The St. Louis Arena (AKA The Checkerdome) was an unusual oval shaped building, seating nearly 20,000 persons. It was used principally as the home for the St. Louis Blues, conventions, horse shows, indoor circuses, prize fights and various other exhibits.
At the time of its construction in 1929, the Arena was hailed as the most modern and complete sports facility in the United States. After decades of minor league action, the old palace greeted the NHL in 1967 and was host to three consecutive Stanley Cup Finals as the Blues were the superior of the original expansion franchises. The Arena combines old-time charm with frequent pandemonium.
"It was a noisy old facility," said Bryan Murry, former coach and general manager of the rival Detroit Red Wings, "It was a good facility and a great place to play, and we enjoyed going in there."
On December 12, 1998 Bob Wilber wrote: I have just heard that the city of St. Louis is finally clearing the way to tear down the old beloved Arena. Very sad.
On a nostalgia tour, I found your web site. Please, as a favor to the many of us who worked in the building, and the tens of thousands of fans who filled her for indoor soccer, could you please mention three other MAJOR tenants who used the building.
St. Louis Steamers (MISL) 1977-1988 St. Louis Storm (MISL) 1989-1991 St. Louis Ambush (NPSL) 1992-present (currently play at Savvis Center)
Throughout their reign, the Steamers averaged upwards of 17,000 per game, well outdrawing the Blues and nearly driving the Blues out of town (the Blues were actually sold to a group in Saskatoon but the league blocked the sale.)
I was VP-Marketing for the Storm, and we averaged nearly 8,000 per game.
The Ambush joined the Blues at the Kiel Center, and sell close to 9,000 tickets per game now.
The St. Louis Arena was built in 1926 to host the National Dairy Exposition, and had only a dirt floor for about 15 years.
The ice plant was added in the late 30's, early 40's. The place was never really kept up from that point until the mid-60's (I do remember seeing minor league hockey games there in the early 60's, it was very dark and dirty and basically falling apart.)
In the 50's, a tornado toppled one of the towers and ripped the northern piece of the roof off.
The Soloman family brought the Blues to St. Louis around '68 and the Arena never stopped being renovated from that day forward.
Throughout the 60's, 70's, 80's and 90's, it was expanded and modernized as well as a 1920's building could be, and kept sparkling clean.
It has also hosted the NCAA Final 4, the Davis Cup, Roller Hockey (the St. Louis Vipers), and too many special shows and concerts to count.
During the late 70's (I think, maybe early 80's), Ralston Purina bought the Blues and the building, and changed the name of the Arena to "The Checkerdome". It was the Checkerdome for at least 6 or 7 years.
Have to run now, more as I think of it.
It was a WONDERFUL building, with the tightest sight lines I've ever seen. It's demise is unavoidable but sad nonetheless.
PS - I forgot to mention in my earlier "stories about the Arena" email one of the more charming anecdotes, and it's true too! From the mid-70's until the building closed it was home to anywhere from 4-8 adult cats. No one fed them, took care of them, or even saw them except on rare occasions. They were in charge of keeping the building free of other such small living creatures. They did a great job, because I never once saw so much as a mouse in the old place. And, true story, from time to time, if you knew where to look you could spot them even during games. They'd sit under the lowest rows of the arena, which were removable sections, eat popcorn and hotdog buns, and watch the big crowds. I handled the PA for the Storm soccer team, and knew all the hidden walkways in the place. The only time I saw the cats was during games, down under the stands. It must have been one hell of a smorgasboard for them!
