St. Louis Arena

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St. Louis Arena
St. Louis Arena.jpg
St. Louis Arena on February 27, 1999, the day of its controlled demolition
Location 5700 Oakland Avenue
St. Louis, Missouri
Coordinates 38°37′45″N 90°16′58″W / 38.62917°N 90.28278°W / 38.62917; -90.28278Coordinates: 38°37′45″N 90°16′58″W / 38.62917°N 90.28278°W / 38.62917; -90.28278
Owner City of St. Louis[1]
Operator City of St. Louis[1]
Capacity Ice hockey: 14,200 (1929–1968), 14,500 (1968–1969), 15,500 (1969–1970), 17,776 (1970–1971), 17,821 (1971–1972), 18,005 (1972–1974), 18,008 (1974–1975), 18,006 (1975–1978), 17,968 (1978–1983), 17,640 (1985–1988), 17,188 (1988–1994)
Construction
Broke ground 1927
Opened September 23, 1929
Closed May 23, 1994
Demolished February 27, 1999
Construction cost $1.5 million
($20.6 million in 2014 dollars[2])
Architect Gustel R. Kiewitt
General contractor Boaz-Kiel Construction Company
Tenants
St. Louis Flyers (AHA/AHL) (1929–1953)
St. Louis Eagles (NHL) (1934–1935)
Chicago Black Hawks (NHL) (occasional use; 1951–1959)
St. Louis Braves (CHL) (1963–1967)
St. Louis Blues (NHL) (1967–1994)
St. Louis Hawks (NBA) (occasional use; 1955–1968)
St. Louis Bombers (NBA) (1946–1950)
St. Louis Stars (NASL) (1974)
Spirits of St. Louis (ABA) (1974–1976)
St. Louis Steamers (MISL) (1979–1988)
St. Louis Storm (MISL) (1989–1992)
St. Louis Ambush (NPSL) (1992–1994)
St. Louis Vipers (RHI) (1993–1994)
Saint Louis University basketball team (1968–1971, 1975–1976, 1978–1982 and 1991–1994)
Saint Louis University hockey team (1970–1979)

St. Louis Arena (formerly the Checkerdome from 1977 to 1983 and commonly as "The Barn") was an indoor arena, located in St. Louis, Missouri, that stood from 1929 to 1999. It was home to the St. Louis Blues and various other sports franchises. The Arena was located directly across I-64 from Forest Park's Aviation Field.

The Arena was the site of conventions, concerts, political rallies, horse shows, circuses, boxing matches, Roller Derby competitions, indoor soccer matches, the 1973 and 1978 NCAA men's basketball Final Four, the NCAA Men's Midwest Regional finals in 1982, 1984 and 1993, the 1992-94 Missouri Valley Conference men's basketball tournament, and the 1975 NCAA Frozen Four ice hockey finals.

The Arena: History[edit]

The building comes to life[edit]

At the conclusion of the 1904 World's Fair, St. Louis ended its long tradition of annually hosting large indoor agriculture and horse shows. The city tore down its huge St. Louis Exposition and Music Hall and built the St. Louis Coliseum which was aimed at individual events such as boxing matches.

In 1928 the National Dairy Show offered the city the opportunity to become the permanent location for its annual two-week meeting of dairymen and their prize animals. With no public funds available, a group of businessmen raised private funding for what was projected as a $2 million building. The National Exposition Company in charge of the project hired Gustel R. Kiewitt as architect and the Boaz-Kiel Construction Company as general contractor.

Kiewit’s design called for a lamella roof supported by 20 cantilever steel trusses, eliminating the need for view-obscuring internal support pillars. The lamella design consisted of Douglas fir ribs, 3.75 inches thick, 17.5 inches wide and 15 feet long, fitted together diagonally and giving the appearance of fish scales. The huge structure was completed in 1929, just over a year after construction began. At 476 feet long and 276 feet wide, it was behind only Madison Square Garden as the largest indoor entertainment space in the country. A 13-story building could have been erected inside of it.

The Arena was not well-maintained after the 1940s, and its roof was damaged by a February 1959 tornado. After repairs, it was re-opened as the home of the Central Hockey League's St. Louis Braves, a Chicago Black Hawks farm team. The renovations included the removal of the fencing that enforced segregation, dating back to the time of the St. Louis Eagles.[3]

In the 1973 NCAA Basketball Final, the UCLA Bruins and legendary Coach John Wooden defeated Memphis 87-66, behind 44 points from Bill Walton who went 21 of 22 from the floor. Over 19,000 were in attendance at the Arena.[4]

On February 13, 1974 the St. Louis Stars played host to the Red Army team at the Arena in the final match of Russian squad's three city indoor soccer tour of North America. Attendance for the match was 12,241.[5][6][7][8]

In the 1978 NCAA Basketball Final, the Kentucky Wildcats and Coach Joe B. Hall defeated Duke 94-88 led by the 41-point effort of Jack Givens.[9]

Spirits of St. Louis - ABA Era (1974–76)[edit]

