Sun Life Financial Arena at Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex (map it)
101 Father David Bauer Dr.
Waterloo, ON N2L 3C5
Year Opened: 1993
There are no tickets available at this time.
An underappreciated gem, OUA (Ontario University Athletics) hockey offers fans a high-quality hockey product on the ice without all of the shenanigans that can come with professional and junior hockey. University hockey offers a fan friendly environment that is still hard-hitting, but lacks the senseless fighting. One of the solid programs in the OUA is the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks.
Established in 1922, the Laurier Golden Hawks began their hockey existence as Waterloo Lutheran. They achieved their most success after changing their name to honour Canada’s seventh Prime Minister. The Hawks have competed for the University Cup as U-Sports National Champions a number of times, but have yet to bring home the ultimate prize. They have taken home the Queen’s Cup as OUA conference champions in 1983, 1989 and 1990 and been the runner-up a number of times also.
The Hawks began playing hockey in the old Waterloo Memorial Arena. Structural issues forced the City of Waterloo to shut down the venerable old barn. For a period of time, the majority of the arena was replaced with a big inflatable bubble with only the front facade remaining. This was of course a temporary solution and plans were drawn up to build a new recreation centre complete with an Olympic sized ice surface and swimming complex. The old site of the Memorial Arena would become the home of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics and the new Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex was completed nearby. The arena inside the City of Waterloo owned rec centre is the Sun Life Financial Arena, named for corporate sponsor Sun Life, which has a very strong local presence in Kitchener-Waterloo.
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".
Compared to many hockey venues in the OUA, Sun Life Financial Arena has pretty good concessions. There are two main spots to check for something to eat. On the main floor, outside of the hockey arena, there is the Benchwarmer cafe. Burgers, both beef and vegetarian, hot dogs ($5.99), chicken wraps, chicken fingers, pulled pork sandwiches and back bacon sandwiches are all on the menu. Add to that fries and a couple different varieties of poutine and the selection may be the best in the conference. Upstairs, in the arena, the selection is smaller but does include cheese sticks, deep fried pickles, popcorn ($2.99/$4.99) and other confections.
Pepsi products are available in cans or bottles ($0.99/$1.99). Coffee, tea, hot chocolate, chocolate milk and cappuccino are also available. Fans can also grab a Coors Light or Molson Canadian if they wish, that must be consumed in a designated area and not in the seating bowl.
The exterior of the recreation complex is nice enough. Not spectacular, but not ugly either. The complex is covered with light siding and green trim and looks fine. Upon entering the complex, the swimming pool will be on the right and the Sun Life Financial Arena will be on the left. The entry Lyle Hallman Lobby is large and spacious and offers a great spot to meet people. Heading up the stairs to the entry of the arena sends you through the ticket entry and into a colder world as the change in temperature is noticeable. The lobby also has a rather unique piece of art entitled "Etched in Memory" which is worth a quick study. Travelling past the arena and pool entries, through the lower concourse, will take fans to an area that is seldom seen from the main entrance. The walls at the back end of the Rec Complex feature a number of murals and artifacts honouring those that paid the ultimate sacrifice in armed conflicts. Military flags hang and it is a spot that is tucked away but should have more attention brought to it.
Inside the arena, patrons will notice the seating bowl is surrounded by a 4 lane track that serves as the concourse. The track is behind the last row of the seating bowl. The ice is in a north-south configuration and Olympic sized. At the north end of the arena is the original sign from the Waterloo Memorial Arena. Beneath that is the Waterloo Hockey Hall of Fame which includes former NHL players Don Beaupre and Steven Rice along with hockey legend Father David Bauer, whom the street that the Recreation Complex is located, is named after. A member of that Hall of Fame is Wayne Gowing, former head coach of the Golden Hawks for 25 years. There is also a Laurier banner on the north wall honouring Gowing and his OUA hockey achievements. Above the ice, on the northern side is a banner honouring the 3 Golden Hawk teams that have won the Queen's Cup. There is also a banner commemorating the Golden Hawks Women's Hockey team accomplishments. The Golden Hawks share the arena with the Junior B, Waterloo Siskens who have a number of banners hanging from the rafters honouring their accomplishments. At the south end of the arena is a simple score clock similar to the one that hangs above centre ice.
The game is run almost exclusively by students. Promotions are run by the students, which include the playlist for songs during the game. At times the volume level is a bit too high. Chuck-a-puck as well as the fan shootout are staples at Golden Hawk games. The Golden Hawks' public address announcer does a great job of adding some flare to the game. Walking around the track and getting a little exercise during the intermissions is a popular activity among fans in what is a fairly unique practice.
The Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex is located a mere blocks from Uptown Waterloo, which is a great spot to be.
If you head to King Street in Waterloo you have a whole host of choices for pre and postgame food. King Street is full of options and is the hub of Waterloo. Some options in the immediate area include the Duke of Wellington, The Works Gourmet Burger Bistro, Beertown Public House, Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria, Bauer Kitchen, Jane Bond and the Huether Hotel. If you are looking for a bit more of the university crowd, keep heading north on King Street to Morty's Pub or Ethel's Lounge.
