With the Civic Arena closing its doors after 80 years, the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives (GVMA) thought this would be a good opportunity to open up the photo data base to look at the many activities and changes that have taken place in this historic building.
The Vernon Civic Arena was completed in 1938 after the old arena was deemed unsafe to occupy in 1935 by the city engineer, A. E. East.
“Civic arena inspector refuses to permit play in old rink this winter – local teams will be without a home. Sherwood states expenditure of further money is not warranted at present,” reported the Vernon News.
Despite being in the midst of the Great Depression, citizens voted yes in two separate bylaw referendums, in order to borrow the money to build the arena.
Work began in 1937 and used relief workers. According to a 1958 report written by Jack Ferguson, “each team of men worked a week, then relinquished their job so that others could have work.” A noteworthy fact about the construction, according to Ferguson, was that “Charlie Hamilton of Vancouver drafted the plans using his new idea of laminated arches, thus doing away with supporting beams.”
The original building had a façade on the front and back that made the structure look larger than it actually was. By the ‘50s the façade was gone and the building had more of a traditional arena shape for the remainder of its days. Over the past 80 years, the arena has played host to countless hockey games, ice dances, and community skates, but it also acted as a community centre, where banquets, concerts, dances, exhibitions, and even canoe jousting occurred within the building.
The Civic Arena was a central fixture in the life of Vernon for 80 years. However, just because the building is to be torn down does not mean that the stories and memories have to disappear. The GVMA is dedicated to preserving as many stories about Vernon as possible, including this old arena. That includes everything from the great hockey rivalries to the story of the first kiss in the bleachers during a dance.
The GVMA is collecting photographs and stories about the beloved building. Contact the museum at 250-542-3142 if you have something to share.
Speaking of changes, the GVMA has recently made changes to its admission policy. Effective Jan. 1, the museum is charging an admission fee: adults $5; students/seniors $3; children (under 12) $2; family $10 (two adults and up to two children). As always, there is no charge to talk to our collection staff or visit the archives.
Annual museum memberships are also a great value and include free admission among a host of other benefits. Membership rates are $15 for students, $25 seniors, $30 individuals, and $40 families (two adults and up to two children).