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Memories of the Oshawa Arena

archivistJennifer WeymarkBy Jennifer Weymark/Archivist

A recent photograph donation to the archival collection has brought to mind an important event in Oshawa’s history: the Oshawa Arena fire.

The first arena in Oshawa, the Bradley Arena, opened in 1910. The arena was located on Richmond Street and was owned and operated by the Bradley brothers. The arena was a popular spot for Oshawa residents to play hockey, ice skate, rollerskate and enjoy boxing matches. Unfortunately, the arena burned to the ground in the early hours of June 19, 1928.

Oshawa was without an arena for a little more than a year before the Hambly brothers, along with R.S. McLaughlin, Paul Clark and the Ontario Hockey Association, erected a new, and much needed, state of the art arena. Work on the building began in October 1929 and was completed in January 1930.

The grand opening of the arena, located at 140 King St. W., was on Jan. 9, 1930. Tickets to the event were sold out. The arena had seating for 3,750 with additional space for 1,250 in the standing area. It was, at the time, the largest arena in Canada, measuring 141 feet by 256 feet and used the most modern equipment. A machine that maintained a constant temperature controlled the ice surface. This was the second largest indoor ice surface in Ontario at the time, measuring 85 feet by 194 feet.

Although the size of the arena was quite impressive, it was the unique roof that really made the building different. The specially designed roof allowed all spectators an unobstructed view of the ice surface, with no pillars or posts in the way. This feature was made possible by a new type of roofing technology called Lamella. The roof was upheld by curved arches, which did not block the spectators view, rather than pillars. The arena offered other luxuries such as lavish change rooms with showers and baths, refreshment stands and a new high tech loudspeaker system.

Unfortunately, this new arena met the same fate as the Bradley arena as it was destroyed by fire on Sept. 15, 1953. In the space of an hour, the entire arena was engulfed in flames. The fire had advanced so rapidly in the early stages that firefighters were unable to stop its progress until the entire building was destroyed. The estimated loss was about $350,000, which was only partially covered by insurance.

Lost in the fire was all of the equipment of the Oshawa Generals Junior “A” team, all of the equipment of the Smith Truckers Senior OHA team, equipment from the Oshawa Minor Hockey Association, as well as sound equipment, lounge furnishings and carnival costuming owned by the Oshawa Skating Club. Once these losses had been tallied, the Oshawa Daily Times estimated the total loss to be around $500,000.

The destruction of the arena was a severe blow to the city. Today, the City of Oshawa operates three arenas with seven pads of ice, two of which are available year round.