September 9, 2016 - Beamsville, Ontario
Located between St. Catharines and Hamilton is the quickly growing suburban city of Beamsville. The Fleming Centre is a nearly new facility, having opened in 2014, and sits in a partially commercial and partly residential area tucked in with some newly constructed townhouses that all look the same. The facility hosts the ice arena as well as the town library, and has a modern look. A brick courtyard with landscaping and bench seating sits in front of the building, and the arena, which makes up the back of the building, has dark gray concrete across its lower course and light gray vertical siding above. The squarish structure has a flat roof, and has a tasteful modern look about it. The place looks sharp and clean, and is a good example of a modern community arena. The area has a bit of hockey history, as the Beamsville Blades used to compete in the Niagara Junior C circuit. The history goes a bit deeper though, and has some significance to the entire sport as the modern hockey net was said to have been invented here but a couple of local men in 1889, and was adopted as the universal hockey net design in 1898. A plaque in the arena's upper lobby pays tribute to this seemingly trivial, yet very important, fact which led to the game of hockey as we know it. The GMHL brought a team to Beamsville, and this game was the first ever game for the Lincoln Mavericks, named for the greater municipality of Lincoln in which Beamsville sits. With a new facility and the return of junior hockey to the town folks in Beamsville have a lot to be excited about. This is a crowded market however, with 2 OHL teams within 45 minutes, and the GOJHL and OJHL having several nearby clubs, as does the Allan Cup Hockey League and Junior C. Nonetheless, the Fleming Centre is a nice looking and well appointed small arena that makes a good home for a team at this level.
A pair of entrances, one on each side of the building, lead to the lower lobby area. A Mavericks ticket table was set here selling tickets, and $8 got you a seat to the game. The lobby has glass overlooking the end of the ice, as well as trendy looking furniture and couches for folks to sit around and chat. A small snack bar, with a modern look of a coffee shop, is also in the lobby. Access to the seating area and arena itself is via a set of stairs or elevator, and there is an upper lobby complete with some plaques paying tribute to the hockey past of Beamsville. Also in the upper lobby is a Mavericks merchandise table. Being a new team competing in their first ever game there was a bit of a buzz in the building before game time as fans were hoping to get familiar with the team. The arena features the common design of the seating above the dressing rooms. Six rows of plastic seats run the length of the ice, and the front row is yellow with the rest being black. Above the seating is a standing rail with a drink shelf. A two lane running track runs behind the seating and around the entire ice surface, providing additional room to stand and watch the game. Seating capacity is listed at 500, but that is just the number of seats, as with standees on the track and in the lobby you could likely cram another 400-500 people here. A series of tall vertical windows give a glimpse of the outside from the running track. The ceiling is flat and features vertical acoustic panels hanging from it. The team benches and penalty boxes are all across the ice from the stands and dressings rooms, and, as is the case in most of Ontario, the entire seating area and track is covered in protective netting. The front row of seating is about 12 rows above the ice, and the seating offers good views, although the near boards are a bit obstructed. The cinder block interior walls are covered by metal siding. The area next to the lobby area has a bar serving alcohol and several community rooms, and that area was quite busy as this was the inaugural game for the Mavericks. A single scoreboard sits on one end of the ice. Overall this is a very functional facility that the designers took a bit of time to make pleasing to the eye. The Fleming Centre is typical of many of the new arenas popping up across Ontario, and has a much more comfortable look and feel than the community arenas built decades ago.
With this being the first ever contest for a new franchise in a new market you would expect a few glitches when it comes to the gameday presentation. Overall things went quite well for the Mavericks and there was a sense of excitement and energy in the building before the game. The pregame festivities included a ceremonial puck drop from a member of the original Beamsville Mavericks with an actual puck that was used in the city 55 years ago. The entire roster was introduced before the game. The opposing Tillsonburg Hurricanes are also a new franchise this season so this was a matchup of new teams. A good crowd which filled about half of the arena was on hand for this Friday night contest. Unfortunately things got off to a bad start as the Mavericks trailed early, and ultimately lost 10-3, with some marginal goaltending taking the energy out of the building nearly before the game got going. There were no intermission contests or events, but there was a good selection of music during stoppages. The music was a bit loud and with the bass turned up a bit, making for a thumping sound throughout the arena. As you would expect with a new team, and a nearly new building, there is not a sense of history or character built up at the Fleming Centre yet, but the arena did a nice job with the plaques in the upper lobby paying tribute to the events and individuals who played an important part in the town's hockey history. We've been to quite a few of these "seats perched above the dressing rooms on one side" arenas, and the Fleming Centre seems to be the most appealing of those, as the overall architectural look of the building and interior design is just pleasing. It will take time to build up a following, but the GMHL does not draw large crowds overall, so the few hundred on hand made for a good start to the Mavericks history. Regardless of the setting or the arena hockey is a simple game, and the modern venue here features the same design goals and nets as countless other arenas across the globe. This one happens to also feature the same style netting that was invented a couple of miles from here over 100 years ago. The Fleming Centre will hopefully serve as a home for junior hockey for decades to come, and will hopefully be a setting where the team and fans in Beamsville can build up their own traditions and sense of history.
A box score of the game can be found Here
Other information about the Lincoln Mavericks can be found at: Mavericks Home
Other information about the Fleming Centre can be found at: Fleming Centre Home
More photos of the Fleming Centre can be found Here