VERNON CIVIC ARENA - 3003 37th Ave, Vernon, BC V1T 2X9

Civic Arena

Civic Arena has played host to Vernon history

The Greater Vernon Museum & Archives is collecting photos and stories about the beloved building, which has closed its doors after 80 years

MorningStar Newspaper Feb. 7, 2018 11:30 a.m.

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.

Inside Civic 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 facade on the front and back that made the structure look larger than it actually was. By the '50s the facade 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).

The Vernon Vipers returned to the Civic Arena from their current home Kal Tire Place, to play the Prince George Spruce Kings at Civic Arena, January 6, 2018. This game was to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the first game ever played in the Civic Arena, January 6, 1938, an exhibition contest between the Vancouver Lions and the Spokane Clippers.

Last Game At the Civic Arena

Why the Civic Arena need replacing:

Civic Arena

The Regional District of North Okanagan commissioned the Civic Arena Engineering Assessment Report in order to conduct a comprehensive review of the facility. The report concluded that at almost 80 years of age, many of the facility's operating systems are deteriorating and at risk of imminent failure, and the cost for the required renovations to keep the Civic Arena functional for five years would be $5.6 million. To keep it operational for 10 years with a 179' x 79' size sheet of ice would cost approximately $10.78 million. To upgrade the arena to include a regulation-size 200' x 85' sheet of ice would require $13.88 million. Annual operating costs for the Civic Arena in 2016 are budgeted for $196,706.


October 9, 2018

A candidate running for Vernon Council in the upcoming civic election, Mr. David Deshane, recently posted a video on Facebook making a number of false and incorrect statements related to the Civic Arena. The City of Vernon would like to correct the misinformation.

The RDNO, the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee and Vernon Council followed the lengthy and thorough process to carefully assess the condition of the Civic Arena and the practical decision to move forward with a replacement arena.

Mr. Deshane stated, we were misled about tearing down of Civic Arena, and that they (presumably referencing Council) paid a City Councillor to write a nearly fictitious report condemning the Civic. Coincidently, that same architectural firm received the contract for the new replacement arena. Further, Mr. Deshane stated the public was intentionally mislead to clear the path for the new arena.

Neither Vernon City Council nor the Regional District of North Okanagan mislead the public about the aging condition of the Civic Arena and practical need to replace a building at the end of its useful lifecycle with a modern, efficient facility designed to serve our community and many user groups. Over eight years there have been many studies directed, commissioned and reported in public meetings of the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee (Vernon, Coldstream, Electoral Areas B&C), the Board of Directors of RDNO and Vernon Council.

In January 2014, the RDNO retained Bruce Carscadden Architect Inc. (BCA) and their team of structural, mechanical, electrical and refrigeration engineering consultants to conduct a comprehensive architectural and engineering review and assessment of the Vernon Civic Arena.

The detailed Carscadden Architect Inc. report submitted to GVAC in March 2014, recommended a short term Life Safety and Maintenance investment of $100,000, and further investments over two to five years in the order of $5 to 6 million and numerous recommended actions to extend the useful life beyond five years. Due to the reported condition of the building and the significant investment necessary to maintain the basic ice function the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee recommended that the Civic Arena be decommissioned as an ice facility.

This initiated the process to replace the Civic Arena. A referendum to borrow $13,000,000 was passed by electors in November 2015.

A competitive bid process was initiated in February 2016 to secure a qualified architect to design and manage construction of a replacement arena. Four skilled firms submitted responses to the Request for Proposals. MQN Architects (MQN) was the successful firm selected through a rigorous evaluation process.

Councillor Brian Quiring is a principal in MQN and has consistently publicly declared his interest in MQN, advised Council in public meetings and has excused himself from any related decision-making. MQN has guided a highly successful process to deliver Kal Tire North, the replacement arena, on time and within budget.

Council extensively debated the future use of the Civic Arena, including use as an enclosed shell once the ice surface was removed. Of note, the ice pad has heaved and fractured and has not been used for dry pad sports since 2012. Council directed that Bourcet Engineering and LTA Consultants Inc. be engaged to assess potential use as a shell and determine costs necessary to convert the structure.

Rene Bourcet, P.Eng. reported renovating and repairing the Civic Arena, in my professional opinion, does not make economic sense. Upgrading requires two new wall systems to be added along with extensive repairs to the foundation and roof system. The cost would be much higher than new construction. LTA Consultants Inc. was engaged to estimate probable costs to develop the Civic Arena as a shelled building ready for redevelopment.

