Mississauga has deep roots in recreation and play. Informal gatherings and local competitions, such as competing barn raising teams, bicycle and horse racing, plowing matches, swimming, and rowing competitions, and even auto-polo and donkey baseball, gradually evolved in semi-organized and organized sporting endeavours, such as baseball, football, lacrosse and hockey, and countless other recreational activities. I recall stories that my great uncle used to tell about sleigh races along Dundas Street.
Physical places of recreation also evolved. Historic Mississauga was home to two agricultural fair grounds in Cooksville and Streetsville. While Cooksville’s fair grounds have largely disappeared today, the former Streetsville fair grounds are still part of our community as Streetsville Memorial Park. Historic baseball diamonds at Cooksville, Erindale and Streetsville also saw a great deal of sporting endeavours.
Historic Mississauga was also home to a couple of zoos, including Miles Park Farm, near Erindale, from the 1930s into the 1950s, and later another zoo briefly operated along Hurontario Street Jungle Park Zoo in the late 1960s.
But it is during these winter months that I am drawn to thinking about winter fun, snow, ice, and ice skating. Outdoor ice rinks (such as Forrester’s rink in Cooksville, Oughtred’s rink in Erindale, and the outdoor ice rink at the St. Lawrence Starch Company in Port Credit) drew generations of people before indoor spaces became prevalent in our community.
I remember winter days of my youth playing hockey on the Schneller’s ice rink in Erindale. Frozen rivers and streams also played an important role in active winter fun. Skating on the frozen Credit River in Port Credit is a wonderful memory for many over the years.
Dixie Arena Gardens was the first indoor ice rink in historic Mississauga. Opened on December 16, 1949, the arena became home to the Dixie hockey teams (the Staffords and the Beehives). The building of the arena was very much a grass-roots endeavour spearheaded by local businessmen and funds were raised by selling shares to local residents and merchants. The arena closed in 1986, and later became home to the Astralite Dance Hall before it was demolished in 1996.
Our second indoor ice surface is still with us today and is the oldest operating recreational facility in the city. Port Credit Memorial Area opened its doors on October 4, 1959. It was built under the direction of the Port Credit Town Council and features a unique Quonset-style design using massive wood rafters from British Columbia to form the roof. One of the major partners in the development of the arena was the famed St. Lawrence Starch Company of Port Credit, and their logo remains visible on the score board today.
Streetsville got its own indoor arena in 1960, which was officially opened in 1961 as the Streetsville Community Centre and Arena. In 1973 the facility was renamed the Vic Johnston Community Centre, after the local resident who had served on the arena board since its inception.
Another indoor arena arrived in 1968 with the Malton Arena, with is official opening taking place on October 19, 1968. The arena, and the surrounding park, were renamed after NHL hall-of-famer Paul Coffey in 2016.
Before the arenas in Port Credit, Streetsville and Malton came to be, there was an idea for another facility, but it took some time to come to fruition. The initial idea for a multi-use recreation centre for Toronto Township began in 1954 under the direction of the Toronto Township Recreation Commission. From 1956 to 1964, W.J. Hare, Commissioner for Recreation and Parks, pressed Toronto Township Council for such a facility.
Approval was granted in 1964, following the acquisition of lands from the Callanan family. Construction began in 1965 and Huron Park In 1965 was officially opened on September 21, 1967. It was Mississauga’s first multi-use recreational facility and included an indoor ice rink.
Other indoor ice rinks that predate our city include Clarkson Arena (1970), and Cawthra Twin Rinks (1972), and the Chic Murray Arena at the Burnhamthorpe Community Centre (1973).
We have welcomed several other facilities in our city since 1974, and of course Celebration Square and many other outdoor ice rinks create a modern link to historic traditions of winter fun and skating here in Mississauga.