Description of Historic Place
Sunny Brae Rink consists of a circular two-story concrete arena structure with no roof, set in the middle of a grassy field near the CN train line off of Donald Avenue in Moncton.
Sunny Brae Rink is designated a Local Historic Place for its unique architectural design and for its influence on the social life and sporting history of Sunny Brae.
When R. C. Donald designed and constructed this structure in 1921-1922, he considered it the crowning achievement of his architectural career. Inspired by the Roman arena designs, such as the Coliseum, the original structure had a concrete conical roof. Nearing completion, large cracks appeared roughly three meters from the rim of the roof. The local building inspector demanded a change to a wooden roof. At great expense, Donald removed the concrete roof and replaced it with wood supported by steel beams. The discarded concrete was used as roadbed for Donald Avenue. Even with the wooden roof, the architecture of the Sunny Brae Rink was unlike any arena structure in Eastern Canada.
The financing for this arena came largely from selling private stock in Sunny Brae Rink Ltd. The shareholders were: G. O. Spencer, A. A. Allen, Mrs. C. W. MacManus, W. H. Forbes and R. C. Donald. At the time, the completed structure was the largest indoor rink in the Maritimes and the largest natural ice surface in Canada. Contractor Robert Ed oversaw the final construction stages that resulted in a grand opening of the rink in January 1922.
Sunny Brae Rink is also designated for its tremendous influence on the social life and sporting history of Sunny Brae. Besides the sheer size of the arena, the quality of the ice was held in high regard by professional, amateur and recreational skaters. Harry Smyth, who trained at the rink to become the World Junior Speed Skating Champion, credited the size and quality of the ice surface for his success.
Other notable skaters and hockey players who called the Sunny Brae Rink home include: Charles Gorman, Frank Garnett, Harold “Dud” James, the Carroll Brothers and the Sunny Brae Rovers. Hundreds of recreational skaters would tread across the nearby marsh in frigid temperatures for open skates, knowing that the modern “Ray-Glo” heating system was at their disposal. This system, which would eventually take the life of a young girl and be the cause of a devastating fire, was essentially on open brick fireplace in which an open natural gas line was lit. When not in use as a sporting venue or as a recreational skating venue for hundreds of citizens at a time, the rink was designed for use as a bandstand and concert venue.
Before the fire that razed the roof of the structure on February 26, 1928, the Sunny Brae Rink hosted carnivals, festivals, pageants and concerts. September 21, 1926, marked the biggest night in the rink’s short history; John Philip Soussa’s renowned marching band played two sold-out performances, filling the arena to its 2000 seat capacity for each show.
Source: Moncton Museum, Moncton, New Brunswick - second floor files – “Donald Ave. – Sunny Brae Rink Ruins”.
The character-defining elements relating to location and context include:
- located on original site, untouched since 1928 fire;
- adjacent to Donald Avenue and former Donald residential property.
The character-defining elements relating to the exterior of the structure include:
- 3 segmented arch closed portico entrances;
- regular rectangular fenestration;
- long rectangular 1st story window openings;
- small rectangular 2nd story window openings forming a clearstory.
- entirely concrete construction;
- remnants of connections of concrete walls to wooden conical roof (destroyed);
- rink dimensions 54,86m x 27,43m (1 504,81 square meters).
The character-defining elements relating to the interior of the structure include:
- elevated concrete ring around interior circumference, supported by square pillars.