The Kingston Frontenacs are one of those OHL teams that have been around for a long time, which seems appropriate for a city that is Ontario’s oldest and brimming with history. Originally founded in 1945 as the Victorias, the team eventually became the Canadians, Raiders (for one season), and then the Frontenacs. But what is a Frontenac, exactly?
To determine the origin of the name of the team, we must look at the origin of the city. Founded by the French as Fort Cataraqui in 1673, the settlement was later renamed Fort Frontenac after Count Frontenac, Governor of New France.
The club played at Kingston Memorial Centre, which eventually became an aging barn and failed to attract fans to see the often mediocre Fronts, who have not won a J. Ross Robertson Trophy as Ontario champions, nor have they been in a Memorial Cup.
Finally, in 2008 the City of Kingston opened the shiny new K-Rock Centre, which has since had Canadian Telco giant Rogers’ name appended to it. The arena is often referred to as ‘The Rock’ partially because of its name and partially because of its limestone exterior.
Now, the Frontenacs are managed by former Leaf great and Kingston native Doug Gilmour and the club are icing a competitive and very exciting squad as the fans have returned, this time to a beautiful new arena in a great historic city.
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Most options are fairly standard, but quite tasty and prices are average for the OHL. The Frontenacs somewhat uniquely highlight healthy options ranging from fruit cups to pretzels and hummus to turkey sausages. These are very reasonably priced with the $6 veggie burger the most expensive of these healthy items.
A large size draught Canadian or Coors beer will run you $9, which is not cheap, but not outrageous either. Otherwise, standards are served including poutine, pizza, burgers, sausages, hot dogs, and more. A great option is the Corner Pub in the 100 level concourse which is a great place for a pint before or during the match. Ontario craft brewery Creemore Springs Brewery offers their popular beers here. Also, for fans who purchase club seats, there is a nice lounge with TV screens, comfortable seats, and a well-stocked bar on the 300 concourse.
The Rock is a very classy arena, with high quality construction evident throughout. The arena is much more than just a basic venue, and it feels like it would fit in well in a much larger city than Kingston. The architects did well to incorporate Kingston's great history into the building, with the limestone façade complimenting the architecture of the rest of "The Limestone City." The northeast corner of the rink is highlighted by a sweeping curved glass wall that bends with its street frontage on Place D'Armes and allows for the preservation of some of Fort Frontenac. The base of the old walls of the fort are along Ontario Street and Place D'Armes, greeting visitors to downtown Kingston from over the La Salle Causeway, and they are framed by the large windows from the concourse and suite levels of K-Rock Centre.
The concourses are smartly two-tiered, with the ground level including all pubs and shops and a mezzanine level for quickly circulating fans above the seating bowl. Within the concourses is the impressive Kingston Sports Hall of Fame, where one could spend a considerable amount of time. There are also a very large number of pillars (and suite doors higher up in the arena) showcasing musical acts that have taken place within, and it can sometimes be a bit distracting from the hockey, but also can be quite interesting. The arena's sponsor, K-Rock FM has a working studio in the concourse with glass walls for fans to view the broadcasts. There is also the decently sized Fronts Original shop selling both Frontenacs gears and NHL sweaters, mainly focused on the Maple Leafs.
The arena itself is structured around a single seating bowl with executive club areas and suites above. Banners are against one high wall at the west end of the arena and highlight players from both the Canadians and Frontenacs eras. The disappointingly sparse history of the team is highlighted by the lone East Division champions banner from 1995. The scoreboard is modern and quite good as is the sound, with a good job done to incorporate the traditional organist into the music selection.
One very cool addition to the concourse is the 1886 'Park Nine Baseball' flag, a recovered flag from the amateur baseball and cricket club of Kingston, who played against New York State clubs in the 1880s. The flag now hangs with the Hall of Fame collection and a plaque explains its significance.
The arena is located at the north end of downtown Kingston, an incredibly vibrant and historic area. The city's downtown is full of stunning old buildings, reflecting the city's period as Canada's colonial capital during the early-1800s. Looking out along the harbour, one can see the beautiful Royal Military College as well as the four 'Martello Towers;' miniature forts in the harbour that guarded against American invasion. Kingston's large, domed city hall is the centre of the city, but commerce is largely spread west along Princess Street, a high street that seems as though it can be walked for hours without running out of interesting shops or restaurants.
Pre or postgame dining options abound in Kingston. The core is full of unique restaurants and pubs. Windmills Restaurant on Princess is a relaxing casual fine dining option that I would recommend. Chez Piggy, Grizzly Grill, AquaTerra, and Dox Restaurant (with a great Sunday brunch) are also highly recommended. During the day, Pan Chancho bakery offers a wide selection of breads, loaves, and pies. For a drink after the game, I would recommend Merchant Tap House at the foot of Princess Street for a historic vibe and a good cocktail menu.
If you visit during autumn, check out Queen's University's Golden Gaels football as a unique experience that can help to fill your sports weekend.
