The good news is that Vernon will get a replacement ice sheet for the ancient Civic Arena. Excellent. Well done voters! The less exciting news is that we have to cross our fingers for at least three more years that the nearly 80-year-old Civic can withstand the aging process and still be safely used.
Voters successfully passed a referendum to borrow $13 million and twin Kal Tire Place because the Civic is dying a slow death. Even though the result was positive, user groups will have to wait until 2018 before the twinning is completed.
Thus, the Civic is needed.
It bothered me the last three years, attending minor hockey tournaments with my son in Kelowna and Penticton, to see how those cities looked after their ancient Memorial arenas.
Then we’d come back to Vernon to a Civic Arena parking lot that looks like a war zone; where chairs in the concessions are ripped; where maybe the men’s room is open and working, or maybe it isn’t.
The Civic Arena is the oldest such facility in the Okanagan, older than both Kelowna and Penticton Memorial Arenas, but not as old as the 106-year-old Beairsto School, which is still operating, still thriving, and looking great in the middle of town.
Thousands of Vernonites have many stories and memories about the Civic. Let me share a few of mine.
Many of us learned to skate at the Civic through the great program called Tebo’s Toddlers, ran by Evelyn Tebo. I am a Tebo’s Toddlers graduate.
My dad took me to Vernon Essos and Vernon Vikings hockey games, and Vernon Tigers lacrosse games at the Civic in the days before the arena had glass around the boards or a digital score clock.
The clock in the arena, where the current digital one exists, used to have glass bulbs that would light up and you’d have to count the number of lit bulbs to figure out the score. The clock was an actual clock complete with minute and second hands.
It was at the Civic concession on the west side of the building underneath the Zamboni entrance where my father introduced me to the wonderful culinary delight known as onion rings.
The concession on the east side, behind the players’ benches, was where I would get Coke for my brother and his friends as we watched the old North Okanagan Hockey League on Sunday nights, featuring such legendary teams as the Grindrod Elks and the Head of the Lake Stampeders.
Three Vernon teams won Canadian championships in the Civic Arena: the 1956 Vernon Canadians senior hockey team won the Allan Cup; the 1978 Tigers won the third of three straight Canadian Senior B lacrosse titles; and the Vernon Lakers won the 1990 Centennial Cup Junior A hockey title. All three in front of overflowing crowds on the hard bench seats at the Civic.
My own boy played his first-ever legitimate game of minor hockey in the Civic. He, as a goalie, gave up seven goals in his half of an exhibition game. Instead of tears, he came out beaming, saying it was the best game he had played in his life.
The world’s greatest basketball team, the legendary Harlem Globetrotters, played a game at the Civic in the late 1970s.
Canadian rock icons April Wine played a concert at the Civic (though I’m told the sound wasn’t great. Some things never change. The sound has never been great in there).
My high school graduation ceremony was held on a sweltering hot June evening in the even more sweltering Civic.
The City of Armstrong raised its Hassen Arena from the dead to the point where it’s now in regular use year-round for all kinds of non-ice activities. Is the same potential there for the Civic?
I guess we’ll find out in three years.