First City arena was a community collaboration

Michael Dawe

Michael Dawe

December 15, 1925 was a milestone in Red Deer’s history.

That was the date when the Red Deer Arena on Ross St. East officially opened. The arena was the first public building to be constructed in Red Deer for more than a decade. It was also an excellent example of a grass-roots community effort to provide a much-needed sports facility.

Red Deer had an earlier skating rink, located on Morrison (52) St. and Nanton (48) Ave. However, on Feb. 8, 1907, the roof collapsed under a heavy weight of snow.

Part of the building was salvaged for use as a curling rink. However, the construction of a new covered skating and hockey rink was delayed for years. One of the issues was where to put such a facility. For example, a proposal to construct it on the fairgrounds south of Munson (45) St. became very controversial as many considered the site to be too far on the outskirts of town.

The outbreak of the First World War in 1914 brought a decade of hard economic times. During the post-war period, the City often had problems covering its payroll, let alone any new capital projects.

Meanwhile, an extensive rink facility, the Monarch Rink was constructed east of the present City Hall. It had enclosed dressing rooms and several dozen tungsten lights. However, the ice surface was still outdoors.

Since winters are often brutal, hockey games would often have to be postponed, or cancelled, because of frigid temperatures, heavy snows or both.

Finally, in the mid-1920s with the economic hard times finally beginning to ease, the community revived the idea of constructing a covered rink. The proposal got a big boost in early 1925 when the newly formed Rotary Club and Elks Lodge each offered $2,000 towards the cost of the project.

Support in the community quickly grew. The Elks Carnival and Board of Trade picnic at the end of June 1925 both raised considerable amounts of money towards the rink fund.

City Council gave its support by offering a parcel of land, east of the Monarch Rink on Ross St. as a building site. Later, all of the old rink property was acquired for the project.

A public meeting was held in mid-August to press ahead with the plans. A decision was made to create a non-profit, joint stock company to facilitate the fundraising and construction. Shares were sold to the public at $10 apiece.

By mid-September, it was reported that almost $9,500 had already been raised, including $1,000 from two local businessmen. According to the Red Deer Advocate, “There was never a project in Red Deer that was so universally approved of as the covered rink”.

In the first week of October, leveling of the ground on the rink site began. Remembering past experience, the building committee announced that they wanted “a building that will stand and not list or go down under a heavy weight of snow.” Consequently, it was decided to construct a building that was metal clad with a hip roof.

The ice surface was to be 78 by 180 ft. There was to be seating for 1,000 people including a balcony at the north end. There were to be two dressing rooms as well as two hockey clubrooms.

Because of a relatively mild fall, work on the structure quickly progressed. By the beginning of December, plans were made to open the new arena with a grand ice carnival on the evening of Friday, Dec. 12th.