Steinbach City Councillor, and former arena facility manager, Jac Siemens has been sharing the history of the Centennial Arena. The new Southeast Events Centre construction has already begun and the moment the Steinbach Pistons’ season is done, demolition will begin on the 'old arena'. 

Before the Centennial arena  

Siemens says skating rinks have always been part of Steinbach.   

There were two different associations, the Playground Association and Steinbach Recreation Association, and they both provided skating rinks in different locations here in Steinbach.   

He says the first rinks were on Mill Street, which is now First Street, one was where Fernwood Bay sits today, and another was where the splash park is today. 

At one point there were six different skating surfaces in Steinbach. 

“There was a hockey rink, a large pleasure skating rink, and a smaller ‘learn to skate’ rink they called it.”   

Then, in July of 1947, T.G. Smith wrote a letter to town council.  

"In that letter that he wrote, he challenged Steinbach to talk about that and to provide feedback, and he did get feedback,” he says. “A lot of them were in support, a lot of them also were against. And they said, ‘there's enough church activities in Steinbach for the children to take part in,’ and they also didn't want them to learn bad language.”  

He says the Steinbach Playground Association was made up of members of each church, and so the church has had a big input into the ice surfaces and the arena here in Steinbach.  

Building the arena 

Way back when the Centennial Arena was built, they also struggled with inflation. 

Siemens says there was a referendum in July of 1966 that passed with 71 percent voters, and then town council awarded the tender to A.K. Penner and Sons, and the local site supervisor was R.B. Krantz.  

“They had the same problem then, the referendum was for $95,000, but due to inflation and cost of supplies, it went up to $106,000.”  

So they built that the first year, and they had to find extra money for the bleachers.  

“So I remember the very first time I went skating there, there was no bleachers. Plus, they didn’t put in artificial ice, that came later as well.” 

The next year they had another referendum for $65,000 and then they put in the artificial ice. 

Before they got the artificial ice, whoever was playing in Steinbach in those years had to play their playoff games in either La Broquerie or St Pierre because they had artificial ice and indoor arenas and that was the league rule. 

Siemens says there was a lot of pressure on the town to put in artificial ice, so they did that the next year with a cost of $75,000.  

“Then they also had a concrete floor. They poured two 3-inch layers of concrete. The first layer was put in, then they put the lines on top of that first layer, and then they poured another layer over top. Today, that's still the original concrete.” 

First memories of the arena 

Siemens remembers attending the opening ceremonies for the arena in 1967 in March.  

“I remember before the hockey game, these great big players, I was ten years old, and these players would skate by, and we didn't have plexiglass, we had a wire mesh.” 

He says the wire mesh caused a lot of issues over the years. 

“Because projectiles from the fans could be hurled onto the surface, and a lot of the verbal accusations would be going on.” 

He says the Northeast corner was always the worst. 

“Even when I became the recreation department head here in Steinbach, it was always the fans in the Northeast corner standing behind what is now the plexiglass.”  

He says it didn't become plexiglass till about 1974, so the fans in the very first row had access to the rink. 

"Because there was no barrier. There was zero barrier! Like there was that eight-10 inch lip that's there today, but there was no glass, there was no wire mesh,” he says. “So when there'd be a scrum happening in front of them, the fans would often be involved in the altercation right in front of them, and they were part of it.” 

So when they put in the plexiglass, then they also put in a two-foot barrier.  

“And that barrier became tempered glass in the 80’s, so that stopped some of the fan involvement in the game.” 

He says a lot of people in Steinbach have a lot of different stories about the arena, and we need to keep those stories alive. 

“Somewhere these have to be recognized. And hopefully the City of Steinbach puts up a plaque, they should tell the story somewhere.” 

He says it would be great to gather all the information from all the different people that have been there. 

“Like who scored the first goal, that was Herb Martel for the Eastend Eagles, who did this, who did that?” 

He says that rinks hosted a variety of tremendous memories. 

“The memories that the Pistons made the last ten years, and all the different events,” he says. “From the indoor track meet that Knights of Columbus used to host in there, to the different trade shows and car shows in summer.” 


With files from Corny Rempel and Kenton Dyck