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  • Writer's pictureDave Cottenie

Physical Activities Complex - Waterloo Warriors

Photos by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57

Physical Activities Complex 200 University Ave W Waterloo, ON N2L 3G1

Waterloo Warriors Basketball website

Physical Activities Complex website

Year Opened: 1967

Capacity: 1,957

The Warriors That Built This Town

When your facility was built in 1967, there comes a time when renovations are necessary. The drably named Physical Activities Complex at the University of Waterloo has been in need of a major facelift for a long time. The first step began when the old, wooden bleachers were replaced with modern plastic seating. The latest renovation at the PAC, completed for the 2021-2022 season, has injected new energy into the once drab building, worthy of the decent basketball history the Waterloo Warriors have enjoyed.

The Warriors have hit the hardwood, representing the University of Waterloo since 1958. Currently enjoying conference play in the OUA (Ontario University Athletics) as part of the larger USports organization, regulating university sports in Canada, the Warriors have enjoyed Wilson Cup victories as conference champions in 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1983 and 1986. The highlight of the Warriors basketball history was the 1975 CIAU National Championship won at the PAC against the Manitoba Bisons. Although the basketball fortunes on the court for the Warriors have not compared to the seventies and eighties, fans can expect a great experience going to a Waterloo game, especially in their new/old digs.

Food & Beverage 3

This review was completed during restrictions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The mark for food takes into account previous concessions scenarios. Pre-COVID concessions consisted of simple snacks sold from a temporary table in one of the corners of the PAC. Soda, popcorn and chocolate bars dominated the limited menu. With the renovations to the PAC, a food court outside of the entrance in the main lobby is one of the featured improvements. Subway and Jugo Juice are among the featured restaurants and fans can bring food into the PAC with them. Vending machines are also on site. It will be interesting to see if the food court will suffice for concessions in the future, or if there will be a return to the previous concession options inside as well.

Atmosphere 3

The University of Waterloo is in the final stages of a significant renovation to the PAC that has seen some pretty significant changes to the atmosphere. A child of the sixties, the PAC was a cold, soulless, concrete cavern … at least that is what it has been in the modern era. A main entrance has been created on the eastern side of the building which offers an attractive glass entrance, covering up the former brick and concrete that is found around the other three sides of the building. This does force fans who park in Lot M, just north of the PAC, to walk around to the opposite side that they are used to. However, this is a small price to pay for what is a better entrance overall. The main entrance brings fans into a bright, clean concourse which is a far cry from the drab concrete stairs that were what passed for welcoming in the old days. After passing through security and having the tickets scanned, fans ascend to the PAC and enter the main seating area.

Many OUA facilities just seem like a simple gymnasium which is as much a home to PE classes as they are to Varsity Athletics. The PAC does have a bigger feel to it, with the right crowd can produce some significant energy. New lighting and flooring to go with the updated seating, which was installed a few years ago, give the PAC a brighter, cleaner, bigger-event feel to it. Those hideous, old wooden bleachers that were among the worst anywhere have been converted, smartly, into a welcoming Warriors sign fans can see before entering the PAC. The court runs from southwest to northeast, with each of the four corners labeled according to the four directions. The southeast side of the court is where to get that perfect picture, while the more comfortable, stadium chair seating is found on the northwest side. Another new, and desperately needed feature that was part of the major renovation is the bridge which links the north and east corners of the PAC.

History has been embraced at Waterloo with the naming of the court after longtime Athletic Director, Carl Totzke. The northeast wall features a plaque dedicating the court and explaining the importance of Carl Totzke to the Warrior family. The southwest wall features a simple, yet effective, basketball scoreboard, complete with player information. The scoreboard is surrounded by a plethora of Warrior provincial championship banners, including six Wilson Cup banners. The 1975 National Championship banner also hangs proudly on the southwest wall. The adventurous and the historians will want to look in the north corner of the court to find the marked spot where Phil Goggins hit the game-winning shot to defeat the Manitoba Bisons to win the 1975 National Championship game. One of the greatest players to play at Waterloo was Mike Moser, whom the USports basketball MVP is named after, tragically died in 1975, before the Warriors had their playoff run. His number has been retired by the Warriors. Waterloo needs to take the next step to fully embrace their history and display that retired number in the PAC. The numbers of Peter Savich, Bill Jones and Jaan Laaniste are also retired from basketball and should be on display.

The gameday experience is about what one would expect for an OUA basketball game. The gameday operations are mostly run by students, including the video streaming, play-by-play, colour analysis, camera work and PA announcing. A variety of music is played in warmups and during stoppages.

