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  • Writer's pictureDave Cottenie

Guelph Gryphons Athletic Centre - Guelph Gryphons

Photos by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43

Guelph Gryphons Athletic Centre 50 Stone Rd. E Guelph, ON N1G 2W1

Year Opened: 2016

Capacity: 2,200

From Aggies to Gryphons

The Ontario Agricultural College was founded in Guelph, Ontario in 1874.  One of the oldest institutions of higher education in the province would grow to engulf the MaDonald Institute and Ontario Veterinary College as the University of Guelph in 1964.  Guelph would grow to nearly 30,000 students at the time of writing, making it one of the larger universities in Canada.  The OAC would compete athletically as the Aggies.  With the advent of the University of Guelph, the moniker of the Gryphons was adopted.  The Guelph Gryphons first basketball team hit the floor in 1964 and have enjoyed various degrees of success over the years.  The Gryphons’ success culminated in a Wilson Cup as conference champions in 1990 and a W.P. McGee Trophy recipient as National Champions in 1974.

For years the on campus home of the Gryphons was the small, yet intimidating W.F. Mitchell Athletic Centre.  Named after the Guelph Athletics Director of 33 years, the Mitchell Centre was known for its boisterous fan support.  The growing university required a more comprehensive approach to athletics and a new basketball facility was part of that vision.  The Guelph Gryphons Athletic Centre opened in 2016 and pushed the idea of what a state of the art facility was in USports.  

Food & Beverage 2

The main concession at the Gryphons Athletic Centre is in the main lobby near the main entrance and offers a small and simple selection of snacks.  Popcorn, cotton candy, chocolate, chips and granola bars are all available.  Bottled water, soda and Powerade are the beverages that are available.  Alcohol is not available at basketball games.

Atmosphere 4

The exterior of the Guelph Gryphons Athletic Centre is attractive and features a unique roofline with smart-looking red and dark grey siding.  It is right along Ring Road and very prominent from the street as opposed to some other embedded athletic facilities.  The main entrance for the Gryphons Athletic Centre on Ring Road is the Garney Henley Entrance, named after the basketball coach from 1966-76 who would lead the Gryphons to the National Championship.  Henley also is a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame after playing 16 years in the CFL for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and won 4 Grey Cups.  A large display touting Henley’s accomplishments can be found in the lobby, immediately upon entry to the Athletic Centre.  Along the northwest hallway, past the bright and clean lobby, is the Gryphons Athletic Hall of Fame.  Smartly designed with separate areas for Athletes, Builders and Teams, fans can find enshrinements for the 1974 and 1990 basketball teams, among other honourees.  The Gryphons Athletic Centre connects to the Mitchell Centre, and University of Guelph recreation facilities are also found here.

Entering into the seating area of the Guelph Gryphons Athletic Centre, fans will immediately notice how bright the area is with plenty of natural light allowed in.  The playing surface is sunken and fans enter on a running track which circles behind the seating area.  The court runs from northeast to southwest.  Each of the four sides surrounding the court has a set of retractable seats with the northeast and southwest bleachers going right to the floor and northwest and southeast elevated.  The northwest side is the spot to get the perfect centre court logo picture and has plastic chair seating as opposed to plastic benches.  A temporary merchandise table can be found in the south corner of the track.  Media facilities are above the track on the northwest side.  Overall the gym is bright and clean and professional looking.  Guelph boasts of a centre hung, four-sided videoboard, which is unique for this level of basketball.  On the game that was reviewed, which honoured the 1974 National Championship team, a banner for the National Champions hung on the northwest side.  However, this banner placement seemed temporary.

The gameday presentation is fairly simple.  The PA system is excellent and music is played during the pregame and breaks which is not uncommon.  The mascot, Gryph, can be found traversing the crowd during many games.  The south corner has a large, inflated Gryphon arch, which players enter the floor through.  Guelph has a very strong, student run media production for its athletic teams.

Neighbourhood 4

The Guelph Gryphons Athletic Centre is located on the campus of the University of Guelph, on the west side of the city.  As a large university, there are a number of bars and restaurants just off campus that will service the students.  Some options include The Shakespeare Arms, Beertown, The Burger’s Priest, Guelph BBQ and Borealis Grill.  Although none are that far, hopping in the car to get off campus and towards Stone Road would be the best idea. 

For other sporting options, the Guelph Gryphons field a full complement of athletic teams including hockey and football, which are also on campus.  The Sleeman Centre is near and the home of the OHL’s Guelph Storm and the Guelph Royals hit the diamond in the summer months.  Perhaps the highlight of the Guelph Gryphons athletic calendar is The Frosty Mug, which is also played at the Sleeman Centre.  Other Guelph tourist options include the River Run Centre for plays and concerts, the Guelph Civic Museum and McCrae House, birth home of John McCrae who wrote the poem “In Flanders Fields.”  For fans wishing to stay near campus, the Delta is an available option.

Fans 3

Assessing OUA basketball fans is difficult as attendance figures are not normally published.  Anecdotally, the Gryphons enjoy a decent following and definitely do not play in front of a full complement of empty seats.  Some of the atmosphere from the Mitchell Centre seems to have been lost and the fanbase is not nearly as loud or boisterous.  There is definite room for improvement, but the Gryphons are not the least supported team in the OUA.


Access 5

The Guelph Gryphons Athletic Centre is located on the east side of the campus of the University of Guelph.  It is located with the other UofG athletic facilities and is immediately west of East Ring Road.  Fans will have to traverse the city a bit in getting to campus as it is located south of Highway 7 and east of Highway 6.  The main artery through Southern Ontario is Highway 401, and Guelph is a few kilometers to the north.  There is plenty of parking on the opposite side of East Ring Road and behind the hockey arena.  There is usually no charge for parking during athletic events.  For fans who wish to take public transit to the game, there are Guelph Transit bus stops on Ring Road that lead through campus.  Fans should check out the Guelph Transit website for fares, maps and schedules.  Getting around the Guelph Gryphons Athletic Centre is not difficult at all and the entrance to the basketball seating area from the track is good for those with mobility issues.  The washroom facilities are adequate for the arena.

Return on Investment 5

There are few bargains in sport on the same level as OUA basketball.  Adult tickets to see the Guelph Gryphons are $10 with youth and staff going for $5.  Students of the University of Guelph are free.  Basketball tickets are actually doubleheaders with the women’s basketball team playing either before or after the men.  Concession prices are decent and parking can be found on campus for free.  The investment for the Gryphons is very low and fans can easily bring the family.  The product on the court is very good and fans will no doubt enjoy themselves.  Overall, the return on investment for the Guelph Gryphons is excellent.

Extras 2

An extra mark for the University of Guelph investing in their athletic programs with up to date facilities.

An extra mark for the high quality, student-run broadcast at the University of Guelph.

Final Thoughts

A steadfast member of the OUA, the Guelph Gryphons offer a basketball experience in one of the premier facilities in the conference.  Taking in a game at the Guelph Gryphons Athletic Centre is very enjoyable and it won’t come close to denting the pocketbook.

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

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