famer and long-time Port Crediter Dick Duff says of this 185x85- foot ice surface surrounded by 690 folded wooden chairs, “It’s a great place to watch a game.”
But for all its charm, the Port Credit Arena has fallen behind the standards of today’s multipad facilities and is earmarked for renovations in 2009.
“If they make any major changes to it, (it would be a shame). Those beams have been up there for 50 years,” Chase comments.
“I know times are changing, but this arena has an awful lot of history and character built into it.”
Courtesy of Manor Magazine, Winter 2009. Story by Mike Beggs. Photography by Steve Uhraney. Published by The Mississauga News.