Volume 95, Issue 86

Friday, March 15, 2002
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Knights get new digs: OHL hockey moves downtown

Gazette Sports top five

Sports Briefs

Knights get new digs: OHL hockey moves downtown

By Ryan Dixon
Gazette Staff

Niru Somayajula/Gazette

The London Knights are movin' on up to the east side – well, actually the north side.

After years playing in the London Ice House, located in the obscure regions of London's southern edge, the Ontario Hockey League club will be moving a lot closer to Western's campus as they prepare to move into a brand new facility in London's downtown core.

The arena, located across from the Covent Garden Market between Talbot and Ridout streets, could mean good things for Western students who don't get their hockey fix from the Mustangs alone.

Now that the Knights will be playing closer to home, the highest quality of junior hockey in the country will be a short bus ride away and Western hockey fans have taken notice.

"If [the Knights] were downtown, being a lot closer, I'd definitely go," said Kevin Barkey, a second-year media, information and technoculture student said. "The Ice House is way the hell out [in the south end]."

City of London commissioner of planning and fevelopment Victor Cote, could not give a firm date for the opening of the new arena, but offered an estimate. "If I were a betting man, I would say sometime in October [of 2002]," he said.

Cote said things were running smoothly in terms of the pace of construction. He added the public is starting to take notice of the facility and initial fears they had about the arena are starting to transform into excitement.

"I used to get questions about land use and location – now I get questions about parking," he said.

For some years now people, have been referring to the pile of bricks and mortar as "the new downtown arena", but all that will change shortly, Cote said. "We're hoping to announce the name [and major sponsor] in April," he added.

Upon completion, the arena will hold 9,100 people for hockey games. Of course, the venue will play host to much more than testosterone-filled boys with sticks.

"Reaction from major promoters wanting to book acts has been exceptional," Cote said. "We're going to be able to host acts we were not able to accommodate before. [The arena] is the perfect size. If you have a facility that holds 15,000, you're going to only fill it once or twice a year, but with 10,000, you're going to fill it 10 to 15 times a year."

Western hockey fans are not the only ones in a position to benefit from the new arena. London's downtown core has been sagging for years and local businesses are hoping the buzz surrounding the arena will translate into cash.

"It will help the downtown," said Dan Collins, manager of the Eight Ball on King bar and restaurant. "I think the [Covent Garden] Market was supposed to be the draw for the downtown core, but we really haven't seen that."

Collins added that a key factor will be the arena's ability to serve as a venue for the big name acts it is expected to attract.

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Copyright The Gazette 2002