The Swift Current Broncos began operations in 1967 when the Centennial Civic Centre opened its doors as part of the many celebrations that took place around Canada to commemorate the nation’s 100th birthday.
Due to financial issues, the Broncos moved to Lethbridge in 1974 and remained there until 1986 when they were bought and returned to their original home in Swift Current.
While the Broncos were in Lethbridge, the Civic Centre suffered some hard times, including a 1976 wind storm that tore the building open on both ends, requiring major repairs.
More recently, the Centennial Civic Centre received a $14 million face lift and expansion in 2007-08 and was rebranded the Credit Union i-plex. The additions on the east and west ends almost doubled the square footage of the facility, creating a curling rink, increasing seating capacity around the hockey rink and adding a number of new bells and whistles to the facility to bring it into the 21st century.
The Broncos have had some highs and lows since returning to Swift Current. In 1986, their first year back, there was a tragic bus crash that killed four of the players. Two years later, in 1989, they had a high point, winning the Memorial Cup. But that high point was later brought low again by the revelation of sexual abuse charges against Broncos head coach Graham James, who spent three years in prison due to his actions against members of his team.
The Memorial Cup win and the players lost in the 1986 crash are both honored by banners hanging from the rafters, reminding fans of the good times and the bad. And these days it is more good than bad, with the Broncos solidly in the WHL Eastern Conference playoff picture the last few years, giving the fans plenty to cheer about.
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When you walk into the Credit Union i-plex's main entrance, on the southwest corner of the arena, you'll find yourself in the main arena lobby. To your right is the Stable, the team's store. Straight ahead is the rink itself, and to your left is the main concession stand.
All the usual arena options are here: potato chips, fries, poutine (fries with gravy and cheese curds), burgers, candy, and bottled pop. The prices, relative to larger venues, are quite reasonable, with the single burger selling for $4.50 and a bottle of your favorite Coke product for $2.75. The chicken fingers ($6) also come highly recommended.
There is a second concession on the east end of the stands with the same selection, so fans don't have to make the trek all the way across the building to get their munchies.
In addition, there are also three locations around the stadium providing beer and hi-ball options for the adult audience. Two locations are to the north and south of the east concessions; one is in the main lobby, adjacent to the main concessions.
In a small facility like the Credit Union i-plex, it doesn't take a lot of people to get the energy up in the place. A couple thousand people, many with cowbells, can get the place rocking in no time at all.
What I have typically found in junior hockey arenas is that the crowds are usually fairly subdued until something important happens, but when it does, things get boisterous in a hurry, showing the fans to be engaged in the action.
With the game viewable from standing room in the main lobby right at ice level, audience members downstairs almost feel like they're right in the game, just inches from the play. And even the worst seats in the main viewing bowl are only 11 rows back from the ice, so there isn't a bad seat in the house.
As I've observed in many WHL rinks, there is also a row of standing-only spots marked out around the perimeter of the seating bowl in addition to the end boards in the lobby area. Many fans apparently prefer to stand to watch the game and some even bring their own stool for use in their designated standing location.
The building itself is tidy and clean throughout, making for a pleasant experience.
All of this adds up to a positive environment to take in a game.
The Credit Union i-plex is located on the southeast corner of Swift Current, right on the edge of town. The neighborhood to the north and west is residential while to the south and east are essentially prairie farmland.
Bottom line is that the immediate area provides absolutely no pre or post-entertainment or dining options.
The good news is that you're not too far away from anything in Speedy Creek (as Swift Current is sometimes known). The i-plex is only a couple kilometers south of the Trans-Canada Highway and along that highway you'll find the bulk of the commercial district for the city. Along the north and south service roads you'll find all the typical franchise restaurants you might expect in a city, plus a couple mom-and-pop places as well.
Word is that the Original Joe's, at 935 Central Ave. N., adjacent to the west end of South Service Road, is the place to go after games, with the local Boston Pizza (1601 North Service Rd. E) a close second.
Swift Current is a small city of just over 15,000 people. To fill the Credit Union i-plex's seats to capacity, they need to draw about 20 percent of the city's population. The fact that they routinely flirt with sellouts over the course of any given season tells you how dedicated the residents of Swift Current are to their team.
As a result, the fans in the stands at Broncos games are well informed about the team, the players, and the sport. Many fans can be seen in their Broncos gear and they are ready to have some fun. They come to cheer their boys on to victory and they express their displeasure when things don't go their way. Overall, they are very fun to be around and help to create a great atmosphere for hockey.