To which Edna Marshall replied on July 5, 1999: I worked for the cleaning crew of the Arena for a short time and on the maintenance/ice crew for 7 years. I wish to correct a statement made by Bob Wilber, he said the cats at the Arena were not fed, this is incorrect, they were fed by the maintenance and cleaning crew workers as well as some of the watchmen. My husband Chester Marshall worked for the Arena for 36 years and I know he and I took food to the cats on serveral occassions as did the watchmen and some members of the cleaning crew, the rest of his statements on this subject are pretty well correct. When the sports show used to come to the Arena they set up a fish tank display and the cats had a feast then, I think that was probably the cats favorite show. I enjoyed your web site a great deal, nice job. People like my husband and I and the numerous employees of the old lady appreciate your fine efforts. She is gone but will never be forgotten, Long live the Arena
On February 27, 1999 Eastmanyes@aol.com wrote: Thought I would add a little to your St.Louis Arena history. A minor league basketball team named the Bombers played there during 1950's. The Chicago Blackhawks had a minor league team that played there in the 1960's called the Braves. Many future NHLers were on the team including Phil Esposito. The Blackhawks played home games there during 1950's against other NHL teams. The Arena was the sight of the first penalty shot in NHL history in 1934. It is a tragedy that this building is being destroyed today. I'm on my way down there now to watch the old girls murder. How sad that my children will never experience her magic. To see a hockey game there was quite an experience. You felt like you were part of the game. You could hear the players grunt. Tragedy.
On February 28, 1999 Steve Barnett wrote: The St. Louis Vipers of Roller Hockey International were the hosts of the last professional sporting event held at the Arena. On August 16, 1994 the Vipers played the Tampa Bay Tritons at 7:35pm. I and a large group of frieds attended that game and had one last walk around the barn before we left. I'm glad to say that the Arena was fairly full that night and a lot of people had a chance to take a walk around before before they closed it..
The Arena comes tumbling down
8 p.m. Saturday, February 27, 1999
By Tim O'Neil
Of the Post-Dispatch
Copyright 1999 St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Like the back of a great whale, the roof of The Arena curled downward and plunged into its own churning sea of grey dust.
Click the Image to See the Implosion
It was gone like that. Less than 15 seconds after the first jolting blasts of dynamite flashed across its bare steel supports, all that was visible was the rising dust. The Arena, once the city's great exhibition hall, lay in a jumbled pile.
A few long white banners, once the sound dampers that hung across the ceiling, waved like surrender flags.
Spirtas Wrecking Co., with assist from Controlled Demolition Inc., did the deed at 5:45 p.m. today as thousands of thrill-seekers and sentimentalists watched in clusters around The Arena's 26-acre expanse.
They did the destruction with only 133 pounds of TNT, distributed carefully among 250 locations.
The wreckers blew the works by coursing 600 volts through a common wiring system, igniting at once all of the blasting caps. The caps, serving as timed fuses, set the individual charges over 12 seconds.
As the racket from the explosions and collapse receded, the lusty cheers of the crowds rose to take over. And when the dust slowly was blown southeasterly to expose the wreckage, the fans roared again.
On August 30, 1999 Tina Montgomery wrote: Your page on the St. Louis Arena is a great one! I was given the priveledge of working in the "Old Barn" the summer before she closed to the general public. To date it was the best job I have held. It was meant as a summer job to fill the three months between college. However, I brought with me many charished memories. Sure, the building had leaks, rust and she was worn. However, the character she possessed was tremendoous. When you walked through those doors you were hit with a kinda carma. The day Spiritas brought her down, they took away a large piece of St. Louis's history.
Thank you for creating this site. It brough back many memories, and it gave me the opportunity to grab a few of my ex-coworkers email address in the process.
On September 4, 1999 Jim Bafaro wrote: Really enjoyed your items, and the contributions from readers regarding the St. Louis Arena. Among my very fond memories were from the 1970's when both the St. Louis University Billiken basketball and hockey teams played there. The old St. Louis Globe-Democrat newspaper offered a "youth" ticket package in which kids could go to every home game of BOTH teams, for a grand total of FIVE BUCKS PER SEASON!!
Needless to say, my friends and I grew up at the Arena, often exploring the "Old Barn" for hours after games ended. When the refurbished building (broadcaster Gus Kyle called it the "New Look Arena") opened in the late 1960's, there was a lobby display which featured the home jersey of every NHL team. In the early 1970's the Soloman family installed "kid boxes" in each of the four corners of the building above the upper level seats. They were designed for little tykes to climb into, to watch the games.
Neatest memory of the Arena: I attended the final hockey game played there, a US Olympic Festival event in, I believe, 1994. I walked out on the ice after everyone had left and scooped up some ice shavings from the rink. I still have a cupful in my freezer!!
