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GFL Memorial Gardens $1 million makeover complete

Exactly when the new video board at the Gardens will be used for OHL games remains to be seen, but it's ready to go

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It’s been seven months since the Soo Greyhounds last saw Ontario Hockey League action at the GFL Memorial Gardens.

The next time they take the ice, which is still unknown at this point, their home rink will look and feel a little different.

The Gardens has undergone some upgrades since the team last played at the facility.

While the upgrades have been in place for some time, putting them to use hasn’t been an option for the OHL club due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In total, just over $1 million has been invested into upgrading the rink, which includes a new video board as well as other upgrades throughout the building.

Cost of the video board, along with the ancillary boards that came with it and installation, was just over $600,000. The installation also included a new hockey control room that features content management software and an integrated replay system that will be run during Greyhound games.

The entire system includes the main video board, a secondary scoreboard, new goal lights, and updated cameras.

The cost was funded by the team though  Greyhounds president Tim Lukenda said “ultimately, the city will own the clock. We paid for it and we have various sharing agreements on revenues between the city (and the team) for concessions, tickets, video boards and things of that nature.”

Lukenda added that the agreement with the city will then mean the team would recover the cost of the board and the city would take ownership of it.

The secondary scoreboard, which features the basics as far as the game clock, score, penalty clock and a shot clock, is in the northeast corner of the building.

While the main use of the scoreboard will be other user groups, the secondary clock will also be used during Greyhound games.

“In the event that there’s ever a glitch in the scoreboard, we’ve got a backup now,” Lukenda said.

The upgrades included with the video board also mean clocks in the building are synced as well.

“It’s controlled with some pretty sophisticated software,” Lukenda added.

“The way this board is designed allows us a lot of flexibility in terms of what it show during the game, during a stoppage in play and during intermissions that can be worked in coordination with each other around the board or can be worked in different pieces throughout the game,” Lukenda also said. “It gives us maximum flexibility in terms for not only entertainment, but also sponsorship opportunities for our corporate partners.”

Mayor Christian Provenzano also noted a better ability to host “game watches” with the new board.

“If the Greyhounds have a big game elsewhere, they can open this rink up and put it up,” Provenzano said.

“The board is connected cable-wise, so we could very well do game watches because the quality of the screen is so much better than it was,” Lukenda added. “It would be like sitting in your living room.”

As for the old video board, GFL Memorial Gardens manager Rob Santa Maria said three sides of the board have been repurposed for use at each of the ice pads at the John Rhodes Community Centre with the third being used at the McMeeken Centre.

Among the other upgrades to the rink is a new LED lighting system as well as adding acrylic stanchions to the glass, replacing the metal ones previously used as well as soft caps.

“That’s an NHL standard that’s required in the Canadian Hockey League a year from now, but the city got a jump on it,” Lukenda said.

The upgrade to the glass and boards cost the city roughly $60,000 while the lighting upgrades cost $200,000.

The new stanchions and soft cap system provide more flex to the glass when a hit is thrown along the boards.

Lukenda said that the Greyhounds current bid for the Memorial Cup was part of the thought process in getting the upgrades done, but they were something that would have been done at some point regardless of the bid.

As for bid presentations for the Memorial Cup, Lukenda said Monday that the presentations remain on hold.

“I’m in close communication with the league on return to play matters, but nothing has been communicated specifically about the Memorial Cup at this point because really it’s all intertwined,” Lukenda said. “We have to get permission from the health authority and the government to be able to start our regular season, the timing of which will dictate how long a season we can play and whether a Memorial Cup is possible.”

Lukenda added that there hasn’t been any “recent communication” regarding the timing of potential bid presentations.