After the 1968 departure of the NBA's St. Louis Hawks, the Spirits of St. Louis brought professional basketball back to St. Louis when the Carolina Cougars franchise relocated to St. Louis. The Spirits played in the Arena for the final two seasons of the American Basketball Association (ABA), 1974–75 and 1975-76.[10] Their announcer on KMOX radio was a young Bob Costas.[11] Young players such as Steve Jones ("Snapper," now a TV analyst), Marvin Barnes ("Bad News), Maurice Lucas and Moses Malone all played for the Spirits during their tenure at the Arena. The team was not included in the ABA-NBA merger in 1976, when the Indiana Pacers, San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets and New York Nets joined the NBA. The Spirits and the Kentucky Colonels were disbanded.[12] Spirits owners Ozzie and Daniel Silna pulled off a coup in their dissolution agreement when the ABA-NBA merger was finalized. The Silna's negotiated to receive a portion of TV monies in perpetuity, a deal that has netted them over 250 million dollars, with hundreds of millions more possibly on the horizon.[13]

The St. Louis Blues era (1967–1994)[edit]

By the time the NHL's St. Louis Blues began playing at the Arena in 1967, it had fallen into such poor condition that it had to be heavily renovated in time for the 1967-68 season. As a condition of getting the expansion franchise, Blues owner Sid Salomon Jr. purchased the Arena from the Chicago Black Hawks, and spent several million dollars renovating the building and adding some 3,000 seats to bring the total to almost 15,000. It never stopped being renovated from that day on, and held almost 20,000 seats by the time the Blues left the Arena in 1994. Many fans considered its sight lines the best of any arena in the league, which is remarkable considering that it was not originally built for hockey. It was also known as one of the loudest arenas in the league.

In 1977, the Arena and the Blues were purchased by Ralston Purina, who rechristened the building the Checkerdome after the company's checkerboard logo. By 1983, the cereal and pet food corporation had lost interest in the Blues and the Arena, and forfeited the team to the league. The team was nearly moved to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan before it was purchased by Harry Ornest, a Los Angeles-based businessman, who promptly returned the Arena to its original name.

After the Blues moved to their new home at Kiel Center during the off season of 1994, the final event at the St. Louis Arena was a concert by Christian artist Carman Licciardello.[14]

Closure and demolition (1994–1999)[edit]

As a condition for the private financing of the demolition of city-owned Kiel Auditorium and the construction of privately owned Kiel Center (now the Scottrade Center) on the same Downtown site, local business group Civic Progress, Inc. insisted that the Dogtown-neighborhood Arena not be allowed to compete with Kiel Center for any events, while the insurance burden for the building was left with the City of St. Louis. With no income allowed for the Arena while insurance expenses continued, the building sat vacant while pressure built on the city government to either make it revenue-producing (essentially impossible under the Civic Progress-imposed non-competitive clause) or raze it. The arena remained vacant for nearly five years.

Public opinion was overwhelmingly in favor of saving "the Old Barn" as it was affectionately nicknamed. When local artist Bob Cassilly (founder of the private, non-profit City Museum) approached the city government with a $200,000 downpayment toward purchasing the building, Civic Progress pressured the city government to hurriedly demolish it, which they did, over general public objection, through a controlled implosion on February 27, 1999.

The Arena site today[edit]

A business/residential development now occupies the land that the St. Louis Arena called home, including the following:

  • Two apartment buildings featuring loft-style units
  • A Hampton Inn hotel
  • 1001 Highlands Plaza Drive West, an office building home to—among other business—the St. Louis group of Clear Channel Communications radio stations (KSLZ, KMJM-FM, KBWX, KATZ, KLOU, and KSD). A grass plaza, with an oval grass section surrounded by concrete sidewalks now sits at 1001 Highlands Plaza Drive West at the location where the original arena stood.

The Krieger's Sports Grill on the site closed in early 2008 and subsequently reopened as "The Highlander Pub & Grill" in September 2008.

Sports teams[edit]

Sports teams that called the Arena home include:

References[edit]

  • Finnigan, Joan (1992). Old Scores, New Goals: The Story of the Ottawa Senators. Quarry Press. ISBN 1-55082-041-9. 
Preceded by
first arena
Home of the
St. Louis Blues

1967 – 1994
Succeeded by
Kiel Center
Preceded by
Boston Garden
Boston, Massachusetts
Host of the
Frozen Four

1975
Succeeded by
University of Denver Arena
Denver, Colorado
Preceded by

Sports Arena
The Omni
NCAA Men's Division I
Basketball Tournament
Finals Venue

1973
1978
Succeeded by

Greensboro Coliseum
Special Events Center
Preceded by

Montreal Forum
Hartford Civic Center
Host of the
NHL All-Star Game

1970
1988
Succeeded by

Boston Garden
Northlands Coliseum
Preceded by
Milwaukee Arena
Occasional Home of the
St. Louis Hawks

1955 – 1968
Succeeded by
Alexander Memorial Coliseum
Preceded by
Ottawa Auditorium
Home of the
St. Louis Eagles

1934 – 1935
Succeeded by
last arena