Brock students seeking Garden City Arena memories

Hosting everything from hockey and roller derby to lacrosse and concerts, the Garden City Arena has played a significant role in the city of St. Catharines over the past 85 years.

Now, with the building scheduled to be decommissioned in 2022, Brock University students are working to preserve countless memories linked to the arena for the future.

Members of the community are invited to share their stories and memories of the Garden City Arena at a community memory collecting drop-in event at the arena on Saturday, Nov. 27 from 1 to 5 p.m.

Students from HIST/CANA 4F00 (Voices from the Past: Oral History) will be on hand to record people’s memories and photograph or scan physical objects, such as skates, hockey sticks, event flyers and concert ticket stubs.

“It’s about more than just sports — the arena provides a starting point for exploring broader issues in local, national and even global history, including gender, race and class relations, deindustrialization and urban renewal,” says Associate Professor of History Elizabeth Vlossak.

Jon Lowe, Supervisor of Recreation Facilities for the City of St. Catharines, gave History students a behind-the-scenes tour of the Garden City Arena earlier this month, including a stop to check out the line-painting machine.

The arena’s uncertain future emphasizes the importance of this memory collecting event.

“We want to preserve as much of its history as possible now, while we still can — and so much of that history is in people’s memories of the place,” says Vlossak. “We want to learn about people’s relationships with the arena, what it has meant to them, what have they collected and why are these things important to them.

“This is an opportunity for members of the community to share their stories, photographs and memorabilia of the Garden City Arena, and to celebrate a building that has been so important to so many people since it opened in 1938.”

Students have been working in partnership with Brock University’s Archives and Special Collections and the St. Catharines Museum to research the history of the arena for upcoming digital exhibits. The collected material will also be made available to researchers and the public through Brock’s Sport and Oral History Archive.

“I’m looking forward to learning about past events and the thoughts and memories of others who have had more intimate experiences with the history associated with the Garden City Arena,” says History student Ray Borland. “Our oral history project will continue those memories when others read or hear of our discoveries within the completed project.”

Kathleen Powell, Supervisor of Historical Services at the St. Catharines Museum, is excited to partner with students on the project and to hear people’s memories of the arena.

“This type of event provides the museum the opportunity to add these oral history stories to our collection so that we can share a diversity of voices in our work and connect these voices and stories to add life to the artifacts within the collection,” she says.

Those attending the memory collecting event are asked to complete the City of St. Catharines COVID-19 screening in advance, if possible. As per the City’s COVID-19 protocol, please wear a mask and bring proof of vaccination and ID showing birth year. Please note that the museum will not be accepting physical donations at this event.

Those unable to attend the event are encouraged to submit their memories via the Sport and Oral History website.

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