Neighbourhood 5

The PAC is located at the north side of the campus of the University of Waterloo, minutes from Uptown Waterloo.

The Student Life Centre is now joined directly to the PAC and there are some food options there. The University Club is just a quick jump across the parking lot and does have some limited seating times. Uptown is where there is far more to consider. The Huether, The Pub on King, Ethel’s Lounge, Beertown and Morty’s Pub are just a few of the culinary options that can be found on King Street. University Shops Plaza is a little closer to the opposite end of campus and has a number of options including Lobster Burger Bar, Williams Fresh Cafe, Mel’s Diner and Molly Bloom’s are all good options.

There are a bunch of other sporting options in the area. The Warriors field a full complement of athletic teams and the PAC is shared with the women’s basketball team and volleyball teams among others. On the other side of Columbia Street is the Columbia IceField Arena, home of Warriors hockey and Warrior Field, home of Warriors football. Just “up the street” from the University of Waterloo, is Wilfrid Laurier University. The Golden Hawks compete in basketball at the Athletic Complex, football at University Stadium and hockey at the Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex. Heading to the other side of the twin cities border will bring fans to Kitchener, home of the Kitchener Rangers and their home at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium.

The Duke of Wellington and Jazz Room on King Street offer fans live music on weekend nights. Taking the train to the town of St. Jacobs for the market may be of interest or walking through Waterloo Park if the weather’s nice is fun also. Oktoberfest is the busiest time in Kitchener-Waterloo and the largest German party rages on around Thanksgiving.

For fans wishing to stay near the PAC, the Inn of Waterloo is just north on King Street and the Delta by Marriott Waterloo is a short drive away.

Fans 3

It is very difficult to assess OUA basketball fans as attendance figures are not normally published. The Warriors, it seems, draw a couple hundred fans per game. Keep in mind that all Warrior basketball games are doubleheaders with the women playing first and the men playing after and there are plenty of people coming and going. That being said, with the renovations that have been completed, there is an audible increase of energy in the building that has been sorely lacking for years. It feels more like a spectator sport rather than a rec league game that just happens to be happening.

Access 4

Getting to the PAC is not terribly difficult. It is located at the north end of the campus of the University of Waterloo, which is easily accessed from Columbia Street West. It is a significant distance from the Conestoga Parkway and driving through Waterloo will be required for those coming from out of town. Parking at the PAC is an option as Lot M is at the top of the hill, very close to the Columbia Street entrance. Other lots are not too far and most have a $5 or $6 charge. Lot X, on the other side of Columbia Street, is free on weekends.

For fans wishing to take public transportation to the PAC, there are a couple of options. Grand River Transit buses travel the entire Ring Road, which circles the campus. The University of Waterloo stop for the ION light rail is also a short walk through campus to the PAC. Fans should check the GRT website, if interested, for times, maps and fares.

The flow of people through the PAC has drastically improved with the renovations. With a dedicated entrance, fans are no longer confused as to which of the four corners of the building would be unlocked for admittance to the basketball game. Also, there are now washroom facilities at the level above the main seating area, which is much better than the previous system where fans were required to go all the way to the basement to find a washroom. The bridge linking the north and east corners also improves the flow of fans and allows for a more intimate experience with fans on both sides of the court.

Security protocols and Covid protocols are consistently in flux. Stadium Journey implores fans to consult the Waterloo Warriors website for up to date information before heading to the game.

Return on Investment 4

OUA basketball is very affordable. At $10 a ticket for adults, with discounts for children, seniors and students, the price is just right, especially in this world of rising ticket prices. It is a little unfortunate that there is a charge for parking, which is a hit or miss affair for the league. Concession prices are what one would also expect. The product on the court is at a high level and the atmosphere and fanbase seems to be consistently improving. Overall, heading to a Warriors basketball game will not disappoint.

Extras 4

An extra mark for the recent renovations of the PAC, improving the gameday atmosphere and access to and in the building drastically.

An extra mark for the student-run event, especially their work for online broadcasts.

An extra mark for the increased embrace of Warrior basketball history with the marking of the 1975 National Championship spot and dedicating of the court.

An extra mark for Roly Webster and Ari Grossman. A couple of former Golden Hawks have taken the helm of the Warriors athletic programs and pushed the re-investment in the facilities and programs and are hoping for some big results on the court.

Final Thoughts

In the sixties and seventies, the PAC was the place to be, with some of the best basketball support in the country. Times have drastically changed, not just in Waterloo, but across the league. On the bright side, the University of Waterloo’s investment in their athletic facilities has shown a commitment to the program and hopefully the results on the court will follow.

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

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