You’ve got to wonder how many people realized, when “Ice for Kids” first started their crusade for a second indoor ice surface here in Fort Frances, that part of the price tag would be the loss of Memorial Arena.
But that’s exactly what is in the works now that town council has agreed to go ahead with a two-rink concept (one North American sized, the other Olympic sized) on the arena field adjacent to the Sportsplex.
Now before people get into an uproar over the loss of Memorial Arena, coming so quickly on the heels of the soon-to-be-extinct Fort Frances High School on First Street East, it’s important to realize it is, well, an aging arena. And while some may lament that a building not even 50 years old is ready for the wrecking ball, it is clear that it’s reached a stage where renovations are more costly than they’re worth.
(All the more galling when one remembers the renovations needed to ensure the arena met fire code regulations in the wake of 3,000 people jammed inside to watch our Muskies strike all-Ontario gold on that fateful April Fool’s night eight years ago).
Yes, Memorial Arena does hold a lot of great memories. The Muskie victory in 1989 certainly is still fresh in our minds, but many people here also remember the Fort Frances Canadians winning the Allan Cup there 45 years ago as if it was only yesterday.
And really, who can’t think of the ol’ place without imagining “Svet” Wowchuk still holding down the fort.
Fortunately, those memories, and countless others being carried around by players and fans and figure skaters, won’t be swept away when the building goes. The Canadians will still have the Allan Cup; the Muskies their all-Ontario gold.
But one more thing also must live on when Memorial Arena is torn down—its name. Town CAO Bill Naturkach apparently has been charged with looking into its historical significance, or something along those lines, but he need not even bother. Naming the new two-rink complex anything other than Memorial Arena and those behind the move might as well start running out of town right now.
The furor will make the “multi-use” debate, not to mention the current town bus kerfuffle, look like sandbox spats between pre-schoolers. Surely, we’ve also learned our lesson from that disgraceful attempt a few years back to unceremoniously erase Sister Kennedy’s name from the seniors’ centre here.
With each passing Nov. 11, we seem to have a harder and harder time remembering the sacrifices of our war veterans. The very thought of possibly having the name of an arena built in their honour stricken from Fort Frances forever is reprehensible.
Like residents did half a century ago, people again have rallied around the cause to expand and enhance our indoor ice facilities. But while some may gripe about the loss of the old arena, not to mention a 350-seat auditorium and the arena ball diamond, or about the site for the new complex, what cannot—and must not—be up for debate is its name.
Memorial Arena, at least the original version, may not last much longer but its name has to live on—for the sake of our war vets, and the very pride of Fort Frances.
Let’s hope no one is dumb enough to think otherwise.