Aud's days are numbered
Kitchener Rangers clearly have outgrown their city-owned abode of 46 seasons
February 04, 2009
Look to Windsor for inspiration.
But peer beyond that city's powerhouse Spitfires club, the scourge of the Canadian Hockey League. Stare into the glare of their new home -- the sparkling $71-million Windsor Family Credit Union Centre, host of tonight's Ontario Hockey League all-star game.
"It's a beautiful rink from the dressing room to the bench to the ice," said Rangers captain Dan Kelly, Kitchener's lone playing rep at the all-star summit.
"It's a great building no matter what you're looking at."
Rest assured, the Rangers are looking closely at the 6,500-capacity Union Hall.
The days of the Great Old Aud are dwindling.
The Aud, built for $1.2 million in 1951, was renovated for $8 million six years ago and $1.4-million last year. It seats 6,136. With standing room, it holds 6,436. Even in this stumbling season, the Rangers average 6,219 at home with season-ticket holders capped at 4,700. Clearly, the club has outgrown its city-owned abode of 46 seasons.
The subscriber-owned Rangers -- who made $1 million last season -- are weary of wondering how many more fans they might attract, and how much more money they might make, in a roomier building.
The Spitfires had grown tired of their 84-year-old downtown barn.
Now, the Spits are invigorated in an auto town ravaged by recession.
Their new city-owned Union Hall -- where young all star Taylor Hall shines brightly and nightly -- gives Windsor a new hockey image as tenants in arguably the OHL's finest facility.
"Two things stood out for me the first time I saw the rink," said Rangers coach and general manager Steve Spott, who runs the Western Conference bench tonight.
"No. 1 -- how steep the stands are. I like that. I like the fans being right on top of you. No. 2 -- how bright it was. It's an exciting place to play in."
So the Rangers will be taking notes. Chief operating officer Steve Bienkowski, who is investigating how construction of a new Kitchener rink could be funded, was to arrive in Windsor last night for a league meeting.
It's his first visit to the new Windsor rink, which opened Dec. 11.
When the Rangers played there on Dec. 18, team president Ted Scharf shot some hand-held video from the visitors bench. It's all about R&D. Research and duplicate.
The Rangers haven't met with city to discuss any new arena plans, at least not yet.
"We will do that," Bienkowski said. "Hopefully, within the next month or two."
The Rangers have looked at a size range between 9,000 and 12,000 seats.
The bigger the building, the bigger the plot of land the city and team will require.
Bienkowski said there is a list of potential sites, but declined to name them because the sites are not owned by the city or team.
As for possible cost of a new rink, Bienkowski expects to have a report on the matter by Feb. 9.
Timeline is not determined but the 2012-13 season would be fitting.
The Rangers will be in their 50th season while the city celebrates its 100th year.
"I believe our city and fan base can support a bigger arena," Spott said.
"Not only for the Rangers, but for other events like world juniors and figure skating and whatnot. I think it's a great time to look at that as an option. You look at the concerts and obviously the spinoffs from the jobs that could be created."
Tonight, Windsor's new rink has the spotlight.
"They didn't drop any balls," Spott said.
"You only have one chance to do it, so you may as well do it the best you can. And the Spitfires did."
But will the Rangers and the city of Kitchener? Stay tuned.