Arena of Ages

If these rafters could talk. After all, the Kerrisdale Arena is where Bill Haley and His Comets made local history playing Vancouver’s first rock concert in 1956 (below); where Frank Zappa offered “$10 to any hippie who’ll cut his hair right here on stage tonight” during a Mothers of Invention show in 1968; and where a raucous Motörhead gig in 1982 ultimately brought the venue’s concert days to a close.

Kerrisdale teens “rock around the clock” at the 1956 Bill Haley and His Comets concert.

Opened in 1949 under the sponsorship of the then-called Point Grey Community Centre Society, the arena has also hosted home and car shows, square dancing, roller derbies, high school band concerts, wrestling, lacrosse, hockey, figure skating and more throughout the years.

Maegan Montemayor, Vancouver Park Board (VPB) arena programmer, often hears about the storied structure’s far-reaching history. “We regularly have individuals come in for a public skate…and tell us how they used to skate here or attended one of the many concerts and events. These memories are always shared with a smile and joy of recounting their experiences.”

While it’s been decades since the Clash, the Jam and Devo rocked this echoey space, and decades since singles would join hands at the Tuesday night adult skate to play crack the whip, visitors can still step back to those heady times thanks to a 2017 Artist in Communities project, Arena Rock, and its colourful photo collages and looping video in the arena lobby.

Public skates continue today, but gone are the days of playing crack the whip – likely enjoyed by this crew in an undated archival photo.

Today, the arena offers skating lessons, drop-in hockey, figure skating, ringette and public skates half the year, and play dates and birthday parties the other half when it transforms into the indoor playground called Play Place – this year the under-12 set can look forward to exploring five new giant inflatables.
Working alongside VPB staff, the Kerrisdale Community Centre Society’s (KCCS) Arena and Pool Committee aims to optimize the arena’s programming and community uses, including all aspects of the society’s skate lessons.

Colourful photo collages in the lobby recall concerts, roller derbies, skating champions and more.

As Montemayor says: “Today’s Kerrisdale Arena is an opportunity for all ages to be active, from our youngest playing at Play Palace to our active-for-life skaters who come out for a morning to skate and socialize. Everyone is welcome to learn to skate, play hockey, ringette or figure skate.”
On the eve of the arena’s 75th anniversary, Montemayor concludes that she “would love to see the community continue to engage in the various opportunities we offer and would love to see this area grow to meet the needs of the neighbourhood.” #KCCS80th

Skating in the footsteps – and perhaps distant echoes – of Devo, the Jam and the Clash.

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