On April 11, 2000 Michael McAuliffe wrote: Things that must be remembered about "The Old Barn":
- The Animated Neon Sign: Draped across the front of the building between the two towers, it was unquestionably the most distinctive stadium sign ever. The animation depicted a Blue's hockey player on the far left, taking a slap shot which sent the animated puck the length of the sign to light the lamp of the goal on the other side. Above path the puck, Neon tubes announced this building as "The Arena, Home of the Blues"
- The Arena Club: Not a "theme bar" or a "lounge" but a real bar that would provide a perfect setting for a St. Louis version of Goodfellas. The prime motivation to visit the dark, smokey room between periods were: waitresses, beer in a glass, shorter bathroom lines (not necessarily in that order). Don't forget the tiffany windows of Blue's hockey players
- The "Luxury Boxes": I'm not sure what happened to them when the place was torn down but I thing I heard some guys are using one, at least, as a Duck Blind on the Missouri River.
- The Uneven Boards: Opposing players in their defensive zone would try to clear the puck around the boards which, many times, hit a seam and was redirected into the front of the net. Home ice advantage. Memories worth preserving:
- The Blue Angels: Performed choreographed routines between periods on a platform set up at one end of the rink. they would leave though one exit above which pre-pubescent boys (and post-pubescent, and adult, come to think of it) boys used to gather for a fleeting peak of the cleavage.
- St. Louis Spirits "Basketball " Promotion: Against Dr. J's New York Nets. Rather than give you one when you went in, the red, white and blue basketballs were distributed in one section of the Arena. Everyone gathered there except the person (or persons) who were supposed to give them out. Anxious youths climbed on girders and literally "dropped" inside this amazingly large box and proceeded to throw balls out. If not for my older brother, I would never had gotten a ball or gotten out alive.
- Gary Unger Ironman Statue: Where is it?
- Wooden Rafter Ceiling: I am not sure how often wood beams were used as a construction material for stadium ceilings but one thing is for sure: it will never be used again. Mostly obscured in the mid 70's by white acoustical "drapes" installed to improve the sound for stadium rock concerts.
On August 6, 2001 Todd Gilmore wrote: I was referred to your site by a friend. I'm very impressed with all of the content. I too spent most of my formative years at The Arena attending Blues and Steamers games. I had season tickets to the Steamers the year before I went to college. When they closed the old barn they sold pretty much anything they could provided you could uninstall it and move it out yourself. There's a bar across Clark street from Kiel that has the entire old center ice scoreboard above the bar. It's very cool. For some stupid reason, they're not allowed to turn it on and show the score of the game as it's being played at Kiel. I went and bought my seats (from the upper circle) and have them installed in my basement. I never cleaned the backs of them either. It was part of their "charm".
Aside from "my" seats, my favorite place to site was the Arena Loge. When the Blues moved into the building in '67 the upper circle were the highest seats in the place. Later they added an upper level with press box, "luxury" boxes and the Loge seats at each end of the Arena. These sections were VERY steep. Your feet were roughly at the back of the head of the person in front of you and each row had a railing in front of it to keep you from falling over. The best part was when the barn was really rocking (say for a Blues-Blackhawks game) the Loge section would literally shake. It was quite the sensation.
It had an air about it that the Kiel just doesn't have. Perhaps it will someday, but I still miss the Old Barn. I was there when it came down. I felt I needed to be there, and yeah, I cried.
On October 24, 2001 Tim Dunigan wrote: Love your site. I grew up in that old barn. My Dad was the ticket manager for the Arena for many years. I can't tell you how many times I sat in that place waiting for my Dad and mom ( who also worked in the ticket dept.) to get done with their work and we would drive home.
That place had the steepest steps of any venue I have ever been in, and NO hand rails.. It was a terrific place to watch Hockey, and those first years 67-70 or so..there were no better fans. It was THE place to be in St.Louis. I can still see Bobby Orr sailing through the air after scoring the Cup winning Goal on that ice... The rodeo's, the circus's, the concerts...(especially Jethro Tull!!! ) It was the best.
