PHOTO ESSAY: Johnny Leroux Arena turns 45 years old

Banners inside the arena. Barry Gray (for StittsvilleCentral)

The Johnny Leroux Stittsville Community Arena turns 45 years old this month.

The first skate was on the evening of January 16, 1971, the result of a massive community effort to raise funds and literally raise the building itself.  Stittsville’s first indoor arena was financed entirely by the community, with no help from the municipality. Barbara Bottriell tells the story of the rink in her book Stittsville: A Sense of Place:

“…in the Fall of Centennial year, a group of adult hockey players got together and decided that Stittsville needed an arena and that they were going to build one themselves.  They acquired a piece of land beside Alexander Grove sometime during the winter of 1968, and began their fundraising activities in the Spring.”

By the end of 1968 they had raised $25,000 and volunteers went to work clearing the land with chainsaws, dropping by after work or on weekends.

“The cleared the land, stumped it, put in the footings and four feet of crushed stone before the contractor started in 1970.  The contractor framed the building and put the roof and then the volunteers began their work again, putting up the siding on the outside and the cement blocks inside.  They put polyethtylene over the crushed stone and flooded the surface, even working on Christmas Eve to prepare the ice surface for the new year.”

On January 16, 1971, the committee members – including Ian Colpitts and Sterling Warner – went for a skate on the new ice, but aside from the rink, four walls and a roof, there wasn’t much more to the arena.  There was no seating and only temporary dressing rooms. Fundraising continued while they finished the building.  (Warner died in 2000; Colpitts died in 2012.)

Tens of thousands of dollars were raised by a variety of individuals and community groups over several years as the building continued to be developed.  (John Curry wrote a detailed summary of fundraising efforts and arena costs in the Stittsville News a few years back.)

The building was named after Johnny Leroux in 2011. Leroux has been involved in local sports for years, including as a coach and referee for local hockey and baseball teams. He continues to be an active member of the Stittsville Legion and can often be seen in the stands at the arena that bears his name.

Photographer Barry Gray dropped by recently to snap some photos of the old barn.

We’d love to hear from our readers: Were you part of the fundraising and efforts to build the rink?  Do you have any favourite memories from playing hockey there?  Add a comment below or send us a link at feedback@stittsvillecentral.ca

Plaque inside the arena recognizing Sterling Warner and Ian Colpits, who were instrumental in the community fundraising and contruction of the arena. Barry Gray (for StittsvilleCentral)
Plaque inside the arena recognizing Sterling Warner and Ian Colpitts, who were instrumental in the community fundraising and construction of the arena.
Trophy display case in the lobby of the arena. Barry Gray (for StittsvilleCentral)
Trophy display case in the lobby of the arena.
The arena ice surface, just cleaned ready for skating. Barry Gray (for StittsvilleCentral)
The arena ice surface, just cleaned ready for skating.
Rams hockey jacket in the display case honouring Johnny Leroux who the arena is now named after. Barry Gray (for StittsvilleCentral)
A Stittsville Rams hockey jacket in the display case honouring Johnny Leroux, who the arena is now named after.

Banners inside the arena. Barry Gray (for StittsvilleCentral)

Banners inside the arena. Barry Gray (for StittsvilleCentral)

Plaque inside the arena for Charles Fraser, the first arena manager. Barry Gray (for StittsvilleCentral)
Plaque inside the arena honouring Charles Fraser, the first and long-time arena manager.

Lobby of the arena. Barry Gray (for StittsvilleCentral)

Lobby of the arena. Barry Gray (for StittsvilleCentral)

The first skate happened at the Stittsville arena on January 16, 1971 with no fanfare or ribbon cutting. Over 200 people showed up that evening. Barry Gray (for StittsvilleCentral)
The first skate happened at the Stittsville arena on January 16, 1971 with no fanfare or ribbon cutting. Over 200 people showed up that evening. Barry Gray (for StittsvilleCentral)

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4 thoughts on “PHOTO ESSAY: Johnny Leroux Arena turns 45 years old”

  1. My mother has a few memories of the rink drive. Buying a $20.00 brick, organizing a bridge group where the fee went to the rink, and the fact that Ray Faulkner was president of the OYB who owned the land where the ball diamond and rink are situated and had the foresight (with Jack Argue) to see to it that their property and money did not go to the National OYB when they disbanded, but rather to the village. They had a free site when they decided to build. My siblings and I went on the fundraising walk in 1971(?) which was lots of fun and gave the children a chance to contribute. We walked all the way to Munster and back on a hot summer day.

  2. If I may add to my cousin Ellen’s shared story. Taking on a project of this dimension was an amazing feat for our ‘little’ town back then. Our community spirit was beyond ecstatic. I remember participating in all of the walk-a-thons – trudging 25 miles through our countryside to raise funds for what would be a true community facility. For only 10 or 5 cents a mile, the children of Stittsville became very competitive in obtaining sponsors for the walks and I’m sure our parents, relatives and friends parents were a little poorer for it. It was the talk of the schoolyard as the date of each walk approached and comparisons made as to how much each of us had raised. My parents purchased a cement block, we attended the chicken dinners and participated in many of the fundraising efforts. I had skated on our other rinks – behind the old Bradley’s store and behind the old municipal buildings which Grampa Scott maintained and kept the fire burning in the shack. I started figure skating lessons at that rink. But I remember fondly that first skate – waiting in line to be able to step out on this huge ice surface indoors – it was like a dream come true. On Saturday mornings we had figure skating lessons under our new banner – the Stittsville Figure Skating Club – I later taught for 4 years at the Club. After my lessons, I would volunteer in the snack bar with Mr. Fraser (Charlie). My Saturdays were spent at the arena and there was no other place I’d rather be. My Dad (Bill McKay) and Jimmy Cathcart coached one of the junior boys hockey teams for a number of years and even got their teams hockey jackets possible through sponsors. I still have my Dad’s jacket with ‘Coach’ on it. My Mom, Lorraine (nee Parks) spent many hours skating at both outdoor rinks and the new arena. Another exciting time, was when the artificial ice was installed – it was like gliding on glass and was so much faster. The people, events and participation in seeing this major community project come to fruition will always remain in my memories.

  3. I am here after a google search after hearing the arena mentioned on the radio. I couldnot belive someone named an arena after Johnny LaRue, John Candy’s characer on SCTV. Looks like I was way off, although a “Johnny LaRue|” arena would be funny and a great tribute to the late great Candy.

    However, I am glad I had a chance to learn about the wonderful story of your arena and the fine member of the community whose name graces it. Vaya con dios, amigos

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