Hockey may not seem to be the sport for a Texas town, but Dallas Stars fans have come to appreciate the game since the team's inception in 1993.
Reunion Arena, however, is considered out of date since it lacks luxury suites. Another problem is the sound, which can be so loud that the players sometimes can't hear their coach's instructions. The one good feature are the sightlines. However, the building is expected to be replaced sometime in the near future.
Players see red over Reunion ice
By SUN NEWS SERVICES
Saturday, February 27, 1999
Dallas Stars players are fed up with the bad ice at Reunion Arena, a situation that may have caused Brett Hull's hamstring injury.
"It was horrible, absolutely horrible," defenceman Shawn Chambers told the Dallas Morning News. "When you see (Sergei Zubov) and (Mike Modano) not handling the puck, you know there's a problem out there. We can't even get it going through the neutral zone because it's just bouncing all over the place."
The players know conditions will get even worse with more NBA games and warmer temperatures.
"It really affects our game," Modano said. "With the style that we play and the talent that we have, it really helps to have quick, solid ice. We find that on the road, and I think that has a lot do to with our road record (18-5-5)."
From DFW Airport, take the South Airport exit, and go East on Highway 183 to I-35E South. Get off at the Reunion Blvd. exit and follow signs.
Reunion Arena history
- First regular-season game: Oct. 5, 1993, 6-4 over the Detroit Red Wings
- First goal: Neal Broten, Dallas Stars
- First playoff game: April 17, 1994, 5-3 over the St. Louis Blues
Fond memories will linger after Dallas landmark's farewell year
By Bart Hubbuch / The Dallas Morning News
October, 3, 2000
For a building slammed by critics as obsolete after only 20 years, Reunion Arena has certainly packed more than its share of sports history and memorable moments into two decades.
A Stanley Cup was raised on its oft-criticized ice.
An NCAA men's Final Four champion and the unlikeliest of NBA dunk winners were crowned in its midst.
One of the noisiest, most captivating games in NBA playoff history was played on its floor.
Some of the greatest performers in the annals of tennis volleyed on its long-since-dismantled court. And hundreds of thousands of Arkansas Razorbacks basketball fans made it their annual March campground.
Banners were raised. Jerseys were retired. Tears were shed.
Yes, enough has happened at Reunion Arena that, as the building officially begins its final season as the city's primary home for indoor sports with the Stars' regular-season opener Wednesday against Colorado, it will be missed.
"It was a great building in its day," said Stars coach Ken Hitchcock, who arrived in Dallas in 1996. "Unfortunately, its time has passed. You just need more space nowadays, especially in hockey. But that doesn't mean I won't have some great memories of it."
Not bad for a facility built almost on the fly in 1978-79, for a then-astronomical price of $25 million. Its replacement, the American Airlines Center, going up near the West End, will cost almost 10 times that by the time it's scheduled to open in 2001.
Madison Square Garden, it wasn't. But Reunion Arena was enough to bring the NBA and NHL to Dallas, greatly improving the city's big-league profile in the process.
No longer would Dallas be a hot, dusty, Cowboys-dominated outpost. When Reunion Arena opened on April 28, 1980, for the first night of the weeklong WCT Finals tennis event, the city was transformed into a major player in U.S. professional sports.
"It's a historic moment for the city," said then-Dallas mayor Robert Folsom, who pushed through the construction of the arena without voter approval through the use of a combination of revenue and seat-option bonds.
The building's original primary tenant, the expansion Mavericks of the NBA, wasn't an immediate hit. Their opening night crowd filled barely half the building (10,373). It would take four seasons before they were averaging three quarters of capacity.
The NHL and the Stars wouldn't arrive for another 13 years. By then, many of Reunion's staples had relocated or been eliminated. Men's and women's pro tennis tour stops stopped coming in the early '90s. The annual track and field event sponsored by The Dallas Morning News withered and died. A return of the NCAA's Final Four was legislated out of Reunion's future when the event was earmarked strictly for larger facilities (i.e. domes) in the early '90s.
But that doesn't mean the glassy building complete with a $1.25 million scoreboard that was state of the art when Reunion opened was without its history-making moments.
Far from it, in fact.
