In 1994, future NHL Hall of Famer Dino Ciccarelli and his brothers bought the struggling Newmarket Royals with the intention of moving the team to their hometown of Sarnia, Ontario. Part of the deal for the Ciccarellis was an agreement with the City of Sarnia to build a new 5,000 seat arena that would seal the deal for the transfer of the franchise. Four years later, the Sarnia Sports and Entertainment Centre opened its doors and the newly minted Sarnia Sting found their permanent home. With naming rights being sold to the Royal Bank of Canada, the RBC Centre was christened. RBC Centre North, that is! (notice the R-E in Centre).
Located on the campus of Lambton College, the RBC Centre has been home to the moderate success of the Sting. The biggest star to don a Sting jersey remains current Tampa Bay Lightning phenom, and 1st overall draft pick, Steven Stamkos. However, not even Stamkos and his brilliant junior career could bring the Sting that elusive first OHL title, or trip to the Memorial Cup. All that could change however, as the Sting are once again housing an expected first overall draft pick with Nail Yakupov.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Your typical arena fare will be found at one of the four, corner concession stands. Fries, poutine, sausages, hot dogs, popcorn, pizza and soda are all available here. Prices are reasonable, but not great. Soda goes for $3 per bottle, and hot dogs are $3.65 a piece. The Coors Light bar serves Coors Light and Rickard's Red for just over $5 per draught. If you are looking for more of a dining experience, then you may try Coyote Jack's Grill, which is a sit-down tap and grill behind the seating bowl on one side.
The RBC Centre is a similar structure to the Sleeman Centre, home of the Guelph Storm, and many other junior hockey arenas. There is nothing in the way of a entry or an atrium. The entrances spill right into the main concourse. The concourse is open and above the seating bowl. This is good and allows the opportunity to see the game even when you are up at the concession stands. Unfortunately, the ceiling above the concourses is metal and features spray on insulation, which gives it a dirty look.
The sight-lines are good in the seating bowl, and at the top of the seating bowl there are ample railings for standing room, which is a junior hockey staple. The scoreboard is above average for junior facilities. Above the seating bowl there are three banners honouring former players. What is unique about this is that the Sting are not honouring players for their accomplishments with the OHL team, but they are honouring players for winning gold at the World Junior Hockey Championships. The Sting have honoured Canadians Trevor Letowski and Steven Stamkos as well as American Danny Fritsche. There is also a banner honouring OMHA product, and legendary NHL referee Kerry Fraser who hails from the Sarnia area. The Sting have honoured players from their past, but they have done so with medium-sized posters hung above the concourse. Players such as Steven Stamkos and Mike Van Ryn have been honoured in this fashion. The seating bowl also features the Sting's lone Division championship banner.
The game production is what you would expect for a junior experience. A mix of traditional organ and modern music is what you will hear. The one unique piece of the experience is after a Sting goal, when the music and cheering has finished, the PA will blast two words throughout the arena. "Yuup, Yuup!" is what you will hear, and all of the fans will respond. The Sting have taken it to the next level, as Yuup, Yuup t-shirts are sold in the team store, and they can be found on patrons all over the RBC Centre.
Just outside of Lambton College is London Road. On this major street you will find many options for pre and post game meals. You will find your typical Southern Ontario chains here including Crabby Joe's, Swiss Chalet, Burger King, Harvey's, East Side Mario's and others. Although they are not unique, they are definitely safe choices as you will know what to expect. For something a little different, you may want to try the Canton Restaurant or Norm's Pub and Grill.
The Sting have averaged between 2,800 and 3,700 fans over the past several seasons. This ranks in the middle of the OHL teams, but remains fairly significantly below capacity. They are typical Southern Ontario fans who are pretty quiet throughout the game, but get up for a goal or a fight.
The RBC Centre is located on the campus of Lambton College. The campus is practically at the junction of highways 40 and 402. A few short kilometers further west on the 402 and you will reach the Bluewater Bridge, which takes you to Port Huron, Michigan and the northern suburbs of Detroit. Getting to the RBC Centre is very simple, and there is plenty of parking available.
Parking is free, which is always great. Marks drop off slightly because of the crowded entrance. Since there is no real concourse, the entrance from the outside opens into the walkways behind the seating bowl. In a poor design feature, rather than opening in a corner where there is a bit more room, the entrance is at one of the straightaways, and people tend to crowd there, making movement a challenge.
Tickets for a Sting game will run $18 for an adult, with discounts for seniors, students, and children. This is about what one would expect for an OHL game. Parking is free and concession prices are okay. Once again, the OHL provides a great product, and great value for your dollar. This is especially true when you consider that you may be seeing the next great NHL star in Nail Yakupov.
Yuuup, Yuuup! (love that).
An extra mark for honoring the greats who have played for the Sting in their short history.
A trip through the OHL is not complete without a stop in Sarnia. The Sting have shown success at the gates and in the rafters in their short existence. Their penchant for producing top notch NHL talent can't be ignored, and is worth the trip just on its own. So if the question of whether or not to catch the Sting in Sarnia arises, the answer is clear .... Yuuup, Yuuup!
The free parking is excellent and the enclosed team store in one corner of the arena was great. I like that the concourse is a ring above the seating bowl and that you could always look down onto the ice to see the action. At the same time, the concourse was so crowded that it took several minutes to get from one side of the arena to the other; it's just not wide enough to accommodate people visiting the concessions/restrooms and people standing to view the game from the railing.
1450 London Rd
Sarnia, ON N7S 1P7
1407 London Rd
Sarnia, ON N7V 2N5
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