Photos by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.00
Ayr Farmers Mutual Insurance Company Arena @ North Dumfries Community Complex
2958 Greenfield Road
Ayr, ON N0B 1E0
Year Opened: 2011
Making Junior B Waves
In 1982 the Ayr Centennials were part of the fourth tier Southern Junior D Hockey League. A reorganization of the Ontario Hockey Association in 1991 saw the end of Junior D hockey and the Centennials moved to the Junior Development League.
In 2006 the Southern Ontario Junior Hockey League and in 2012 the entire league moved up to the Junior C level. After some success at the Junior C level, the Centennials made a huge move in 2020. The Centennials purchased the Kitchener Dutchmen, who were part of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League, playing at the Junior B level.
The Centennials would rebrand as the Dutchmen, who were originally founded in 1956 as the Kitchener Greenshirts, and begin the 2021-2022 season in Ayr as the new Junior B Centennials. It wouldn’t be long until the newborn Centennials would experience tragedy. On August 30, 2022, Centennials captain Eli Palfreyman collapsed in the dressing room during a preseason game intermission and died later in the hospital.
Home for the Centennials is the Ayr Mutual Farmers Insurance Company Arena @ North Dumfries Community Complex. As part of a larger recreation facility, the Ayr Farmers Mutual Arena first welcomed the Centennials in 2011 and is a hub for the small community of Ayr found at the southwest tip of Waterloo Region in Ontario. With a modest capacity of 1,475, including 900 seats, the Ayr Farmers Mutual Arena and Centennials have made the GOJHL take notice that they belong at the Junior B level. The Centennials are community-owned and currently the Junior B affiliate of the Guelph Storm.
Food & Beverage 3
There is one main concession stand at the North Dumfries Community Complex. The Breakaway Cafe is on the upper level near the arena entrance. For a small-town arena snack bar, the selections are pretty varied. Hot dogs, burgers, nachos, popcorn, and just about anything that is deep fried is for sale. This included onion rings, fries, chicken burgers, and fingers as well as pogos, deep-fried pickles, and mozza sticks.
Cake pops are also on the menu along with candy and chocolate for those who have a sweet tooth. Beverages include coffee, tea, hot chocolate, Pepsi products, and a variety of other energy drinks. There did not appear to be any beer for sale at North Dumfries Community Complex.
The North Dumfries Community Complex is a hub for community activities of all sorts for Ayr. It houses a variety of recreational facilities including meeting rooms, soccer fields, a splash pad, and a skate park. The exterior features an attractive grey brick with blue trim look.
Entering the complex, the eyeline is immediately brought to the stairs which ascend to the arena and descend to ice level. Right beside the breezeway to the dressing rooms are several framed jerseys of Ayr residents who have gone on to play professional or Major Junior hockey. These include Kyle Knechtel, Ben McFarlane, Henry Maracle, Kyle Clifford, and Jay Wells.
On the upper level, there are several Ayr Centennials markings letting fans know this is the home of the new Junior B team. A temporary ticket table welcomes fans as well as a temporary table with team merchandise right in front of a large trophy case, which mainly houses youth hockey achievements.
Entering the Ayr Farmers Mutual Insurance Company Arena, fans are shocked with the cutting cold of the arena. Gloves and a jacket are recommended. The ice runs from south to north with the centre ice featuring double logos, making pictures perfect from either the east or west.
There are some banners of note that hang in the Ayr Farmers Mutual Arena. Youth hockey banners hang at the north end and the 2021-2022 selection of Ayr as a host city for Rogers Hometown Hockey is commemorated on a banner at the south end. Six Ayr Centennials championship banners hang on the west wall.
These include a SOJHL championship in 2013; MHL championships in 2015 and 2016 and a PJHL championship in 2017. All championships were won at the Junior C level and culminated with a pair of Schmalz Cup Championships in 2016 and 2017. A simple hockey scoreboard hangs above centre ice. The seating bowl features four rows of plastic seats with a running track behind the seats.
