09/17/2010 Leave a comment
I believe few sports venues in Cleveland hold the mystic of the old Cleveland Arena. Sure Municipal Stadium had a rich history and League Park, too. Yet, nothing speaks to the blue-collar, sweat on the brow approach to professional sports as the Cleveland Arena. And a spectacular building too.
The arena was opened in 1937 with an Ice Follies show. It was built on the hollowed ground of the old Brush Mansion estate. In 1935, Albert C. Sutphin – president of the Braden-Sutphin Ink Company purchased the land with the grand idea of building a modern arena for his other love (and ownership) the famed Cleveland Barons. It was an old school 10,000 seat facility that no doubt smelled like blood, sweat and tears. (I love in the photo above the “Club 3700″ sign in the left foreground. Must have been a swank place. Wished I could have raised my glass there.)
By the early 1940’s the Arena was doing over 330 events and shows a year including professional hockey (Cleveland Barons and the Cleveland Crusaders of the World Hockey Association), bicycle races, high school basketball, professional basketball (Cleveland Rebels of the Basketball Association of America, the Cleveland Pipers of the American Basketball League and even the Cleveland Cavaliers), rodeos, professional wrestling and various concerts.
One famous concert at the old Arena was the famous “Moondog Coronation Ball” held by Alan Freed a famous Cleveland disc jockey and man who coined the term “rock and roll.” The first Coronation Ball was shut down after the first song by the Cleveland Fire Department due to overcrowding. It seems that while 10,000 tickets were sold nearly 20,000 thought they should join the party. Another famous, yet tragic, event at the Cleveland Arena was the death of boxer Jimmy Doyle during the 1947 championship bout.
Nick Mileti bought the Arena and the key tenant – the Cleveland Barons – in 1968. However, Mileti moved the Barons and his Cavaliers to the Richfield Coliseum in 1974. The Arena, vacant save for a few uninspiring shows, was demolished in 1977. It is now the site of the Red Cross Building on Euclid Avenue. But during the day, Cleveland, the Arena was a symbol of how great and cool this city once was and inspires to be again.