In the Arena
Mention the word arena, and it is likely to evoke memories of long hours spent at hockey or skating practice, or perhaps of the first circus performance you ever attended. The Lethbridge Arena, built in 1922 had the distinction of being the first indoor rink in Lethbridge. It had homemade ice for memorable hockey teams such as the Lethbridge Maple Leafs (1936-1949), Lethbridge Native Sons (1946-1948), and The Sugar Kings (1966-1973).
The old wooden structure was located on the corner property of 12th Street A and 2 Avenue South, and had both natural and artificial ice during its history. Individuals owned the arena through the 1930s and 1940s. The City took over operations in 1959, and eventually purchased it in 1963.
Major renovations took place in 1965 and included a new front, concessions, washrooms, and paint job. Concrete bleachers, dressing rooms, and updated concessions were also added. Its seating capacity of 2400 could accommodate other events such as the Ice Follies, wrestling matches, dances, stage shows, carnivals and the Legion Band Festival.
Unfortunately, what had been home to sports in Lethbridge for 49 years was gone in 90 minutes after a fire broke out March 13, 1972. A hockey game between the Sugar Kings and the Edmonton Maple Leafs was in the 3rd period when the alarm sounded — the players and the 1800 fans who were watching the game were able to exit the building in an orderly fashion.
Following the fire, the arena was not rebuilt but other sports facilities filled the gap, including the existing Civic Centre on 6 Avenue South (built in 1950) and Adams Ice Centre in north Lethbridge (1960), followed by the Sportsplex (now Enmax Centre) in 1974, the Henderson Arena of circa 1975, and the Nicholas Sheran Arena in west Lethbridge, in 1985.
A Maple Leafs hockey sweater from 1950, donated to the Galt Museum & Archives in 1991 by Don McLean on behalf of the Maple Leaf members, is currently on display in “Treasures & Curiosities: The Sequel” until January 11. It was selected by Garrett McAlister, a young volunteer at the Galt, who “chose this hockey jersey because I play hockey and it is a cool jersey.” For more information, visit www.galtmuseum.com.