What makes a great rink design for a community rink? Last week I visited the Victoria Road Community Centre in Guelph, ON. It’is a city-owned multi-purpose facility. Built in the late 1970s, it has a rather unusual split-level design. The Victor Davis Memorial Aquatic Centre, named in honour of the hometown Olympian and breaststroke champion, is on the first level. The regulation-sized ice rink is on the upper level.

2017 marked the completion of a major overhaul to update the aging facility and make it more accessible. That includes wheelchair ramps and and an elevator, as well as an expansion work to the aquatic centre. The facility is now light and bright, with offices, meeting rooms and a large customer service area in addition to the recreation spaces. CS&P Architects were selected to design the retrofit project. You can find more pictures of the reimagined facility on their website.


But it’s the layout of the arena that I really like. It shouts “great rink design” to me. The 1st floor dressing rooms are on the same level as the aquatic centre. The spectators’ viewing area, including a space reserved for wheelchairs, is on the 2nd floor, set back and overlooking the ice. Between the spectators and the ice rink is a curtain of protective netting that doesn’t get in the way of the view of the on-ice action. Glass railings also protect and enhance the line of view. There are no structural beams that many older rinks have that get in the way of watching what’s going on on the ice. The players’ benches, timekeeper’s and penalty boxes are all situated on the opposite side of the rink, across from the spectators. The players are within view.

And out of reach.

And that’s one of the components to great rink design.

Within View and Out of Reach

This is a design that keeps the players within view, but out of reach of the spectators. No spectators can ever bang on the glass behind the players bench or penalty box at this rink, which adds to the security of the players, the spectators and the rink itself. There isn’t a bad seat in this arena: every seat on the three-tiered rows of plastic benches has an unobstructed view of the ice.

Victoria Road Arena
View from the balcony overlooking the ice rink at the Victoria Road Recreation Centre in Guelph, ON. Photo by Colleen O’Shea

Isatis Sports

The first time I saw a similar design was at the Isatis Sports Complex in Chambly, Quebec. Like the Guelph facility, all the players and referees have their dressing rooms on the main floor. In this facility, however, most of the spectators go through the bar and restaurant area first, to get to the balconied viewing areas overlooking the ice. The Chambly facility has 3 NHL-sized sheets of ice — one on the left, one on the right, and one at the back, in the shape of an upside-down “U”. You can even watch the on-ice action from the comfort of the restaurant, with games broadcast

Syscomax’s Patrice Gamache is the architect on record for the Chambly facility, which was the first of three complexes built by Isatis Sport on the Montreal’s south shore. The other are located in St-Constant and St-Hyacinthe — the St-Hyacinthe facility also includes an indoor soccer pitch. You can find more pictures of each of these facilities on the Syscomax website (taken by real estate photographer Kurt Jawinski) and I urge you to click on the links and take a look. The pictures will give you a much better idea of the layouts.

One of three ice rinks at Isatis Sport Chambly in Chambly, QC
View from the balcony at one of the three NHL-sized ice rinks at Isatis Sport Chambly in Chambly, QC – photo by Colleen O’Shea

I also love the banner ads at the Chambly facility: a very sleek, uncluttered way to present advertising and and a style of advertising quite common in Quebec.


The main difference between the Isatis Sport and Victoria Road balconies is the amount of seating. The Guelph facility has three tiers of seating. In Chambly, there is a single row of benches. However, both balcony-style arenas do a great job of separating the fans from the players. And both have great views of the ice, the players’ benches — and all the on-ice action. The rinks can be also accessed from the main floors too, but the views are much better from the balconies.

Here are a couple other pictures of the Victoria Road facility:

Victor Davis Memorial Aquatic Centre
The 50-metre pool is a feature of the aquatic centre, named after Guelph Olympic champion Victor Davis. Photo by Colleen O’Shea
View from the Victoria Road arena
View from the ice. You can see the the second floor spectator viewing area at the Victoria Road Recreation Centre’s ice rink and how the spectators are separated from the players. Photo by Colleen O’Shea

One Zamboni Room, Three Surfaces

For the Victoria Road rink, the Zamboni room is a rather tight squeeze: that part of the rink wasn’t included in the renovations. It is conveniently located at the bottom right-hand side of the rink (you can see the Zamboni room’s garage door in the picture above). For the Chambly rink, the rather large Zamboni room, situated after the suite of dressing rooms, has access to each of the three rinks. That design was very well thought out and deserves a gold star. As you know, ice facilities with more than one pad often have multiple Zamboni rooms to service all the rinks.

Other Things You May Want to Know

The aquatic centre at Victoria Road has installed a PoolPod transfer system which makes the swimming pool more accessible.

The Victoria Road facility has an ammonia plant. Isatis Sport Chambly and its sister facilities are all CO2.