GFL Memorial Gardens
Sbc front
Former names Steelback Centre (2006-2008) Essar Centre (2008-2018)
Location 269 Queen Street East, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, P6A 1Y9
Broke ground June 6, 2005
Opened September 29, 2006
Owner City of Sault Ste. Marie
Operator City of Sault Ste. Marie
Surface 200' X 85'
Construction cost $25 million
Architect EPOH Inc./PBK Architects
Main contractors Bondfield Construction Ltd.
Capacity 5,000 - Hockey
6,497 - Center-Stage Concert
5,524 - Side-Stage Concert
4,923 - End-Stage Concert
3,143 - Middle-Stage Concert (Theater Set-Up)
Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 2006-
Sault Major Hockey Association 2006-
Soo Thunderbirds 2012-

The GFL Memorial Gardens is a 5,000 seat sports and entertainment centre in downtown Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. It opened on September 29, 2006, replacing the now demolished Sault Memorial Gardens. The new building was constructed directly next door to the former Memorial Gardens and incorporated its most distinctive feature, the Memorial Tower, into its plans. The block surrounding the arena is called "Memorial Square."

The GFL Memorial Gardens primary tenant is the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League. The Greyhounds made their regular season debut in their new home on October 11, 2006, against the Sudbury Wolves, losing 2–1 before a paid attendance of 4,725.


The main entrance to the facility is located in the North West Corner of the building, adjacent to the Memorial Tower. In the same corner are the main ticket windows.

Concourse levelEdit

There are major entrances to the concourse level from each of the four corners of the Essar Centre. Located on the concourse level are four main concessions in each corner of the facility, and four beer stations on the North and South ends. On the west side of the concourse level is the Greyhound merchandise store.

Event levelEdit

The event level of the Essar Centre houses all player and official dressing rooms, kitchen facilities, multi-purpose, and break-out rooms, as well as technical, storage, and loading in and out functions. Also included on the event level is the Greyhounds' dressing room complex which is equipped with coaching and training rooms, weight rooms, showers, and physiotherapy areas.

Suite levelEdit

The suite level of the Essar Centre houses 13 private suites, a VIP room located on the north end, media and broadcasting rooms, and all administration offices for both the Greyhounds Hockey Club and City of Sault Ste. Marie staff. Private suites ranging in seating size from six to ten persons. The VIP Room has a capacity of 100 persons and is available for all events at the Essar Centre by contacting the Marketing and Events Manager.


The Essar Centre includes a $500,000.00 scoreboard with an installed video component with live broadcast (up to 5 cameras), replay and T.V. capability. Wireless Internet access is available throughout the facility. The facility also includes a state-of-the-art $250,000 Sound system.

Future upgradesEdit

In Phase I of the construction process, 13 luxury suites with 10 seats in each were built. In Phase II, the city will eventually add on an additional 11 suites. The Phase II suites were already sold and almost included in the construction of the building but the cost became prohibitive due to an exclusive building contract with Bondfield Construction until the facility was done.

The money was returned to those who put down deposits and there is now a waiting list for the suites. Since the arena is now complete, the city will be able to open up the bid process in early 2007 to all general contractors and get a more competitive price for the additional construction.

Phase III of the project would see the addition of a further 12 suites for a total of 36 in the facility. On January 13, 2007 Sault Ste. Marie city council approved the construction of up to 24 more suites bringing the total to 37. It is not currently known when or if the construction will take place.

Removable seating will be installed in the corners as well as elephant seating at the zamboni entrance to increase seating capacity. Also, an LED marquee board (possibly 2) will be installed outside the rink in the summer of 2008.

External featuresEdit

The block on which the Essar Centre is located is named "Memorial Square," as it is located on the grounds of the former Sault Memorial Gardens, the Greyhounds' former home. Memorial Square features the Memorial Tower, the last standing remnant of the Gardens; the tower was preserved and refurbished after the Gardens was demolished in the summer of 2006.

The sidewalk in front of the Essar Centre's North end (facing Queen Street) features the Sault Ste Marie Walk of Fame, a series of markers honouring those from the Sault Ste Marie area who have made significant contributions to the community or their chosen field of work. The Walk of Fame was formally unveiled on September 30, 2006, during the Essar Centre's grand opening weekend.

Naming rightsEdit

Steelback BreweryEdit

Naming rights to the new building were purchased by Steelback Brewery of Tiverton, Ontario for $1.35 million over ten years. The proposal was approved by Sault Ste. Marie's city council on May 29, 2006 in a 9-1 vote.

The City of Sault Ste. Marie, in conjunction with Steelback, held an official logo unveiling for the Steelback Centre on Saturday August 26, 2006 at the Roberta Bondar Pavilion in Sault Ste. Marie. There the new logo was officially unveiled, along with a list of upcoming shows.

In November 2007, Steelback Brewery filed for bankruptcy protection and defaulted on its second payment of $135,000 to the city . Ward 1 Councillor James Caicco was quoted in the January 17, 2008 Sault Star as saying, "nothing can be done until the court creditors protection process with Steelback Brewery is completed. If Steelback comes out of court protection as a restructured company, then we still have a contract with them. If it declares bankruptcy, options will be presented to city council that include searching for a new naming rights sponsor." Steelback later terminated its deal with the city, and the search for a new sponsor commenced.

Essar Steel Algoma Inc.Edit

On July 23, 2008, the City of Sault Ste. Marie, along with Essar Steel Algoma executives held a press conference to announce that Essar Steel Algoma Inc. had purchased the naming rights to the new downtown entertainment facility. This deal had been rumored for weeks, but only confirmed a day before by a source to the Sault Star. The deal is worth $1.5 million for 10 years, and unlike the first contract with Steelback Brewery, the amount will be paid upfront in a lump sum, instead of yearly payments. Essar will also pay for all new signage for the facility as part of the deal. Jamie Caicco, councillor and chair of the Sports and Entertainment committee for the facility told a packed house that 6-7 companies showed interest in becoming the new naming rights sponsor when the invitation was first sent out looking for a new name.

Notable hockey eventsEdit

On October 11, 2006 Ontario Hockey League commissioner David Branch announced that the 2008 OHL All-Star Classic had been awarded to the Greyhounds and the City of Sault Ste. Marie. The game was played at the Steelback Centre on February 6, 2008, with the Eastern Conference squad defeating the West in a shootout, 8-7.

External linksEdit

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