Dom Cardillo Arena at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium - Kitchener Rangers
Photos by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.43
Dom Cardillo Arena at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium 400 East Ave Kitchener, ON N2H 1Z6
Dom Cardillo Arena at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium website
Year Opened: 1951
East Avenue Blue
In 1963, Kitchener, Ontario businessman Eugene George purchased the junior hockey affiliate of the New York Rangers and moved them to Kitchener. The next step for George was to give the team to the season ticket holders and make the newly minted Kitchener Rangers a truly local, community team. To this day, the Rangers remain a not-for-profit organization, run by a board of directors and owned by the season seat subscribers. Eugene George has been honoured by the city of Kitchener with the renaming of the street outside the Aud to Eugene George Way. The mailing address for the team is 1963 Eugene George Way. The Rangers have also become a cornerstone franchise in the Ontario Hockey League. The affiliation with the New York Rangers is long gone, but the moniker and colours have remained in Kitchener. The Rangers have enjoyed a number of league titles in the regular season, four OHL championships and two times been crowned as Memorial Cup Champions, the top team in the entire Canadian Hockey League.
Home for the Rangers since their inception has been the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium. Designed as a mini Maple Leaf Gardens, The Aud remains one of the most unique venues in a league where new venues are becoming increasingly homogeneous. The arena with the main ice is named after former beloved mayor of Kitchener, Dom Cardillo, making the home of the Rangers the Dom Cardillo Arena at Kitchener Memorial Auditorium. The Rangers provide one of the best experiences in the entire Canadian Hockey League and are a must see for all junior hockey fans.
Food & Beverage 4
The concession experience at The Aud is comparable to a professional sports experience. All of the expected items are in attendance including burgers, hot dogs, nachos, chicken fingers, fries and popcorn. Slices from Pizza Pizza are also available. The Candy Corner offers ice cream, sundaes, lemonade and Twizzlers. Pepsi products are the soft drink of choice. The newest addition to concessions at The Aud, which is extremely popular, is the Beaver Tails stand, just up the stairs from the concourse. A uniquely Canadian experience, Beaver Tails are fried dough, flat like the tail of a beaver, available with a variety of unique toppings. The difficulty will be choosing which one. Oktoberfest Beer Nuts are an Aud staple and uniquely local. The beer selection is solid with Coors Banquet, Coors Light, Molson Canadian, Molson Ultra, Heinekin and Creemore Springs available. Local brewery Four Fathers has their Light Lager available in a specially designed Kitchener Rangers 60 Seasons can. The main bar has a number of cocktails available as well as Two Oceans Red and White Wine.
In an era where classic arenas all around Ontario are being replaced with shiny new, homogenous arenas, the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium remains a unique standout in the Ontario Hockey League. The Aud, as it is locally known, was built in 1951 as a living memorial to those who lost their lives in World Wars I and II. The East Avenue entrance is the original main entrance to The Aud and maintains the grand, concrete facade with engraved lettering at the top to go with large windows. However, rather than enter at the west, most will enter the complex from the north or south. The ticketing windows are found at the Eugene George Way entrance at the south. Fans heading through the breezeway to the arena will notice the huge, wooden dedication plaque commemorating the memorial nature of the building. Across from the plaque is a poignant display for the Kraut Line. Bobby Bauer, Milt Schmidt and Woody Dumart were a line for the Boston Bruins during the thirties and forties where the Bruins won two Stanley Cups. All three are enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame and share German heritage. Also, all three were products of the Kitchener hockey system and were born and raised in Kitchener or Waterloo. There are also a number of wooden plaques commemorating events that the Aud has hosted, including the 1986 Labatt Brier, 2001 University Cup and 1984 and 2008 Memorial Cups. Climbing the stairs in the middle of the breezeway to fans are met with the ticket takers, underneath a large mural for late Mayor of Kitchener, Dom Cardillo, whom the arena is named after. The concourses at The Aud can keep fans busy for hours. Murals for legendary broadcaster Don Cameron and Ranger championship seasons are among the highlights. There are a plethora of photos of local sport teams that fans can sift through as well. The beams in the concourse feature the names of prominent Rangers in the Walk of Fame and include such names as Brian Bellows, Steven Rice, John Tucker, Boyd Deveraux, Derek Roy and Sandy Fitzpatrick to scratch the surface. There are no beams left for newer players so a mural for new members of the Walk of Fame has been created. Team photos for every season back to the beginning can also be found. Inside the team store, Rangers Authentics, fans can find McLelland Hall, which shares a number of Rangers artifacts. There is no arena in the NHL, let alone the OHL that shares the sheer volume of history that The Aud does.
When fans enter the seating bowl their gaze will immediately be drawn to the sheer volume of banners hanging in the rafters. The east end of the rink features banners commemorating those Rangers who have played in the World Junior Hockey Championships throughout the years. The honoured numbers of Hockey Hall of Famers Scott Stevens, Al MacInnis, Paul Coffey, Bill Barber and Larry Robinson also hang on the east side. To the north, the top scorers in Rangers history, Dwight Foster and Andre Benoit have banners honouring their accomplishments along with a banner honouring the achievements of broadcaster and local legend, the late Don Cameron. The west side finds the various division, league and conference banners. The Rangers were Hamilton Spectator Trophy winners as regular season champions in 1967, 1968, 1974, 1984, 1989, 2003 and 2008. The J. Ross Robertson banner hangs in the rafters four times as OHL Champions in 1981, 1982, 2003 and 2008. The culmination of the entirety of the history in banners are the 1982 and 2003 Memorial Cup Championship banners, the ultimate accomplishment in Junior Hockey. The north side of the arena features two tiers of seating along with the suites. The west end also has two tiers along with the restaurant. The east end has only one tier along with more suites. The south side is where the majority of seating is with three tiers, including the seating from the latest renovation which raised the roof of The Aud to accommodate more seats. The pitch for the seating is steep and allows fans the feeling of being right on top of the action.
