The Saginaw Spirit Organization is today collectively mourning the passing of Paul Wendler, who along with Wren Blair laid the groundwork for the establishment of the Ontario Hockey League franchise. Mr. Wendler died the morning of Wednesday, March 13th2013, and his legacy both as a contributor to the Saginaw Spirit, and municipally as the former Mayor of the City of Saginaw will be fondly remembered. During his tenure as Mayor of Saginaw from 1971 through 1973, Mr. Wendler had a vision to build a multi-purpose facility in the city’s downtown that would include an Arena, a Theatre for the Arts, and a Community Ball Room. In 1972, his downtown project would come to fruition with the establishment of the Saginaw Civic Center, which would then house the Saginaw Gears of the IHL, and ultimately the city would vote to name the arena in his honor and the Wendler Arena was born.
As time passed, the facility would have no main tenant in the late 1990’s and the future of the building was jeopardized. It was at that time he consulted Wren Blair and the two devised a plan to resurrect what would become the Dow Event Center, complete with the establishment of the Saginaw Spirit Hockey Club as they collaborated efforts with Team Owner Dick Garber. Without Mr. Wendler’s efforts a strong case could be made that there would be no Dow Event Center or Saginaw Spirit, and his place in the franchise’s history will be forever remembered.
Saginaw Spirit President Craig Goslin remembers Mr. Wendler for the person he was and the work he did on behalf of the residents of the area. “On behalf of Dick Garber and the entire Saginaw Spirit family of staff, players, coaches, sponsors, season ticket holders and fans, we offer our deepest sympathy to Phoebe Wendler and the entire Paul Wendler family. Mr. Wendler was highly respected by all of us who knew him, not only for helping bring hockey back to Saginaw, but because he was a great person. That respect is reflected in the fact that our arena is named after him as the Spirit home games are played in Wendler Arena at the Dow Event Center. It was his vision and passion to have a first class hockey arena in Saginaw for the entire region to enjoy. We will be forever grateful to him for his professionalism, passionate persistence and continued support of the Dow Event Center and of the Saginaw Spirit. Saginaw has lost someone very special.”
Visitation for Mr. Wendler will be at the Case Funeral Home on Mackinaw Rd. in Saginaw on Friday, March 15 2013 with times to be announced. Mr. Wendler’s funeral will be held at Faith Lutheran Church on Saturday, March 16th, again with the time of the service to be announced.
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)