When I saw the tape of the implosion..I cried... I have never set foot in the new Savis Center, and I'm sure it is spectacular....but I miss that drafty old barn.. and by the way.. I saw the cats Many times. Thanks for a great site.
On February 4, 2001 D. J. Fone wrote: One of the longest days of my life was Feb. 27, 1999: The Arena's last full day standing. On that day, I took off work and lingered at the site for 12 hours, exchanging memories with hundreds of other grieving worshipers of the sweet memories of better times with friends and loved ones past and present. Literally thousands of cars detoured and slowed along Oakland Avenue for a last, fond look at the teetering ol' barn, reduced to a skeleton, awaiting then next day's implosion.
Younger fans may have recalled their first pro hockey or soccer game, or their first concert. Those of us who grew up before the Arena hosted summertime musical events (it wasn't air-conditioned until August 1979) recalled both the dusty, smelly home of Fireman's Rodeos and Police Circuses, and reveled in the dramatic transformation into one of the NHL's niftiest palaces upon the arrival of the Blues in October 1967.
The Arena in the Blues' first few years was a first-class dowager renewing her youth and vigor, as the Salomon family, the Blues' original franchise owner, lavished millions on updating and polishing the castle-like facility, which was originally built for livestock shows some 40 years earlier. (For a detailed account of the building's history, with GREAT construction-era pictures, check out "St. Louis Arena Memories" on any major bookselling site).
These comments are mine, from the "customer reviews" site of one of the booksellers: "To fully understand the grief many St. Louisans feel over losing The Arena, this book explains, in remarkable photos and firsthand accounts, why is was so hard to watch her go down in February 1999, after 5 vacant years of neglect.
70 years of sports and entertainment history, dotted by challenges from nature (tornado, fire, earthquake) and man (the Def Leppard rock tour threatened to literally bring the house down) make this tome a must-read for anyone who fondly recalls the castle-like home of the St. Louis Blues; several pro indoor soccer teams; and many other sports events, not to mention the touring ice shows and concerts that brought new generations inside the deep blue painted walls and tan glazed-brick lobby, topped by the world's largest lamella (Douglas fir latticework) roof.
Mind you, this edifice was built in 1929 for the sole purpose of hosting annual dairy shows...not hockey, soccer and ear-splitting music events with 20,000 rocking, stomping, screaming fans. Yet, in her transformation from dusty cow hall to gleaming hockey showplace, then back to aging, unkempt, old grande dame (when the city of St. Louis took it over), the Arena touched millions of fans who passed through her golden gates, sitting anywhere from the submarine-like parquet sections, from which you had to stand on a narrow curb and duck down for others to pass, to towering end balconies which rocked and swayed with the cacophony of the home crowd.
Yet, for all of her limitations, she boasted the best sports sightlines of any such building in the country. Fans were right on top of the action, bringing out the best in athletes and entertainers every night.The secrets this stately old building took to its grave would entice any mystery writer: Its numerous hidden rooms, stairwells, and spooky catacombs were home to packages and crates forgotten for decades, and its age and antiquity of design made just getting through any event without catastrophic power failures a test for all concerned.
The building's chief electrician for 25 years comes off in the book as a miracle worker, milking demanding, modern day results from archaic construction and materials.Yet, St. Louisans loved their Arena, which bordered land formerly hosting the famed Highlands amusement park, still dear in the memories of St. Louisans who grew up in, and before, the 50's. A day at the Highlands was often followed by a circus, rodeo, or ice show next door at the Arena, which shared its western land with a 72-lane bowling center.
As you marvel at the historic photos and laugh (or cry) at the starkly personal reminisces of local fans from several generations of Arena-goers, think of how blank the St. Louis riverfront would look without its signature Arch or Old Courthouse. That, my friend, is how the Oakland Avenue area looks to many longtime south St. Louisans so accustomed to seeing their 13 white, entrance archways sided by twin white towers, topped by a red and gray dome, like a huge, humpbacked whale beckoning locals for a great time, can now only look at an 8-acre hole, surrounded by 30-foot piles of fill gravel. The hole left in our hearts and memories, brilliantly illustrated and described in this book, shall not be filled. But this wonderful book sure comes close."