LTA Consultants stated our opinion of probable costs estimate develops a total project cost in the range of $11,000,000 to $12,000,000 to undertake the structural repair work and develop the building to an open shelled space, ready for interior improvements and fit-out work. Further, LTA Consultants stated in comparison, it is our opinion that the equivalent costs of a new modern purpose built shelled space, similar to the Civic Arena, or other recreational facilities, would cost in the $8,000,000 to $9,000,000 range.

Based on the professional opinions of independent qualified consultants, Council decided the practical, cost effective direction was to demolish the 80 year old Civic Arena.

These reports, and the discussions of Council, were all held in open public meetings through to November 2017.

Glenn Lloyd Michell passed away December 17, 2020 Glenn's Obituary

Piece of Okanagan history flattened but not forgotten

MITCHELL'S MUSINGS: 'She did good'

May. 10, 2019 6:00 a.m. by Glenn Mitchell

The thing I find striking about the spot where the Vernon Civic Arena used to be mere months ago is how underwhelming it is now.

I do understand that when you take an iconic building that served this community so well for nearly a century and demolish it, you're going to feel a bit of a loss. And that's part of it for sure, but it's also that it physically loomed so large on the landscape and now it's just dirt and maybe a couple of rocks.

You'd never know an arena was once there or could even fit in that spot, which that looks like it could house maybe a Tim Hortons or 7-Eleven tops. I'm always amazed when a building comes down how small the actual footprint was.

Sure, the world's worst parking lot is still there to bring back memories (potholes that could swallow sub-compact cars) and North America's hardest-to-find visitors centre is still standing complete with a sani-station, apparently a bonus for all the RVs that finally find the visitors centre. So that helps mark the spot.

But there's something missing, and I'm not here to rail against the politicians who ultimately decided to kill the Civic, although the fact Penticton, Kelowna and Kamloops still have their original, functioning arenas means someone dropped the puck along the way sometime.

It would be too easy to say it was wrong to flatten the place, not to mention more than moot at this point, as I personally know the challenges and costs of keeping it going (try being the timekeeper in a close playoff game and the power to the box suddenly goes out and you have to remember how much time is left in the game).

But that doesn't mean I can't salute the place and share some memories that attempt to explain the fondness for the ol' girl (is that sexist or no?).

It's funny, I'm sure I wrote an obituary for the Civic some 10 years or so ago in this very space but her time on death row was much longer than anticipated as the governor couldn't quite pull the trigger, until now.

I'm not quite as old as the Civic but I remember many, many highlights with great fondness: the Vernon Essos/Vikings/Canadians/Lakers and players like Tom Serviss, Wayne Dye, Don Murdoch and so many others; the playoff runs that went through places like Weyburn (Red Wings), Saskatchewan; the seats ringing the rink; the concession under the stands where you fought through the smokers to get a hot chocolate; the Boy Scouts jamborees with the 'chuckwagon' races; Tebo's Toddlers; public skating to Revolution by The Beatles on a Saturday afternoon and the green Martian outfit we passed down to wear to the masquerade skate every year.

Then there was watching John Manjak skillfully manoeuvre the Zamboni into the spot under the announcer's booth after clearing the ice; Rienie Holland dutifully and happily manning the scorekeeping/timers box for literally thousands of games over the years; watching my kids learning and enjoying how to play hockey so much better than me three decades earlier; 6 a.m. practices; trying to find the heater that works; April Wine's Stand Back tour; Lakers owner Mel Lis in his corner box for games; overflowing raffle tables for tournaments; parent meetings during practice and Carnival Pee Wee Tournaments.

And don't forget the Midget rep dressing room so we didn't have to transport gear any more; grads; figure skating shows like It's A Small World featuring Murray Mitchell; lacrosse, including a couple of national championships; a Centennial Cup on home ice; 50/50 raffle ice cream buckets; the smell of sweat, wood, ice, spit, popcorn, coffee and pee that combines to spell arena and even he time my dad tested my eyesight by asking me what I could see across the rink that led to me getting glasses (okay it's not all good).

Anyway, you get the idea, because with all these events and memories and you all have your own too go the people you shared them with. A sense of community indeed.

I'm not sure what the city fathers and mothers have planned for this site, in fact I don't think they know yet either. But maybe it would be appropriate to have a plaque(small is fine)saying: "Vernon Civic Arena, 1938-2018, She Did Good."