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  • Writer's pictureDave Cottenie

Sadlon Arena - Barrie Colts

Photos by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43

Sadlon Arena 555 Bayview Dr Barrie, ON L4N 8Y2

Year Opened: 1995

Capacity: 4,195

Colts Country

In 1995, the Ontario Hockey League expanded to Barrie, Ontario. It was the perfect location for the league to bridge the geographic gap between the Greater Toronto Area and the Northern Ontario teams in Sudbury and North Bay. Barrie has a terrific history in the OHL and Major Junior Hockey with a number of championships including the 1951 and 1953 Memorial Cups. The Flyers would operate in Barrie from 1945 to 1960 and eventually become the Sudbury Wolves after a stop in Niagara Falls. With the expansion effort, Barrie would require a new arena. The Barrie Molson Centre was built in just 13 months and opened in time for the Colts to play the majority of their inaugural season in their permanent home. In 2019, the City of Barrie, owner and operator of the arena, announced a new naming rights agreement with Paul Sadlon Motors, making the home of the Colts to be officially known as Sadlon Arena.

The ownership of the Colts, Howie Campbell and Jim Payetta took control of the team in 2006. During the Colts’ tenure in the OHL, they have been relatively successful, but have had difficulty making it to the next level of success. The Colts have made an appearance in the Memorial Cup only once, in 2000. The inaugural Colts were led by OHL legend Bert Templeton. Mark Scheifele and Brian Little headline the NHL prospects who have come through Barrie. Most recently, Barrie was rocked by the death of Hall of Fame player and Colts Head Coach, Dale Hawerchuck.

Food & Beverage 3

The concession options at Sadlon Arena are fairly limited. The two main concession stands at the east and west ends of the arena off the typical arena options. Hot dogs, sausage, poutine, fries, nachos and cold options are available. Topper’s Pizza provides a variety of pizza varieties, including a Colt Feature. Pepsi products are the featured soft drink and Budweiser and Michelob Ultra are among the tall boy beer options. The Bailey’s stand combines Madison County Coffee options with the option of a Bailey’s shot and some State Fair Mini Donuts is the most unique option available. There are plenty of vending machines for fans who wish to grab a quick soda without staying in long lines.

Atmosphere 3

Sadlon Arena offers a solid junior hockey experience that is not uncommon in many other markets. From the exterior, Sadlon Arena has a bit of a barn-like appearance with a rounded, elongated roof, which can be seen from Highway 400. Oriented from west to east, the most eye-catching feature of the arena is the Horsepower Sports Bar, which offers a unique brick facade to the front of the building with awnings. Although the west side of the building, on Bayview Drive, appears to be the front, there is no real main entrance or atrium. Entrances empty immediately into the concourse.

Concourses at Sadlon Arena are decorated with as much Barrie Colts history as possible. Entrances to the seating bowl feature murals, complete with statistics and highlights, of former Colt players including Mark Scheifele, Bryan Little, Kyle Clifford and Alex Pietrangelo among others. Fans should make sure to look for the Dale Hawerchuck mural for the winningest coach in franchise history. Banners hanging from the ceiling also emphasize former Colts in their NHL garb. The Captain’s Wall shows all those honoured enough to wear the ‘C’ on their jersey and the championship wall shows Barrie teams that have participated in the Memorial Cup, J. Ross Robertson Cup Finals to crown the OHL Champions and Bobby Orr Trophy winners as Eastern Conference Champions.

Entering the seating bowl, fans will find a single level seating bowl with an east-west orientation and suites at both the top of the seating and at ice level. The west side of the arena has the Horsepower Sports Bar, which has some tables that view out onto the ice as a ticketed seating option. The press box is small and along the north side, the side fans should be on for the perfect picture of the centre ice logo. Above centre ice, the videoboard is newly updated and clear with a ribbon under the four-sided screen. Along the centre the Colts hang their banners for division and conference championships. The 2000 OHL Championship banner is far too incognito given its relative importance. The Colts also have a number of “Leaderboard” banners along the north and south sides to give fans some statistical history for the team including season goals and points and goaltender wins to go with career leaderboards for those categories among others. Finally, hanging in the east end is the retired number 18 banner for Bryan Little, the all time leading scorer for the Colts.

The gameday atmosphere is about what one would expect from an OHL game. The presentation is fairly traditional with the expected playlist and announcements and promotions. The Timbits minor hockey game takes place during the second intermission, giving local kids the opportunity to skate on the same ice as their local heroes. The Colts mascot, Charlie Horse, takes part in the pregame ceremonies and interacts with fans around the arena.

