Athletics and Recreation Centre – Queen’s Gaels
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On February 6, 1904 Queen’s University played McGill University in basketball. It would be the first ever basketball game played in what is now known as USports. Formerly Canadian Interuniversity Sport, USports has a long tradition with basketball and especially the tri-colour Queen’s Gaels. Queen’s maintains one of the deepest set of traditions in athletics. Located in historic Kingston, Ontario, Queen’s was established in 1841, before Canada gained independence and currently boasts an enrollment of over 24,000 students.
Queen’s plays in the Ontario conference of USports known as Ontario University Athletics or OUA. The current home for the Gaels is the fairly new Athletics and Recreation Centre. Replacing the Bartlett Gymnasium in 2009, the ARC, as it is commonly known, is a bright, shiny home for the Gaels. It is not a stretch to say that Queen’s is a football-first school with the Gaels faithful providing one of the most unique and traditional experiences in all of Canadian football. On the other hand, basketball has not seen a ton of success over the years. The Gaels have claimed five Wilson Cups over the years as Ontario champions, with their last one coming in 1957. The deep-set traditions that fans find at Gaels football games are vacant from the basketball scene, however a Tri-Colour basketball game is an enjoyable affair in one of the nicest facilities in the conference.
Food & Beverage 2
Concession options at the Athletics and Recreation Centre are not earth shattering. However, if you are looking for a snack, you will be just fine. There is one concession stand at the south end. There you will find hot dogs, popcorn, pretzels, pizza from Pizza Pizza, chocolate bars and chips. Slushies and frozen lemonade are also available. Soft drinks available are Coca-Cola products and are in plastic bottles. Powerade is also available. There are some vending machines close by as well if the selections at the concession are not good for you. Prices are decent and there are combos available combining pizza, hot dog or popcorn with a soda. Quality and selection won’t blow you away, but if you are someone who needs to munch during the game, then you will be satisfied.
The Athletics and Recreation Centre is a fully functional recreation centre for the students of Queen’s University. The main gym in the ARC is the host for Queen’s basketball. The ARC is inside the Queen’s Centre. From the exterior, the Queen’s Centre is a little difficult to find. Signage is not overwhelming from the exterior and some research is necessary for newcomers to the Queen’s campus. Upon entry to the ARC fans are welcomed by inflatable Queen’s promo items including the giant Q and inflatable tunnel. Entry is on the south side of the ARC and fans are welcomed to the north-south configuration of the basketball court. The south concourse is where fans will find Queen’s trophy cases and walls honouring Academic All-Canadians and Athletic Award winners. There are a couple of lounges at the south side as well under the watchful eye of a large mural of the iconic Queen’s tri-colour flag and Queen’s fans.
The seating area in the main gymnasium is bright and clean. Seating is on the east, west and south sides of the court. Seating on the east and west sides are plastic contoured bleacher benches with four rows of plastic seats on both sides of centre court. Ample standing room is behind each of the three seating areas as well. On the west side of the gymnasium, above the grandstand, hang all of the championship banners for all sports. Included in that group is the basketball banner honouring the 1924, 1926, 1930, 1936 and 1957 Ontario Conference Championships which resulted in the Gaels bringing home the Wilson Cup. Unfortunately, the Gaels have yet to bring home a National Championship in basketball. On the east side, above the grandstands, hang banners honouring the 1922, 1923 and 1924 Grey Cup Champions and recognizing Richardson Stadium as the site of the 1922 Grey Cup. These show great history for Queen’s athletics, but are football related and seem a bit out of place in the ARC. On the north wall is the scoreboard, which is decent, but pretty standard for this level of basketball and does not feature a video board.
The game day production at Queen’s is far different for basketball than football. At Richardson Stadium, football game days are steeped in Queen’s traditions which have been handed down through the generations. There are no such traditions with basketball. Overall, the basketball production is fairly modern, with modern, student-chosen music during the down times and student run promotions and contests. The Queen’s Competitive Dance Team performs between the quarters and helps distribute promotional items in the crowd. The Queen’s mascot Boo-Hoo did not make an appearance at the game that was reviewed.