Also, in the days just prior to the implosion, I wrote this impassioned paean: "OF VALENTINES AND THE ARENA:
On Valentine's Day, I went to see an old love. She's not looking well these days, with only days to live. My memories of her sweetness and excitement inside will always brighten me when her grim visage depresses. In the supposed name of progress, my old love is being subjected to a dignity-stripping public autopsy.
Of course, I'm speaking of The Arena, the "old barn" on Oakland Avenue. It was difficult to look at the pre-implosion, crumbling ruins knocked out by the wreckers without thinking of my first true love, of career dreams, of Harry Caray, and of my father.
It's all in the timing, I suppose. On Valentine's Day, you think of love and loss. Watching workmen dismantling my field of dreams, I felt a bit like Charles Foster Kane when workmen threw his beloved childhood sled, named "Rosebud", and emblematic of all he enjoyed as a youth, into the incinerator at Xanadu.
This was the place where my first sparks of real love were kindled, by a lovely young woman who, even today, works only a mile away, but whom I haven't seen or spoken to for nearly 25 years. Not a week goes by without a thought of her. The three years we spent together, much of them cheering on the early-70's Blues, are locked away in my heart where even Willie Sutton couldn't get to them.
It was here where her fingers left welts on my arms from her excitement over those early Blues teams. It was here where she swooned over Blues defenseman Bob Plager's new mustache, so I grew my first one. She likewise cooed at blond, hirsute center Garry Unger, so I let my brown mane grow and get plenty of bleaching sun. Every Blues goal was cause for a hug and a kiss, so I learned to buy tickets to games against weak opponents.
Painfully, it was also here that I first saw the faces of those who would woo her from me, and into the better life she now enjoys. For the two decades following our breakup, I escorted more than 100 other women to Arena events, seeking a worthy successor to her crown. It wasn't until the very week of The Arena's final hockey game, in April 1994, that I found, and later married, someone who could steal my heart back from her.
Tender-hearted? Well, so was Joe DiMaggio, who divorced Marilyn Monroe after only nine months, yet sent roses to her grave three times a week for 15 years, and never again married.
It was on Valentine's Day, exactly one year ago, when Harry Caray, who provided the soundtrack of my youth with his bombastic Cardinals play-calling, suffered the heart attack which, four days later, would claim his life. Ironically, the night he was stricken, my wife and I were going to the Funny Bone to hear Chicago comedian John Caponera, he of the dead-on Harry impersonations. Just hours before Harry was stricken, we learned Caponera's show had been cancelled.
In his later years, Harry would be one of the reasons my lovely wife and I would travel to Chicago for the Cardinals-Cubs tilts at historic Wrigley Field, built 13 years before the Arena. His once-brilliant broadcasting work, weakened by age and ill health, instead became grandfatherly invitations to visit the wonderful Windy City we now love.
The night Harry's family announced he would not recover, and would be taken off life support, marked the occasion of my first heartfelt cry since the death of my own father.
I felt Dad's presence in that late afternoon, Valentine's Day sun, as it lit the fading, peeling Arena's west face. It was here on Easter Sunday, 1988, that Dad, fighting a long, losing battle with lung cancer, enjoyed his last good day on this earth.
I had lucked into buying four first row, center-ice seats for that holiday matinee performance of Ice Capades. I'd never been a religious man, but that afternoon made me think about otherworldly intervention. Barely able to stay awake or to walk in his weakened condition, Dad somehow found the strength to walk downstairs with us to our parquet seats -folding chairs, actually-which were right over the ice, just outside the rink's hockey boards.
Miraculously, as if they knew this was Dad's last good day, the show's performers made Dad part of the act‰Û|three times! One comely young ice dancer sat in Dad's lap and posed for pictures while the crowd roared; a skating comedian leaned over the boards and mugged at Dad from only inches away, prompting what must have been the last laughs my Dad would ever enjoy in this life. Finally, an animal-like mascot made Dad the focus of his routine. From that day forward, I've smiled whenever passing a church; my little way of saying "Thanks".