Unfortunately, the sightlines from the seats are not great, and finding a good seat could be a challenge depending on what denotes a typical hockey experience. The best seats are probably in the south and north ends. Fans who wish to watch from either the east or west sides may consider the standing room behind the seating bowl for the best sight lines.
The Ayr Farmers Mutual Arena has clear netting around the entire ice as opposed to just the ends. There did not seem to be permanent recognition of former captain Eli Palfreyman, who passed away before the 2022-2023 season. However, with the event still fresh, there may be plans for a permanent recognition in the arena underway. At the end of the game, the players skate over to the corner to greet Eli’s mom in a nice tradition happening in Ayr.
The gameday production at an Ayr Centennials game is fairly simple. The PA system is good and there are not many bells or whistles, which is a refreshing change from some of the overproduced hockey experiences at higher levels. The PA announcer does a decent job, but at times is a little over the top with the calls.
Ayr is located in the township of North Dumfries and the southwest corner of Waterloo Region in Ontario. It is southwest of Kitchener and northwest of Brantford with a small population of 5,300. The North Dumfries Community Complex is north of town and is fairly isolated.
For fans looking for some pre or post-game fare, heading into Ayr is the best idea, and checking out Abe Erb, Willibald Farm and Brewery, or Gus and Guido’s Backyard would be the choices. For other sporting options, fans will be required to head to Brantford or Kitchener to get their fix. The Rangers or Bulldogs of the OHL will fit the bill. Other tourist options to consider nearby include Snyder’s Family Farm. For fans staying in the area, heading to Kitchener, Cambridge, or Brantford for accommodations would be the best option.
The Ayr Centennials enjoy solid support in the Junior B GOJHL. In the 2022-2023 season, the Centennials averaged 480 fans per game, above the league average of 399. At the time of writing, in the 2023-2024 season, the Centennials averaged 516 fans per game, again ahead of the league average of 418.
The Centennials ranked 6th and 7th in the 23-team GOJHL in the two seasons respectively. At the game reviewed, perpetual teenagers were running around the track, showing the Centennials was the place to be on a Thursday night in Ayr. The fans in attendance are passionate and supportive of their team.
North Dumfries Community Complex is located north of Ayr, south of Highway 401. Fans coming from out of town should not have to traverse the town to get to the arena. Traffic moves smoothly both during pre and post-game. There is a large parking lot able to support enough traffic for the game and the parking is free. There is no public transit that goes to the North Dumfries Community Complex.
Getting around the North Dumfries Community Complex and Ayr Farmers Mutual Arena is very easy and there is plenty of room for all. The washroom facilities are also decent in this modern facility.
Return on Investment 4
In an era of rising costs for the sporting experience, the Ayr Centennials offer terrific value. Tickets for adults are $12 and $10 for students or seniors. Kids are only $5 unless they are under 5 years old, where they are free. Tickets are only purchased at the door. Parking is free and concession prices are decent. The product on the ice is solid hockey and the gameday production, although simple, is decent. Overall, the math shows that the investment is very small and the return is more than sufficient for the investment.
An extra mark for the Ayr Centennials being selected as part of the 2021-2022 Rogers Hometown Hockey series, which was part of the Hockey Night in Canada production. An explanation of the Centennials and Hometown Hockey can be found here.
An extra mark for the highlighting of Ayr personalities who have gone on to play higher levels of hockey, including Jay Wells and Kyle Clifford. An extra mark for the Centennials making the move to Junior B and the GOJHL.
For fans who are looking for a pure hockey experience that is inexpensive and satisfying, considering some Junior B, Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League action and more specifically the Ayr Centennials is a great idea. The experience and support in Ayr is solid and the Ayr Mutual Farmers Insurance Company Arena is a decent facility. Hopefully, the Centennials will continue to have success as they make their way through the Junior B landscape, and prove that they belong in the GOJHL.