Photos by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.14
Centre Wellington Community Sportsplex
550 Belsyde Ave
Fergus, ON N1M 2W5
Year Opened: 2023
Hail To The (Junior C) Whale
In Ontario, hockey can be found all over the province, in all manner of size and shape. Junior hockey is often the lifeblood of the small town and in 2023 it returned to Fergus, Ontario. Northwest of Guelph, Fergus can be found in the Township of Centre Wellington and boasts a modest population of just over 20,000. Junior hockey had been absent from Fergus since the departure of the Fergus Devils in 2015, partially due to travel issues. Jason Baier brought the expansion Whalers to Fergus and the Provincial Junior Hockey League where they compete for the Schmalz Cup at the Junior C level.
Home for the Whalers is the Centre Wellington Community Sportsplex. It's a larger community hub that also houses a second ice pad, gym, meeting rooms and a pool has been added on and renovated a few times. The main ice pad, Pad A, was built in the seventies and then was added on in the two-thousands. Fergus is famous for its annual Scottish Highland Games and the Whalers are counting on being a big part of life in Fergus.
Food & Beverage 2
Concession options at Centre Wellington Sportsplex are fairly minimalistic. A concession stand outside of the ice pad, in the rec centre that was not open during the game that was reviewed. Many fans brought their own fare from Tim Hortons or Starbucks. Drink and snack vending machines are available outside of Pad A. Other beverages, including beer and spirits are sold in the beer garden in the upper end of the arena.
The Centre Wellington Community Sportsplex, like many venues in junior hockey, is part of a larger community hub which includes a variety of sporting facilities. The exterior is fairly nondescript with a long brick and grey siding exterior where the original arena was. The main entrance, accessible from Belsyde Avenue, is clearly a more modern addition. Upon entering the Sportsplex, the ice surfaces will be on the right, while opposite the arena entrance is the donor wall, which brings some artistic value to the area with a natural rock look to it. Immediately to the right upon entering the Sportsplex is the Community Hall of Fame, a long hallway on the northwest side of the arena complete with numerous trophy cases full of artifacts from various Fergus sports. It is clear that lacrosse is quite popular in the area. Fergus product and NHL player Jamie McGinn has a framed jersey and entry into the Fergus Sports Hall of Fame.
Outside of the ice pad entries, the Whalers play in Pad A, temporary tables are set up for fans to purchase tickets and programs. Entering Pad A, fans will immediately notice the change in temperature as the arena is quite cold. The ice surface runs from northeast to southwest with seating on the northwest side, wooden benches on concrete steps. Fans should select their seat wisely and situate themselves under the propane powered heaters or bring their own blankets. The simple hockey score clock hangs at the top of the southwest side of the arena. The opposite wall from the seating is where numerous youth hockey banners hang, as well as the Intermediate C Champions banner from the 1980-81 Fergus Flyers. A unique feature of the Sportsplex is the lounge at the northeast end of the ice. The glass that looks out to the ice surface is the same glass that is along the boards. Trophy cases are also found in the lounge, which is a good place to watch the game and avoid the cold, as well as a framed jersey of Dan Crone, a former Fergus Devil player who died in 1993 while a member of the team. Above the lounge is the Beer Garden, which also allows for the game to be watched in a warmer temperature.
The gameday production at the Whalers game is very simple. Promotions include the 50/50 draw, chuck-a-puck and program raffles. The PA system in Pad A is not terrific and it is difficult to hear the announcements at times. Music is played during down times, but the Whalers have latched on to their roots with The Fables’ “Heave Away” as their goal song, a nod to their Scottish roots. Also, the team enters the ice to the classic Hartford Whalers tune “Brass Bonanza.”
Fergus is a small town of 20,000 and has small town offerings. The CW Sportsplex is on the east end of town a few blocks from Highway 6, where most of the commercial options are found. Many chain and fast food restaurants are found on Highway 6, but for those looking for some less corporate options, Offside Sports Bar and The Goofie Newfie are choices to consider. The Whalers are pretty much the only sporting option in town for spectators. In the summer months the Junior C lacrosse Fergus Thistles may be of interest. Otherwise, heading southeast to Guelph for other sporting options would be the best other option. As far as other tourist options, Fergus is most well known for August’s Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games. The Fergus Theatre may also be of interest. For those wishing to stay in Fergus, the Best Western is available.
In their first season, the Fergus Whalers have drawn between 150 and 350 fans per game. The top teams in the PJHL draw between 500 and 1000 fans per game. By no means are the Whalers at the bottom of the league in attendance, there is plenty of room for growth. Fans in attendance are pretty quiet, which is not unusual for Ontario fans.
Getting to the Centre Wellington Sportsplex is not difficult. It is located on the east side of Fergus not far from Highway 6, the main entry to the town. Traversing through Fergus will be required and fans should be careful of passing the school zone with its slow speed limit on the way to the game. There is plenty of parking at the Sportsplex and there is no charge for it. There is no public transit in Fergus, which is not surprising due to the size of the town. Getting around the Sportsplex is no problem at all and the washroom facilities are very good. Ticketing is done at a temporary table outside of the entry of Pad A. There are no physical tickets or online ticket purchasing options.
Return on Investment 5
PJHL hockey offers great value for the dollar. Tickets for the Whalers are only $10 for adults and $7 for students and seniors. Parking is free and there isn’t much in the way of concessions. The product on the ice is decent and fans will have a good time watching the Whalers.
An extra mark for the return of junior hockey to Fergus.
An extra mark for using the most underrated goal song ever, Brass Bonanza.
Time will tell if the Fergus Whalers will be a long term success in the PJHL. It is a great opportunity for Fergus residents to take in some hockey. Catching a game at the Centre Wellington Community Sportsplex is a great way to spend an evening in small town Ontario.