The Reunion Rowdies
Ironically, the birth of Reunion Arena's reputation as one of the loudest facilities in pro basketball came across town, at Moody Coliseum.
The WCT Finals forced the Mavericks to move the deciding game of their first playoff series against Seattle, on April 26, 1984 to SMU. Dallas advanced with a dramatic 105-104 victory as a sellout crowd of 9,007 roared its approval.
It was dubbed "Moody Madness," and a legend of fan support that would follow the Mavericks to Reunion Arena was born. For the record, the winners that night over at Reunion were Jimmy Connors and Jimmy Arias.
Starting the next season, the Mavericks would average more than 16,000 fans and play to at least 98 percent of Reunion's 17,007-seat capacity for the next seven years. In 1986-87, when Dallas won a team-record 55 games, the Mavericks played to 99.9 percent capacity.
Not only did the fans show up in droves, but they were loud. Airplane-runway loud. Technicians measured the noise at 112 decibels in the mid-1980s.
"It was one of the loudest buildings I ever played in back in the 1980s," said former Mavericks guard Brad Davis, whose jersey No. 15 was retired by the team and hangs in the Reunion rafters. "It got so loud sometimes that you couldn't even hear yourself think. Those fans were amazing."
The undisputed Mavericks highlight at Reunion would come on June 2, 1988. As 17,007 towel-waving fans chanted, "Beat LA! Beat LA!" and a national-television audience looked on, the Mavericks beat the Los Angeles Lakers, 105-103, to force a Game 7 of the Western Conference finals. The Mavericks lost Game 7, but the reputation of their leather-lunged home fans was forged.
"That was the most effective crowd I've seen in my 25 years in the NBA," legendary Lakers broadcaster Chick Hearn said after Game 6.
The noise level not to mention the actual number of people in the seats began to dwindle as the Mavericks' nosedive began in 1990. Only last season, with the arrival of energetic owner Mark Cuban, did the fan intensity begin to approach 1980s levels.
"It's always been a good facility for the players," Davis said. "It was a great shooting arena with soft rims and a real good shooting background. And when it was loud, with the fans right on top of you, it was one of the best home-court advantages in the NBA, bar none."
Reunion Arena's reputation for noisy fans didn't disappear with the decline of the Mavericks. It simply changed sports.
The arrival of the NHL's Stars from Minnesota in 1993 was considered a risky venture at the time. NHL appearances at Reunion Arena in the late 1980s and early '90s didn't always sell out, and the league was still an unproven commodity in the Sun Belt.
But Dallas took to its transplanted franchise with surprising intensity. The Stars drew an average of 16,119 fans in their first season and have averaged no fewer than 15,572 fans since. They're currently working on a streak of 103 consecutive sellouts.
The intense crowds and Reunion's intimate atmosphere for hockey created a home-ice advantage as strong as anything the Mavericks enjoyed, especially as the Stars emerged as a Stanley Cup contender in 1998.
"Reunion Arena is the way hockey arenas used to be tight crowds, everybody right on top of you, strong atmosphere," Stars wing Brett Hull said. "It's a great hockey building. I'll miss the tightness and camaraderie here."
With Hull, center Mike Modano and goaltender Ed Belfour leading the way, the Stars reached the Stanley Cup Finals against the Buffalo Sabres in 1999. Dallas won the series in six games, the clincher coming in a triple-overtime thriller in Buffalo. Stars fans would celebrate all over again two days after the finale when a downtown parade culminated with a ceremony at Reunion.
The Cup eventually would be raised in Reunion, but not by the Stars. The New Jersey Devils celebrated after their double-overtime victory in Game 6 last June.
Hitchcock's personal Reunion high point is the Stars' 4-1 victory over Colorado in Game 7 of the 1999 Western Conference finals, which sent Dallas to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time.
"It was so loud, so exciting. I'll always remember that night and associate it with this place," Hitchcock said.
The hockey playoffs also brought their share of criticism for Reunion Arena, which struggled mightily to keep its ice smooth and frozen during the spring and summer. One Edmonton columnist referred to Reunion Arena's ice in 1997 as a "Slurpee," and the reputation stuck.
Unfairly, according to Hitchcock.
"I can think of 10 arenas in the league right now with worse ice than here," he said. "That's a story that gets started and never stops."