The gameday atmosphere is not over the top and balances music from across generations. The videoboard is among the best in the league and the team uses it to its advantage for promotions and information. The Timbits mini-game and prize shootout are staple promos between periods. The Rangers also feature a semi-original goal song, similar to the one used by the New York Rangers.
The Aud is located just east of Downtown Kitchener. For the most part, the Aud is a community arena. There are almost no pre and post game meal options within walking distance. Fans could hike up Ottawa Street to the Tim Horton's or Dairy Queen. Strykerz Kitchen and Bar in the same plaza may be an option, but it is pretty small. The best bet would be to head downtown or take the highway out to Sportsworld. Downtown, fans might want to try The Grand Trunk Saloon, TWH Social, Bobby O'Brien’s or McCabe’s. Out by Sportsworld you will definitely want to hit Moose Winooski's. For a truly genuine Kitchener experience, fans should look into eating a pre-game meal at the Concordia Club or The Metro. Kitchener celebrates the largest Bavarian festival outside of Germany in Oktoberfest. The Friday buffet at the Concordia Club is a great way to experience Kitchener’s German heritage before a Ranger game!
Other sporting options locally would include hopping over to Kitchener’s twin city, Waterloo to catch some local university action. The Waterloo Warriors call the PAC home to basketball, Warrior Field home to football and Columbia IceField home to hockey. The Laurier Golden Hawks play their football games at Knight-Newbrough Field at University Stadium, their hockey games at Sun Life Financial Arena at Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex, and their basketball games at WLU Athletic Complex.
Downtown, fans may also want to check out The Museum.
Fans who are staying in town overnight should head downtown. The Walper Hotel and Crowne Plaza Kitchener-Waterloo are good selections.
The Kitchener Rangers are among the elite in the entire Canadian Hockey League with regards to attendance. With one of the bigger buildings in the OHL, the Rangers consistently rank third in attendance behind Ottawa and London, who each have bigger arenas. Friday night is Rangers Night in Kitchener and the biggest crowds can be found then. Sunday afternoons and other mid-week games will find more empty seats which often belong to season ticket holders who decide not to show for those games. Ranger fans are typical Southern Ontario fans who are not too rambunctious but can get very loud at the right time.
The Aud is located in the Auditorium District, which is east of Downtown Kitchener. Getting to The Aud is not difficult. It is immediately west of Highway 7, which is the main artery through Kitchener. There is plenty of parking on both the north and south sides of the complex, which should be entered from Ottawa Street or Stirling Avenue. For fans wishing to take public transit to the Ranger game, there are buses that travel both Ottawa and Weber Streets. The light rail Ion train is a fair hike from the nearest station, so that may not be the best option. Fans should check out the Grand River Transit website for maps, fares and schedules. Traversing the concourses during intermission is definitely a challenge as the concourses are definitely not large enough for that kind of traffic. Expect long lines at concessions and washrooms around intermission time as well.
Return on Investment 5
Tickets for the Kitchener Rangers have progressively increased over the years. As of the 2022-2023 season, Ranger tickets go for $25 per person with a discount for children available. All seats, regardless of the section, are the same price. OHL hockey remains among the best experiences in sport with a very high quality product on the ice. Concession prices are about what one would expect and parking is free. The end result is an excellent evening of entertainment at a price far cheaper than any professional experience.
An extra mark to the City of Kitchener in recognition of the contribution of the late Eugene George. The city has renamed the street travelling to the west of the Aud, from East Ave to Ottawa St, Eugene George Way. His gifting of the Rangers to the subscribers created a unique ownership situation that galvanized the bond between city and team.
An extra mark for the special events the Rangers run, specifically Teddy Bear Toss Night and Don Cameron Potato Night. Seeing thousands of stuffed animals strewn to the ice just before Christmas is an experience in and of itself. Potato Night is a unique evening run by legendary retired Rangers broadcaster Don Cameron where fans bring in donations of bags of potatoes.
An extra mark for the long and illustrious hockey history of the Rangers and the Kitchener-Waterloo area, and the great job the Rangers do of putting that history on display.
An extra mark for the City of Kitchener and the Rangers in not abandoning their classic arena and instead improving upon it to bring it up to today’s technological and luxury standards.
An extra mark for all of the Kitchener Minor Sports history on display at the Auditorium Complex.
The Kitchener Rangers remain one of the cornerstone franchises in the Ontario Hockey League. The Kitchener Memorial Auditorium is one of the most unique venues in the league and a treasure for the league. Hockey fans need to make a trip to Kitchener-Waterloo to catch a Friday night in Kitchener at The Aud.
Follow all of Dave’s sporting adventures on Twitter @profan9 and on Instagram.