The Arena, for many, triggered dreams; of rock stardom at packed concerts, or sports stardom. Mine was to be an NHL play-by-play announcer. On more than 60 occasions, I paid for two seats in the first row of the north end balcony where, armed with reams of game notes and media guides, I announced the game action into a dual-miked tape recorder en route to what would become, hopefully, my calling. It didn't happen, though those tapes did help me land other broadcasting positions. When that balcony comes crashing down, will my final NHL announcing hopes fall, too?
If you, like I, grew up in St. Louis during the baby boom, you'll recall that strip of Oakland Avenue as magical. Just looking across Highway 40/64 from the zoo area gave you goosebumps. The Forest Park Highlands, the site of many a St. Louis school picnic, loomed just east, where Forest Park Community College now stands.
Many giddy days were spent at the Highlands amid school chums and family, racing to stake out a picnic table under the pavilion; touring the park's perimeter in the kiddie train, equipped with flashing, ringing crossing signs, running under the creaking, wooden maze of tracks of the terrifying "Comet" roller coaster; and struggling to run in ankle-deep, brown gravel to the next ride.
Those "Comet" tracks stood for years, Stonehenge-like, after the July 18, 1963 fire, which reduced nearly the entire park to ruins. Standing near the site and looking at the crumbling old barn, I could almost see and smell the smoke once again from the Highlands' windswept inferno.
The Arena, with its cavernous, neighboring Arena Bowl's 72 deafening lanes, provided family diversions with the annual Police Circus, Fireman's Rodeo, and, later, pro and college hockey and basketball, concerts and ice shows. She had been a sleeping giant for nearly four decades when the National Hockey League came calling in the fall of '67.
Within months, renovations and tons of fresh, blue paint made the gray old lady the plushest, most elegant sports building in the country, with the best sightlines to boot, so long as you weren't behind one of the V-shaped iron supports in the top rows. The late '60's and early '70's Blues hockey teams' roaring crowds set the Arena shaking with rock-concert intensity at nearly every home game. Yet, most of those events will continue at Yuppie Heaven downtown, while the uniqueness of The Arena will come crumbling down when the blast is set off Feb. 27.
There will be other events, but there will never be another place quite like it: ---the blonde, glazed block walls inside the Art Deco lobby; those low-ceilinged, harrowingly-narrow passageways behind the box and parquet sections;
---deep blue paint everywhere;
---translucent, 30's-style windows bathing the concourses in natural light;
---the NHL uniforms displayed behind glass in the lobby in the late 1960's;
---that incredible, all-wood lamella roof, obscured in later years by echo-dampening acoustic sheets;
---outside escalators which provided quick egress for fans in the cheap seats, unlike today's supposed modern marvel downtown;
---the beautiful north entrance, with 12 arches, foretelling the riverfront monument which would eventually become St. Louis's architectural signature.
These will come down; the memories will endure.
If you're in the area to watch the implosion, please forgive a 45-year old man you may see visualizing the ghosts of Dan Kelly, Gus Kyle, Barclay Plager, Jacques Plante and numerous other heroes and loves of the past, wiping away a tear or two, as he utters, gravely.
It's just a sentimental, tender-hearted old fool.
'They're leaving back there in the dust
That same small town in each of us.
Just let me take a long, last look
Before we say goodbye
This is the end‰Û|of the innocence'
On August 15, 2005, Anthony Mueller writes: Terrific link..........some nice memories from my fellow Arena fans !!
I'm 43 and a lifelong Blues fan of course, my family had season tickets since their 68-69 season. On the last weekend of the Arena's 'garage sale' where you could buy seats and various other items (bid on the scoreboard, the zamboni !!), and after I dislodged my arena circle seat for purchase ($30 I think, for charity), I took a 2 hour exploration throughout the facility. Of course I had been in every seat locale previously. But one last stroll thru every level, every concourse, all the hallways too. We were members of the arena club for two years. The Blues lockeroom was closed off, as was the wives room.
BUT I did get to explore the old Goaltenders(?) Club room (private) which had mirrored walls to enhance its size(?), a very narrow room, the visitors dressing room (so small, very bare except for wood benches, plain shelves for stalls, basic one room tile shower area, and a so called training table in what was a room about the size of a walk in closet!!).
