Built as the earliest stage of the development of Kerrisdale Community Centre, the Kerrisdale Arena at 42nd and West Boulevard opened in 1949 following passage of a local improvement bylaw, by which area residents agreed to directly fund the building costs. It was erected on the site of the old municipal hall for Point Grey, which amalgamated with Vancouver and South Vancouver in 1929 and served as the wrestling venue for the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games.
Birthlace of rock ‘n roll in Vancouver
The Arena was just a few years old when a local promoter decided to book Bill Haley & His Comets. Word spread through the city’s only teen-oriented radio program, Red Robinson’s “Themes for Teens” on CJOR. On June 27, 1956, the Wednesday night after school got out for the summer, the band famous for “Rock Around the Clock” played before 6,000 jiving, screaming teenagers. The newspapers deplored the concert, the Sun’s critic describing it as the “ultimate in musical depravity.” It was Vancouver’s first rock concert, cementing the arena’s unlikely role as the birthplace of rock ‘n roll in Vancouver.
Later concerts by bands including the Yardbirds, Animals, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention and Soul Unlimited cemented the arena firmly in the Vancouver pop-culture legend. “When local concert promoters found venues such as the Orpheum and the Queen Elizabeth Theatre unwelcoming of the new music rock concerts they wanted to book, they found an unlikely home at the East Boulevard skating rink the Kerrisdale Arena,” writes Aaron Chapman. It was a smaller, affordable alternative to the Pacific Coliseum.
Local acts including the Collectors and Tom Northcott played there as well as at the Afterthought on Fourth Avenue (see Russian Community Centre). A newer generation descended into it in the 1980s to hear acts like Devo and the Clash. Chapman writes that a May 1982 performance by the notoriously loud heavy metal band Motorhead marked “the beginning of the end for the arena concerts when the city and police were deluged with noise and public disorder complaints by some of the more conservative residents.”
Fred Cyclone Taylor
The ice rink was named posthumously for hockey legend Fred “Cyclone” Taylor (1884–1979), an Ontarian who was lured west by the Patrick brothers to join the Vancouver Millionaires, the only city team to win the Stanley Cup (in 1915) when it played at the old Denman Arena. Taylor (who was dubbed “Cyclone” by Governor General Lord Grey in 1908) was one of hockey’s first superstars, and the highest paid professional athlete in North America at that time. He played in four Stanley Cup Championships during his 18 years of professional hockey. He was inducted into Canada’s Hockey Hall of Fame in 1947.
A chronology of the development of community centres
- 1929: the Park Board looked for locations to experiment with ‘winter community centres’ in large halls.
- 1939: first attention paid to the idea of a skating rink, as New Westminster had built one.
- 1943: Point Grey Community Centre Association formed.
- 1949: local improvement bylaw passed for construction of Kerrisdale Arena at same time as one for community centres at Oak Park, Connaught Park and Sunset Park. Opened in November, it was the first ice rink in the board’s system.