The ARC is located at the north end of the main campus of Queen’s University. Queen’s is located just west of downtown Kingston, one of the most interesting and vibrant neighbourhoods that you will find. Head towards the river and Princess Street to find just about everything you could want. A number of national restaurant chains can be found all along Princess, Queen and Brock Streets, but there are also a ton of independent spots that will peak your interest. Woodenheads Gourmet Pizza, Sir John’s Public House, The Merchant Tap House, Chez Piggy, The Toucan and Grizzly Grill are all worth checking out.
Kingston is a fantastic spot to be, especially in the summer. The Haunted Walk is interesting and Confederation Park is along the Rideau Trail right by the waterfront. The ferry to Wolfe Island is right there also. Across the river, at the top of the hill is Old Fort Henry, which has a number of activities during the summer and fall. Bellevue House was the home of Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald.
Fans looking for other sporting options within the city will not have to look far. Queen’s fields a full slate of athletic programs including their legendary football stadium that plays at Richardson Memorial Stadium. The Queen’s hockey team plays a few blocks away at the Kingston Memorial Centre. The cross-town rivals for the Gaels, the RMC Paladins play just across the water at Constantine Arena. Also, the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL play right downtown at the Rogers K-Rock Centre.
There are a number of places to stay if you are staying in Kingston. By the waterfront you can find the Confederation Place Hotel, Holiday Inn Kingston Waterfront and Delta Waterfront Hotel. All are good spots to stay.
Assessing fans at USports basketball games is challenging. Usually, attendance numbers are not published, and discerning league attendance averages is almost impossible. That being said, USports basketball fans would assuredly be measured in the hundreds and not thousands. At the game that was reviewed there were over five hundred fans in attendance, all of which were corralled on the east side of the gymnasium, which makes for more of an event feel, but doesn’t make for great pictures. The fans that are in attendance are decent supporters of the Gaels but are not over the top crazy. There is a decent percentage of students in the crowd, but not nearly as significant as universities south of the border.
Getting to Queen’s and the ARC are not too difficult. The ARC is located on the main Queen’s campus and a significant distance south of the main highway into Kingston, Highway 401. Getting to Queen’s from out of town will require a significant drive through the city.
For fans interested in public transportation to the ARC there is a bus stop on Earl Street at University Ave, right by the ARC. Check out the Kingston Transit website for schedules, fares and maps. The Kingston Trolley may also be an option for you to head to the ARC. Check out the Kingston Trolley website for details.
Right by the Earl Street entrance to the ARC, there is a large underground parking garage. Parking can run up to $6 which is on the pricey side for university basketball. Pay and display on nearby streets is also an option. Having a plan is a pretty good idea when heading to a game. The markings for the underground garage are not very good as are the markings for the ARC. The Queen’s University and Gaels athletics websites are pretty good at filling in the gaps.
Getting around the ARC is not a problem considering the number of fans in the stands. Washrooms are also adequate for the crowd numbers in attendance.
Return on Investment 5
There is great value in a Queen’s Gaels basketball game for little investment. Adult tickets purchased in advance will run $8 or $10 at the door. Discounts are available for students and youth. Children under five are free as are Queen’s University students. All tickets are doubleheader tickets with entry into the women’s game included. Parking prices aren’t the greatest but concession prices are okay. The product that Queen’s puts on the floor is high quality and exciting and absolutely worth the very insignificant investment a fan is asked for.
An extra mark for Queen’s playing in the first ever interuniversity basketball game in Canada.
Another for the Gaels players and coaches linking during the singing of O Canada. A definite nod to the Oil Thigh, which is a deep-set Queen’s tradition.
A final extra mark for the Public Address announcer for the Gaels. During the play the name of the opposing player who scores is not announced, only the team name. A unique feature that nudges up the home court advantage just a bit.
Although Queen’s Gaels basketball does not offer the vast array of traditions that can be found at a Queen’s Gaels football game, basketball does have some tri-colour history. The Athletics and Recreation Centre is a wonderful facility that should help with recruiting for years to come. Tri-Colour Hoops is well worth checking out when in Kingston. Che Gheill!!
Food and Drink Recommendations
Confederation Place Hotel
237 Ontario St
Kingston, ON K7L 2Z4
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Queen’s University Athletics and Recreation Centre
284 Earl St
Kingston, ON K7L 3N6
Year Opened: 2011