Situated on the corner of Chaplin St. and Memorial Dr., the Credit Union i-plex is easy to get to from anywhere in Speedy Creek. You're only a couple kilometers east of downtown and all of the surrounding residential communities are very close by.
There appears to be ample parking in the i-plex parking lot and the parking is free, saving you a couple extra bucks to spend on Broncos merchandise.
After the game, the lot clears out quickly. I was able to get back on the street and on my way in well under 10 minutes.
Inside the building, the main lobby appears to have plenty of space for the crowd in between periods and the concessions are queued up effectively to keep them from interfering with foot traffic. Leaving the lobby, you'll go up stairs to the top of the stands to make your way to your seat. The upper corridor is a little tight along the sides, but opens back up at the ends behind the luxury boxes.
Game day tickets are $18 for adults, $9.25 for students (13-18 years old) and $7.25 for children. For such a bargain price, the opportunity to check out the next generation of hockey superstars before they become famous is a bargain.
The product on the ice is excellent, presented in a pleasant environment, and definitely worth the money.
The Broncos mascot, Charlie Horse, participates in a number of on-ice ceremonies and give-aways and also makes his way through the stands to entertain the kiddies throughout the game.
Considering the modest size of the arena, the scoreboard is impressively large, with quality monitors on all four sides, providing a live action feed of the game as well as replays of the big moments.
There are a number of points of interest through the arena and lobby harkening back to times past. The Broncos' championship banners, including the 1989 Memorial Cup banner, hang proudly from the center spine of the rink. There is also a banner in tribute to the four players killed in the 1986 bus crash. The four-leaf clover logo displayed on the banner, with the jersey number of one of the players on each lobe of the clover, can also be found on the shoulder of the Broncos uniform.
In the lobby, to the immediate left of the main entrance, you'll find the Swift Current Broncos Hall of Fame display, featuring the names and faces of all the key contributors to the Broncos legacy, such as former NHLers Brian Trottier, Dave "Tiger" Williams, and Joe Sakic.
On the far side of the concession stand, there is another tribute to the fallen four from 1986. A poster-sized memorial featuring Broncos jerseys with the players numbers, names and photos again reminds fans of that dark day in December, 1986 when the team tragically lost four of its own.
The team's store, The Stable, is located just to the right of the main entrance. Everything Broncos can be purchased here, from jerseys to hats to pucks to keychains. And for fans who love their cowbells, there are two different sizes of cowbell to choose from.
If you're looking for something to do prior to the game, the Saskatchewan Hockey Hall of Fame is located on the upper floor of the i-plex with an entrance on the northwest corner of the building for the price of a donation. Have a walk through and see displays about great Saskatchewan hockey figures like Gordie Howe, Glenn Hall, Ed Chynoweth, and Fred Sasakamoose.
Something else I always appreciate seeing is recycling bins and the i-plex has them placed throughout the arena.
The Credit Union i-plex is approaching its 50th birthday but the recent updates have given the building a more modern look and feel. The interior design still has a distinctly small-town feel while maintaining some of the more upscale features many fans have come to expect in stadiums.
There have been ups and downs in Broncos history and the arena has not shied away from paying tribute to both, giving the building a good sense of its place in junior hockey history.
In 1967, Canada celebrated its Centennial and the town of Swift Current, Saskatchewan marked the occasion by building the Centennial Civic Centre to house a new Western Canada Hockey League franchise, the Swift Current Broncos. The Broncos left town for twelve years in 1974 and during that time the rink suffered through a number of problems, including severe damage from a windstorm that resulted in several renovations.
The Broncos returned to the Civic Centre in 1986, a year marred by tragedy when their team bus crashed when leaving town on a road trip, killing four players. The team finished the season and won the Memorial Cup two years later, but the accident still hangs over the town and the rink. There is a memorial banner inside the rink as well as a plaque in the lobby, and the team jersey sports a patch with a four-leaf clover enclosing the four numbers of the deceased.
In 2006, the city began extensive renovations on the venue, including an increase in capacity, new seats, corporate boxes, and an additional skating rink and curling rink among other changes. At this time the rink was redubbed the Credit Union i-plex. Those renovations turned the rink into one of the better stops in today’s WHL, with great sightlines and loud fans making for a memorable visit.
935 Central Ave N
Swift Current, SK S9H 3V3
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