The other dressing rooms under the stands (maybe 3) were nothing more than small carpeted rooms like you'd find at any rink with one shower and one toilet provided.
Do to the configurations of this old building, alot of the facilities and rooms which had been added over the years were very unusual in their lay out, mostly to accomodate the tight space provided. The original KMOX press box where Dan Kelley provided memories for years, the TV booth for the visiting teams, both soooo small. The press box stacked 3 rows high. The later day radio booth up above also. There was a stationed ladder, on the catwalk behind the press boxes, that led UP to the upper catwalk that surrounded the lights above the rink. This ladder led up on top of the press box where you could then take the last stairs up to the catwalk around the rim of the ceiling. I made it up ontop of the pressboxes, my knees were shaking as is with the view across the dim arena at that height. I thought about climbing the final stairs as a thrill, but chickened out thinking I'd eventually get arrested if seen anyways, no guts!!! I also found the lower narrow hallway that went behind the arena club kitchen and basically ran the perimeter of the building along the foundation (I think, it seemed so), painted white, hanging lights and various electric and plumbing above. Inside the towers that acted as arena offices, again small and cramped comparred with todays facilities, and an elevator !! Lots of panneling in this place!! Same for the private boxes, cramped, carpeted with lots of 70's panneling. The rest rooms upstairs at the two upper clubs, no running water but that didn't stop workers or whoever from using the facilities for relief, stench and flies made my peek inside last about 5 seconds. The organ loft, a view comparable to the 1st row of the upper balcony without the comfort and security of seats surrounding you, a great view. Behind the zamboni exit of course was the visitors rooms to the left. Straight back was the overhead door that lead to the outside ramp that ran down the back of the building, team buses would drive down to meet the players. To the right under the seats there was a long ramp that led down to the basement and ice plant (think under the penalty box locale). I curiously wandered down the darken ramp not having any idea where I was going, talk about errie!! A room with the ice plant compressor and various equipment was dimly lit, smell of stench and old machinery, dungeon like. The pipes from the compressors led staight up above to the ice level, I'd guess 10-15 feeet(?). Inside a stand up metal shop desk was some paperwork, and the daily ice plant log sheets which I kept as a keep sake, detailed by the hour the temps of the compressor and ice surface..etc. This room felt very creepy and old, and it looked the part. I found a pic of this room in an old 68 Blues program that had Lynn Patrick and the new building manager standing in front of that same compressor, in front of the wide rubber belt used to drive its motor. Also, the grated sewer lid at my feet, which prolly led straight to hell for all I know. There was a hallway within the building at the main concourse level, think parquete level, leading from the lockerrooms wrapped around to the building, many small offices and storage rooms, I found one room which must've been the painters closet. It had hundreds of cans of paint on its shelves, the large decals used for board advertisement, supplies and a crawl space above that acted as more storage. Again this room was configured like so many in the building, to maximize the space provided, which wasn't much. Many memories of hockey games, concerts and wonderfull times growing up that I didn't want to let go.
Yes it was a special building, and I was one who didn't sympathize too much considering the Blues DID need a new facility to compete in the 21st century sports world. NO this was not a building to save just for the sentmental value, yes it was unique, but the property was prime real eatate and not in any way practical for a rehab of any kind considering the cost needed.
Below is a title for a great book on the arena history and an Ebay seller who specializes in Blues and Arena photos from the original Blues photographer of that era.
St Louis Arena: Memories author- Patti Smith Jackson (see Amazon)
hockeybobst.louis - ebay seller (check his current items or his vast history of items)
Thanks again...Tony Mueller
On December 16, 2014, Michelle Page writes: I wanted to bring to your attention the fact that the arena was home to the Laister-Kauffmann Glider manufacturing plant during WWII.Ê My mother and father worked there before my father was old enough to join the Army Air Corp.Ê My parents met there.Ê
Betsy Bruce interviewed my mother just before the arena was demolished.Ê I have the video of the interview as it aired on the news.Ê My mother's name is Dorothy Gorman.Ê Thank you for the website.