Technical Corner

Canada’s Ice Sheets Contribution to Rock & Roll History

January 2022

When communities speak of their recreation facilities, past sporting events are typically always a corner stone of the memories.  What also needs to be included in the reminiscence is the role that recreation infrastructure played in allowing many of the now world-famous musical performers and their bands to rehearse their craft in the recreation construction boom of the 70s.

Few know that one of the most famous Ontario ice facilities was the Glenbriar Curling Club (circa 1962) at 262 Weber St. North in Waterloo, which had eight lanes of ice for curlers and four tennis courts outside at the back. The Glenbriar was a traditional multi-use venue that offered curling in the cold months and roller-skating, in the Oktoberfest hall - a popular site for community dances and concerts, in the off-season. It’s said that Gordon Lightfoot introduced his song Black Day at the Glenbriar in July of 1967 and that the Guess Who created the song America Woman on stage in the late 1960s after they realized their green card access to the US for gigs made them eligible for the Vietnam draft and they headed home looking for work. The music industry of the time was a different culture as the legal drinking age was 21, and strictly enforced.  Social events that allowed young people to gather in mass were always well attended. Most of Canada’s music success stories went through local recreation departments on their journey to stardom.  More

Much of what we teach the new generation of recreation professionals not to do as part of ORFA training courses is built on the mistakes and experiences of the past. For example, most early ice sheet construction had two industrial fans located at one end of the building that would draw fresh air from the opposite end. Above the surface was a series of 60-inch or more ceiling fans. Most would connect this design to addressing indoor toxic air.  However, the original installation was to remove, or at least move, the heavy clouds of tobacco smoke that appeared at both ice sporting and off-season events. The use of tobacco products indoors is also why the Fire Code requires all waste containers to have some form of top; in case a patron dropped a lit cigarette into the container it would have limited oxygen. This remains in force today even though the risk has been greatly reduced.

The industry used the flexibility of the Liquor License Act as service clubs and sporting organizations used Special Occasion Permit (SOP) licenses to host fundraising events which at the time was an unacceptable practice. SOP liquor events required that food be available thus allowing under age persons to attend while alcohol was served, so we offered popcorn which was later adjusted by the governing authority to require a menu of real food. The rowdiness at large community alcohol fueled events lead to the introduction of Municipal Alcohol Policy developments that remain as part of most all operations policy and procedures manuals today.

Owners of ice sheets were often encouraged to cover the ice so that large community events that included entertainment could take place. The first generation of coverings was mainly plywood or “chipboard” sheets that were laid loosely on the top of the ice. The next generation was an insulated sheet that was not very durable but did assist in refrigeration costs and comfort to finally the engineered insulated flooring systems we know today.

These events were usually overcrowded affairs with no emergency plans in place. Stages were often constructed by facility staff with basic carpentry skills. These raise platforms had no engineer design or approval. Tables and chairs were piled in corners of the facilities with no real concern for safety or cleanliness. As long as someone had a place to sit, they were content. Early ice arena dasherboard designs gave no real consideration to evacuation needs and were not designed to have thousands of people on site at one time.

It was common practice to have one of the band members remove the electrical panel cover and tap into the buildings electric supply “live”. Electrical cords ran all over the place creating trip hazards. Band homemade equipment for instruments and lighting were often brought in with no electrical inspection certification being in place.

We learned about “performing rights” and our responsibility to pay for the privilege to use music in public settings [More].  We further learned about entertainment riders. Bands or other entertainment would request a set compensation fee for their service and then attach a “rider” of other items or costs that the host would provide. This might include food and alcohol in dressing room areas. We learned that the food needed to meet Public Health Regulations and the provision of alcohol was a breach of the Liquor License Act unless the dressing room area was licensed. The industry had no measuring stick for rental fees. Often self promoters would rent the building, pay a small rental fee, have no liability insurance, collect entry fees at the door submitting no taxes and leave facility staff to clean up the mess post event. Our industry has learned to hone our contracts to ensure all participants understood their responsibilities and limitations and true costs associated with these events.

There are still some communities that host these types of experiences, but they are very much controlled when compared to the early days. It is important that the next generation of facility management take the time to review past operational policy and procedures to determine their responsibilities. These policies are often scar tissue that cannot be ignored.  They present liability to the operation for non-application should there be an incident.

I grew up in the 70s. I saw KISS, The Guess Who and BTO at the Sudbury Arena more than once.  Other bands that went on to fame passed through the North Bay, Sudbury and Sault Ste Marie corridor as they headed off to who knows where are too numerous to recall. Every region would have their own memories. You cannot replace this experience on the internet. Those reading this and that also lived through this history of the industry will smile and remember Jackson Brown’s load out song [more] as the bands, like a sporting team, always liked to sit around after the event and discuss their performance into the wee hours of the morning and we would need to try and chase them out.  A time that is gone but the policy’s remain behind as a memory of this time gone by.

Comments and/or Questions may be directed to Terry Piche, CRFP, CIT and Technical Director, Ontario Recreation Facilities Association

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