Neighbourhood 4

Sadlon Arena is located in South Barrie near Highway 400, at Mapleview and Bayview. Mapleview has plenty of shopping and eating options and is quite a busy area. Fans looking for something to eat before or after the game will not have to look far. There are plenty of chain restaurants in the immediate area including Lone Star, Milestones, Panera and The Keg. Expanding the search to the opposite side of Highway 400 will provide another whole set of options. Some original options include the Spoon & Fork, the Simmering Kettle and The Burger’s Priest. However, making a reservation at the Horsepower Bar & Grill may be the best selection to round out the day. Right in the Sadlon Arena, it provides the full Barrie Colts experience.

If in Barrie during the summer months, fans may want to head to Minesing to see the Barrie Baycats of the Intercounty Baseball League, or the Barrie Lakeshores of Major Series Lacrosse. Otherwise, Barrie is very much an outdoor city. Barrie is on the doorstep of Ontario’s Cottage Country. Barrie, itself, is on the banks of Lake Simcoe. In the winter months there are plenty of ski resorts around including Snow Valley, Horseshoe Valley and Mount St. Louis Moonstone. Just south of Barrie, in Innisfil, fans could head to Georgian Downs during the racing season.

Fans who require a place to stay close to Sadlon Arena may choose the Holiday Inn, Fairfield Inn or the Comfort Inn, all which are within a two minute drive from the arena.

Fans 4

Assessing fans during the COVID pandemic is a little problematic. Traditionally, the attendance for the Barrie Colts has been very strong. With the capacity of Sadlon Arena at just over 4,000 fans, the Colts have routinely attracted more than 4,000 fans per game. In the game that was reviewed, there were less than 3,000 fans in attendance, however, it is fair to say that this aberration is due, in part, to the pandemic. Even before the pandemic, Barrie fans are notoriously quiet. Fans are knowledgeable and do not talk too much during the play. However, when there is a goal or a big hit, Colts fans can get plenty loud.

Access 3

Getting to Sadlon Arena is not difficult at all. Clearly visible from Highway 400, Sadlon Arena is found at the corner of Bayview and Mapleview, south of the waterfront. Highway 400 is the main north-south arterial road in Ontario connecting Northern and Southern Ontario, and runs right through Barrie. Getting in and out of Sadlon Arena is not difficult, even though Mapleview is a major road in a major retail area. Traffic flows smoothly. Parking is free in the large surrounding parking lot. Spots closest to Horsepower Bar and Grill are reserved for season ticket holders. For fans who wish to take public transit to the game, there are Barrie Transit stops along both Bayview and Mapleview. Fans should see the Barrie Transit website for fares, maps and schedules.

Getting around Sadlon Arena can be a bit of a challenge. There is not much in the way of an atrium or main entry and the concourses are fairly narrow. During pandemic times, when attendance is depleted, this is not an issue, but it can be very crowded for a capacity crowd. Some of the seats are also difficult to find. The ice level seats at the south side of the arena are in sections 128 and 129, below the suites. It takes a keen eye, or finding an usher or security to find the entries to these sections. To go with the narrow concourses are the extremely small washrooms. Choosing the right time to head to the washroom may be key to enjoying the game to the max.

Return on Investment 4

The Ontario Hockey League continues to provide great value for the dollar. Tickets will go for between $23.50 and $25. Restaurant seats are $26 each, but a full table must be purchased. The product on the ice is solid, giving fans the opportunity to see the next generation of NHL players. Parking is free and concession prices are about average compared to the rest of the league. The end result is a great evening of entertainment for a price that is far more affordable than anything that can be found to the south in Toronto.

Extras 3

An extra mark for the honouring of Dale Hawerchuck. The Hall of Famer and winningest coach in Colts history died in August of 2020 after a battle with cancer. His number 10 was painted behind the nets at the Sadlon Arena. The December 16, 2021 game against the Sudbury Wolves was to be in honour Dale Hawerchuck and raise a permanent banner to the rafters, however, the game was postponed due to COVID-19 protocols. Dale Hawerchuck Way now leads into Sadlon Arena from Bayview Drive.

An extra mark for the speed at which the original Barrie Molson Centre was built. A mere 13 months from breaking ground until the doors opened had the Colts playing only a handful of OHL games in a substandard arena.

An extra mark for rivalry games against other northern teams including the Owen Sound Attack, North Bay Battalion and Sudbury Wolves.

Final Thoughts

When heading toward Cottage Country, or heading for a ski weekend in Ontario, taking in the Barrie Colts at Sadlon Arena is a great plan that will not disappoint. The Colts provide a solid OHL experience which hockey fans will, no doubt, appreciate.

Follow all of Dave’s sporting adventures on Twitter @profan9 and on Instagram.

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