Kingston's mediocre performance for so long had hurt attendance numbers and the K-Rock Centre did not debut to overwhelming crowds. However, with the current team being talented and exciting to watch, attendance is back up again to generally over 4 000; not great but not too bad either considering the arena's 5 700 capacity. There can still be empty seats during derby matches against rival Belleville Bulls, which is a bit troubling, however. Still, the fans are very attentive. As with many Ontario markets, they pay close attention to the game and are able to appreciate the details of the game. They are not overly loud with chanting or singing but do make quite a bit of noise at the right moments. Fans are welcoming and will make the experience enjoyable for visitors.
K-Rock Centre is very easy to get to, with Kingston Transit providing good express and local buses past the arena. If driving, there are some good lots within a couple blocks of the arena, with free on-street parking during evening events and on Saturdays. The arena is within walking distance of a number of hotels, and a quick, pretty walk up Ontario Street is a great way to get to the game.
Moving around within the arena is a quite rare (for most arenas) smooth and quick process. Because of the mezzanine level concourse and the spacious lower concourse, crowds rarely become too backed up, even though neither concourse allows for full access all the way round the seating bowl. Washrooms are clean and big enough to deal with the crowds easily.
Getting to Kingston is no problem either. The city is served by VIA Rail's frequent and reliable Corridor service and is situated midway between Toronto and Montréal, 3 hours in either direction. Ottawa is only 2 hours away. Kingston does have an airport with scheduled service from Toronto, and the 401 highway between Toronto and Montréal passes through the north end of town.
A night out at the Frontenacs is great value. Tickets are well-priced as with most of the rest of the OHL, and great seats can be had for under $20. Concessions are also well-priced, and getting to the game is cheap, with free parking often found outside the arena. The Fronts are very exciting right now and the arena is a classy place to enjoy a game. A particularly good deal can be had for university students living in Kingston, who can benefit from season's tickets for just $299, an amazing value.
Extra for the renaming of one block of Barrack Street, south of the arena, to Tragically Hip Way, honouring the iconic Canadian band, who are from Kingston and opened the K-Rock Centre. The Fronts Original shop also sells Tragically Hip jerseys in Frontenacs colours.
Extra point for the incorporation of heritage elements into the building; including limestone and highlighting Fort Frontenac.
Extra point for the impressive Kingston Sports Hall of Fame.
Extra point for the wonderful vibrancy and history of the city surrounding the arena. One could return year after year and not run out of dining options, museums, or historic sites to enjoy alongside a Frontenacs game.
Kingston is a great city to visit, with a wealth of touristic options. Rogers K-Rock Centre is also one of the classiest arenas in the OHL and a visit feels like it is worth much more than it actually will cost. The Frontenacs are very exciting at the moment and a visit to the Limestone City to see this long-running Ontario hockey club should certainly be on the list for hockey fans.
It is undeniable that the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL have one of the more unique names in sport. Even for those Canadians who have sat through hours and hours of history class in middle school and high school, the name Frontenac may ring a bell, but does not quite have a specific place in memory. In 1952, the Kingston Victorias of the OHA were renamed the Kingston Frontenacs, after Count Louis de Buade de Frontenac, the Governor General of New France from 1672 to 1682. During his time as the head of the French colony, Frontenac supported the fur trade by establishing Fort Frontenac on what is now known as Kingston, Ontario. Kingston was also the home of Canada's first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald.
The Frontenacs are one of those OHL franchises that have been around forever, but have had relatively little success. Also being known as the Victorias, the Canadians, and the Raiders during their tenure in the OHA and OHL, the Frontenacs have not won a J. Ross Robertson Cup as Ontario Champions in the modern era, or made an appearance in the Memorial Cup. In fact, the Frontenacs were dangerously close to leaving Kingston, until city council approved the building of a new downtown arena, which opened in 2008 and secured the future on the Fronts in the Limestone City. Naming rights for the new arena were purchased by local radio station K-Rock 105.7, and the K-Rock Centre was born.
With the future of the OHL secure in Kingston, only time will tell if the owners, the Springer family, and current General Manager, and Kingston native, Doug Gilmour, can do what no one else has been able to do … bring a winner to town.
Despite some lack of success on the ice, the K-Rock Centre makes up for it. The Frontenacs play in one of the leagues most beautiful arenas with its limestone exterior, and nicely lit interior.
You have to assume that its only a matter of time before this facility hosts a Memorial Cup, but it may take time for that to happen. This is one of the best facilities to catch a game, and maybe one day the fans in Kingston will be rewarded with a great team to go with the Arena.
34 Clarence St
Kingston, ON K7L 1W9
369 King St East
Kingston, ON K7K 2Y1
44 Princess St
Kingston, ON K7L 5P7
Kingston, ON K7K 1Z7
184 Princess St
Kingston, ON K7L 1B1
395 Princess St
Kingston, ON K7L 1B9
1 Johnson St
Kingston, ON K7L 5H7
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