When Sherman Rink burnt down in 1915, Calgary was left without a major arena with which to host dances, horse shows, curling and ice hockey. Lloyd Turner hustled to get a temporary outdoor space built across the street, but World War I sidetracked efforts for a permanent solution.
But once the war ended, hockey found a new home in Calgary: the Victoria Arena.
Located roughly on the spot where the Scotiabank Saddledome currently sits – the east end of Victoria Park along the Elbow River, just north of the horse barns – Victoria Arena was part of the larger Victoria Pavilion, built originally as a horse pavilion and opened in May 1912. It was used as a staging and training area during World War I and taken over full-time by the City of Calgary in 1918. Ice was put in that year and hockey shifted to Victoria Park (where it’s been ever since).
Victoria Park has been home of pro hockey in Calgary for nearly a century. Rich history there. (Victoria Arena pic 1922, program cover 1936) pic.twitter.com/6WmDUHs4Fj
— Jeremy Klaszus (@klaszus) April 21, 2017
Ice was initially seasonal until Turner took over management of the building in 1931. Artificial ice was installed in 1932, making the facility even more useful and busy. However, over the years it’s usefulness added to wear and tear, and it developed a reputation as a bit of a fire hazard by the 1940s – it was a big, old, wooden structure, after all.
Building a new major arena became a priority and in late 1950 the Stampede Corral opened across the street, just to the west of Victoria Arena. The arena was primarily used for horse shows before a planned demolition in 1961. However, the demolition wasn’t completed: the building burnt down in November 1961 under suspicious circumstances. The fire department concluded it was deliberately set.
Yes, the first two major arenas in a city that hosts an NHL team called the Flames both burnt down. History, it seems, is not without a sense of humour.