The national spotlight
When it came to basketball, Reunion Arena wasn't just a Mavericks stronghold during the 1980s.
The Southwest Conference instituted a men's postseason tournament in 1976 and eventually settled in with Reunion as its long-term home. The crowds were dominated by Arkansas fans, with their hog hats and RVs.
Dallas had never played host to an NCAA men's basketball tournament game beyond the second round before Reunion's arrival. The new facility was awarded the 1985 Midwest Region finals (sending Memphis State to the Final Four) and the 1986 Final Four.
Upstart Louisville, led by freshman "Never Nervous" Pervis Ellison, upset Duke and All-America Danny Ferry, 72-69, in a thrilling championship game to win the '86 title. The Blue Devils had advanced by knocking off Kansas, which had the country's best record.
Reunion Arena played host to two men's regional finals during the 1990s. Each time, Arkansas was catapulted to the Final Four. In 1990, the Razorbacks edged Texas in an all-SWC matchup. In 1994, they defeated Michigan in a game watched by their most well-known home-state fan, President Bill Clinton.
That '86 Final Four came less than two months after another history-making basketball moment on Reunion Arena's floor.
Dallas played host to the 1986 NBA All-Star Game before a sellout crowd in early February, and the dunk contest held the day before is talked about to this day. The winner was 5-7, 150-pound Spud Webb, a Dallas native and crowd favorite who had played at Wilmer-Hutchins High School. With Michael Jordan absent because of a foot injury, Webb beat Dominique Wilkins in the dunk final.
"I was as nervous as I'd ever been in my career because I was at home and in front of so many friends and family members," Webb said. "When I won, it was like a dream come true."
But of all the basketball played at Reunion, no one scored more points in a game than Sheryl Swoopes. In guiding Texas Tech's Lady Raiders to the 1993 NCAA title, Swoopes collected a Reunion-record 53 points when Tech defeated Texas in the SWC title game.
Plenty to go around
The building also played host to a variety of sports beyond big-league and major-college sports.
The likes of John McEnroe, Andre Agassi and Connors played at Reunion Arena with the WCT; Agassi's Dallas debut in 1989 attracted the largest WCT Finals crowd of 16,294. The 1989 Dallas Morning News Indoor Games attracted 22 Olympic track and field athletes, but an estimated crowd of only 3,500, leading to its demise.
Indoor soccer brought Reunion Arena its first hometown championship team. The Sidekicks, then playing in the Major Indoor Soccer League, sold out the building during the 1987 playoffs. They defeated the Tacoma Stars in the league finals and, after switching leagues and seasons over the years, attract a smaller core of faithful followers these days.
Arena Football's Dallas Texans, Roller Hockey International's Dallas Stallions and TeamTennis' Dallas Stars all called Reunion home at one time. Even professional indoor rugby was played there.
But the major tenants like the Mavericks and Stars need luxury suites and the revenue they generate. And fans in general will welcome the American Airlines Center's larger concourse and other amenities.
"It's been a great arena for a lot of teams and a lot of things," the Mavericks' Davis said. "You have to respect it for its history. Everybody's understandably excited about the new building, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't appreciate Reunion Arena.
"It did a lot of great things for Dallas."
February 26, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures
Demolition of Reunion Arena will start in April after the Dallas City Council approved a nearly $2.1 million contract to raze the shuttered facility. Inking a contract with Del Valle, Texas-based A & R Demolition is the final key decision by city officials in a yearlong process to close, and ultimately tear down, the 29-year-old arena. "When it's through, it'll be grass - a grassy knoll," said Ramon Miguez, assistant city manager. Reunion Arena had lost the city several million dollars since the newer, larger American Airlines Center opened in 2001, capturing much of the older facility's business. City officials say the arena will be torn down piece by piece instead of imploded. (Dallas Morning News)
April 16, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures
A demolition schedule has been set for the razing of Reunion Arena in Dallas, Texas, and preliminary work is taking shape in and outside the vacant building. The venue is set to be demolished by September.
November 19, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures
The final remnants of Reunion Arena are coming down this week. The venue was replaced in 2001 by the American Airlines Center as the main arena in Dallas, Texas.