There are a few other options for entertainment in the area. The fall months see the Bavarian Festival, Oktoberfest take over the area. The Jazz Room at the Huether Hotel also hosts a number of different Jazz acts every weekend. The Recreation Complex is also right across the street from Waterloo Park. If you are looking for other sporting options, Wilfrid Laurier also fields other athletic teams, including football at Knight-Newbrough Field and basketball at the Athletic Complex. Just up the street from Wilfrid Laurier is the University of Waterloo and they also field a full slate of athletic programs including hockey at the Columbia IceField, football at Warrior Field and basketball at the Physical Activities Complex. You could also head next door to Kitchener to catch the Kitchener Rangers at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium.
There are a few different places nearby to stay over if you are remaining in the area. The brand new Delta is mere steps from the Recreation Complex. If you are looking for something a little more original, try the Waterloo Hotel on King Street.
The U-Sports and OUA do not do a great job of publishing attendance figures for hockey games. The reality is that the fan base for OUA hockey games is measured in hundreds and not thousands. At Laurier they usually average between 100 and 200 fans per game. There are a couple of special events like the annual school day game, which brings in over 1000 elementary students for a game during the day, or the Winter Carnival game which brings a couple hundred students to the arena. Other than that, you have family and diehards in a facility that is designed for over 3,000. It is difficult to see where this compares to other programs in the conference, but it is definitely not at the top of the group.
Getting in and around the Sun Life Arena is not very difficult. The Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex is located on Father David Bauer Drive, just off of Erb Street. This is significantly southwest of highway 85. If you are coming to a game from out of town, you will have to do a bit of driving through the city. Usually this is not a huge issue, but Waterloo is full of construction due to the new light rail transit and can cause some travel issues.
Although there is no public transit that runs on Father David Bauer Drive, the Grand River Transit Authority does offer buses on both Erb Street and Westmount Road which encompass both ends of Father David Bauer Drive. Check out the GRT website for schedules and maps.
The box office in the Memorial Recreation Complex is in the Lyle Hallman Lobby. There are rarely lineups and there is plenty of room also. Tickets are not sold at the top of the stairs entering the arena, so make sure you purchase your tickets before heading up to the seating bowl.
Getting around the arena is no problem at all considering the number of fans in attendance. The track is very spacious and washroom facilities are more than adequate for the number of fans at the games.
OUA and U-Sports hockey is a wonderful experience and offers fantastic return on investment. Adult tickets for Laurier hockey are $8 apiece and students, seniors and alumni get in for $6. Laurier students are just $2 and children 12 and under are free. There are not too many spots that can match that. Parking is free at the Rec Complex and concessions are a bit high, but definitely high quality and great variety for this level of hockey. The product on the ice is fantastic and exciting. The only factor keeping this from a perfect score is the lack of fans in the stands, which does take away from the experience a bit.
An extra mark for keeping the history of the Waterloo Memorial Arena alive by maintaining the original sign.
An extra mark for having the events primarily run by students.
An extra mark for a great way to introduce young children to hockey as a spectator sport. The recipe for young children is perfect. They are free right up until age 12. Adults are not expensive at all. For those fidgety moments, the track around the seating bowl is perfect, and the investment is so low that you won't feel bad about having to leave early.
Laurier Golden Hawks hockey is a great experience and great entertainment for very little investment. It is unfortunate that more people do not experience Golden Hawkey on a regular basis. The Laurier Athletic Department needs to do more to make the hockey experience, first and foremost, a part of the student experience and find a way to get more students out to the games. The community will follow. Even if the Sun Life Financial Arena was a third full, the experience would be even better.
Years ago, the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks of Canadian Interuniversity Sport played hockey off campus at the old Waterloo Memorial Arena. Structural issues forced the City of Waterloo to shut down the venerable old barn. For a period of time, the majority of the arena was replaced with a big inflatable bubble with only the front facade remaining. This was of course a temporary solution and plans were drawn up to build a new recreation centre complete with an Olympic sized ice surface and swimming complex. The old site of the Memorial Arena would become the home of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics and the new Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex was completed nearby. The arena inside the City of Waterloo owned rec centre is the Sun Life Financial Arena, named for corporate sponsor Sun Life, which has a very strong local presence in Kitchener-Waterloo.
The hockey program at Wilfrid Laurier can be traced back to 1922 when it was still Waterloo Lutheran Seminary. In 1971 the school would officially change its name from Waterloo Lutheran University to Wilfrid Laurier University and in 1972 they would join the OUA, their current conference in the CIS. The Hawks have had some success over time, playing for the Queen’s Cup as conference champions numerous times and winning in 1983, 1989 and 1990. They have also played for the University Cup as National Champions a number of times. The Golden Hawks do what they can to put a good product, however they have yet to really capture the attention of the student body, which has proven problematic.
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