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Official Review by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
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.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Food options at the K-Rock Centre are pretty basic. You will basically find your typical arena concessions which include hot dogs, popcorn, pretzels, burgers, sausage, fries, cotton candy and soda. Coca-Cola products are available as far as soft drinks go. You can get either fountain or bottle versions. Coors Light and Molson Canadian are available in the beer market. Prices are okay, but you will not find anything original here. The quality is pretty good as well.
The K-Rock Centre is a nice looking arena. It is a vast improvement from the old Kingston Memorial Centre, and no doubt saved the franchise. However, it seems at times that it is really brand new, and there is not a ton of atmosphere here. With K-Rock 105.7 providing the major sponsorship to the arena, the musical theme is felt throughout the concourse, more so than the hockey theme. The pillars through the concourse feature musical and comedy acts that have graced the K-Rock Centre over the years. Many of the pillars are autographed by the acts, which is a nice touch. There is also a working studio in the K-Rock Centre for the radio station, which was not in use during my most recent visit.
The seating bowl in the K-Rock Centre is a single bowl, with luxury boxes above. The videoboard is excellent and used well. There were technical difficulties on gameday, and the audio was not good, but the videoboard was used to inform and apologize for the technical difficulties.
Above the ice surface are the honoured numbers of former players Mike O'Connell, Brad Rhieness, Ken Linseman, Tony McKegney, David Ling, Mike Zigomanis, and Keli Corpse. The Frontenacs have done a good job discerning the honoured numbers between both the Canadians and Frontenacs eras. Also above the ice you will find the lone 1995 East Division Champion banner, which is more sad than anything else for a franchise of this duration. Finally, there is a banner honouring the 2011 Hockey Hall of Fame induction of General Manager, and Kingston native, Doug Gilmour.
The arena is actually built on the original site of Fort Frontenac, and the northeast corner of the lot features some ruins from the original fort. Also a neat feature is the naming of the street at the south end of the K-Rock Centre after legendary Kingston band The Tragically Hip. One of the pillars in the K-Rock Centre aptly features Gordon Downie of the Hip, who were the very first act to play at the Rock.
Downtown Kingston is vibrant and absolutely fantastic. Right near the waterfront, and filled with shops, downtown Kingston is definitely a tourist destination in the summer months. With Queen's University not too far away, Kingston also features some of those eclectic and unique destinations that you would find in any college town. There are a plethora of options for pre and post game fare throughout downtown, so there is no worry for not having a place to go outside of game time.
The K-Rock Centre is directly across the road from the current Fort Frontenac, and across the bay from the Royal Military College of Canada. You can find the ferry to Wolfs Island right across the street as well.
As far as places to eat, there are a TON of options. There is a Lone Star Grill that was built into an old fire station, and the Jack Astor's and Milestones are in unique buildings as well. Those are safe options for those who dig the big chains, but there are a ton of unique options as well. Some options include River Mill Restaurant, The Toucan, Sir John's Public House, Pan Chancho Bakery, Peter's Place, Red House, Kingston Brewing Company, and Morrison's Restaurant. We went with Chez Piggy, which was fantastic.
Years of mediocre and below average teams have hurt the Frontenacs at the box office. The Fronts average fewer than 3,000 fans per game, which is a disappointment in light of the new building. It is fair to say that the new building has not been a boon on hockey attendance. Those fans in attendance are knowledgeable and make some noise. Kingston fans enjoy their cowbells as well. However, until a stronger commitment to the team is made by the community in the form of fans in attendance, only an average mark can be given.
The K-Rock Centre is located at the corner of Tragically Hip Way (Barrack Street) and Ontario Street. Although Ontario Street is also Highway 2, the K-Rock Centre is located near the waterfront, and quite far from Highway 401, Ontario's major East-West highway. A trip from the 401 down Princess Street can take some time if there is traffic. Around the K-Rock Centre there is plenty of parking, and everything is within walking distance. Inside, the concourses and washrooms offer plenty of room.
As with other OHL experiences, there is great value received by the consumer in Kingston. Tickets for the Frontenacs are under $20, and kids tickets are around $10. Parking usually runs $5, and concession prices are decent. The opportunity to take in this fantastic area of the city of Kingston is also a huge bonus. All of this equals a great day/night out for not a huge hit on your wallet.
An extra mark for all of the original restaurant options in the area. You could come back for seasons and seasons and not get bored.
An extra mark for the military heritage and history in the City of Kingston.
An extra mark for honouring the Tragically Hip.
Although the Frontenacs have not seen a huge amount of success in their tenure in the OHL, Kingston remains a key destination for any sports traveller who wants to experience more than just the game. With the future of the Fronts cemented in Kingston and Doug Gilmour steering the ship, hopes are strong for a future Frontenacs team that has seen success like no other.
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34 Clarence St
Kingston, ON K7L 1W9
369 King St East
Kingston, ON K7K 2Y1
44 Princess St
Kingston, ON K7L 5P7
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