Central Recreation Centre - Burlington Blaze
Photos by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.71
Central Recreation Centre
519 Drury Lane
Burlington, ON L7R 2X3
Year Opened: 1968
Blaze in the Oven
The City of Burlington sits on the shores of Lake Ontario between Hamilton and Oakville. It is Toronto Rock country with the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre, and Oakville Buzz to the east in Oakville, and the Toronto Rock of the National Lacrosse League to the west in Hamilton. However, lacrosse fans should not sleep on Burlington as they have a strong connection to the sport. The city with a population of 187,000 has been home to the Burlington Chiefs since 1976. In 2023, amid the move away from Indigenous-based names, Burlington Minor Lacrosse changed their team names, Junior A included, to the Burlington Blaze.
Home for the Blaze is the Central Recreation Centre, commonly referred to as Central Arena. Built in 1968, Central Arena is nicknamed The Oven, which seems to be an apt home for a team referred to as the Blaze. Alumni for the Blaze and Chiefs include Andrew Kew, Brent Noseworthy, Ryan Smith, and Ed Comeau.
Food & Beverage 2
Concessions for Blaze games are amongst the most simple. A temporary table located in the lobby sells chips, soda, water, Gatorade, chocolate bars, and freezies. Concession prices are very affordable, but the limited selection will push fans to eat elsewhere.
Central Arena is part of a larger community centre in Burlington. The Central Recreation Centre building is a simple combination of light stucco and siding on the exterior. A colourful mural at the southwest corner of the building is the exterior highlight. Fans can enter the building at the main entrance on the west or the back end on the east side. The east side has a small merchandise tent for fans. The main entrance leads fans into a small lobby with temporary tables for concessions and ticket sales. The feeling that the building is designed more for recreation as opposed to spectators becomes evident.
The main arena is available to fans after traversing a set of stairs. In the hallway, just before entering the main arena, there are many mainly empty trophy cases, one of which showcases some Burlington Minor Lacrosse items under the old Chiefs name and logo. Inside the main arena, fans are met with a very plain area with no markings or banners to let fans know that this is the home of the Blaze.
The polished concrete floor runs from west to east with ten rows of step benches on the south side. An enclosed operations/press box is at the top of the south side, dividing the seating area. The simple hockey-style scoreboard is found on the west wall. Inside the arena two other major items become evident. The first is that the moniker “The Oven” is apt as there is no air-conditioning and the arena is very hot in the summer months. The second is that some diagonal structural I-beams can obstruct the view of the floor from the seating area.
The gameday production is the most simple there is. No music is played before the game or during down periods. It could be possible that this was due to technical difficulties as during the game that was reviewed the national anthem was unable to be played. However, after Blaze goals, a goal song was provided by a fan holding a large portable speaker. The PA system is very poor and it is difficult to understand announcements that are made.
Central Arena is located in the Central Park area of Burlington. There are several other recreation facilities in the immediate Central Park area including the curling club, lawn bowling, tennis club, library, baseball diamonds, and theatre. The practice facility for the famous Burlington Teen Tour Band is in this area also. Other than the park facilities, it is a fairly residential area with little in the way of pre and post-game culinary facilities.
Fans should consider heading south towards Lakeshore Road to find bars and restaurants. Some options worth considering are The Carriage House, The North Coal Kitchen & Bar, Joe Dog’s, La Creme de la Creme, and Pepperwood Bistro Brewery. There is not much in the way of other sports options in Burlington and fans would probably need to head southwest to Hamilton for those options. For other entertainment options fans should consider checking out the Burlington Performing Arts Centre, Drury Lane Theatrical Productions, and Spencer Smith Park. Fans wishing to stay in Burlington should consider the Waterfront Hotel or The Pearle Hotel.
Assessing fans in the OJLL is difficult as attendance figures are not published. Also, the game that was reviewed was one of the OJLL Finals series. That being said, it appears that the Burlington Blaze has a decent following. Many fans were standing on the floor and even climbing the boards on Blaze goals. The fans in attendance make plenty of noise and are supportive of the Blaze. There were many fans in attendance supporting the visiting team as well for the game that was attended.
Central Arena is located in the Central Park area of Burlington, east of the Queen Elizabeth Way south of Highway 403, and north of Lakeshore Road. Fans coming to Burlington from out of town will be required to drive a bit through the city, however, the travel is not difficult. There is plenty of parking in the area at no cost, however, it is a busy area with many other recreation facilities where parking will also be utilized.
Fans who wish to take public transit to The Oven have several options on Drury Lane, New Street, and Central Park. Fans should consult the Burlington Transit website for fares, maps, and schedules. Traversing the arena can be difficult as there are plenty of stairs throughout the arena. As mentioned above, there are plenty of obstructed views due to the diagonal structural beams and railings. Also, there is no air conditioning in the arena and it is hot in the summer months.
Return on Investment 4
OJLL lacrosse offers tremendous value for a small investment. Tickets for the Burlington Blaze go for $12, parking is free, and concessions are very affordable. The product on the floor is top-notch and very fast and exciting. If the Blaze offered a little more when it comes to the atmosphere, then the ROI would be a perfect score.
An extra mark for the Blaze earning the 2023 Iroquois Cup as OJLL champions.
An extra mark for the strength of lacrosse in the area with the Toronto Rock located in Hamilton and the Oakville Buzz just up the highway in Oakville. OJLL teams are also found in nearby Kitchener-Waterloo, Toronto, and Six Nations.
The Burlington Blaze have a strong lacrosse tradition and has helped produce some strong professional lacrosse players. Their home, Central Recreation Centre, also known as The Oven is a hot spot, but is not fulfilling its potential as a solid lacrosse facility. It will be interesting to see if the Blaze can work with the city and make The Oven a far more hospitable home for the OJLL.