Richfield Coliseum

2923 Streetsboro Road
Richfield, OH 44286
(216) 659-9100


Former Tenants:
Cleveland Crusaders (WHA) 1974-1976
Cleveland Cavaliers (NBA) 1974-1994
Cleveland Barons (NHL) 1976-1978
Cleveland Force (MISL) 1978-1992
Cleveland Thunderbolts (AFL)
Cleveland Lumber Jacks (IHL)
Cleveland Nets (ATP)
Richfield Coliseum
Image of the Richfield Coliseum
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Cleveland quickly established itself as one of the better run and supported WHA clubs. Playing at the Cleveland Arena, where it had averaged 6000 fans per game, the club moved in 1974 to the new Richfield Coliseum, located south of Cleveland. This was the unfortunate beginning of Cleveland's downfall. The arena was too far from Cleveland and Akron to draw large crowds consistently. Defense remained consistent, but offense was consistently lacking. John Hanna had replaced needham behind the Bench, but was in turn replaced by Jack Vivian. The Crusaders made the playoffs, but fell in five games to the Houston Aeros.

Cleveland hosted the 1976 All-Star game at the Coliseum, but that proved to be the only true bright spot in a season that fell short in many ways. Jay Moore had purchased the Crusaders from Mileti in 1975, and Moore always seemed to have a lackadaisical attitude toward the club. He was also openly interested in gaining an NHL club for Cleveland. In January 1976, Cheevers opted out of his contract and returned to the Bruins. The addition to the WHA of the Cincinnati Stingers gave the Crusaders a natural rivalry, for one season at least. John Wilson led the club to another second place finish in the Eastern Division, but attendance was sagging. Cleveland fell in the playoffs to New England.

Mileti regained the club in spring 1976, right as the NHL's California Golden Seals were relocating to the Coliseum, to be known as the Barons. Finding the Crusaders without a home, Mileti moved the club to Saint Paul Minnesota, where they became the second incarnation of the Minnesota Fighting Saints. Originally, the team planned a move to Florida to be known as the Florida Breakers. For a time during the summer of 1976, the team was actually known as such. Had the Crusaders not been forced to move in 1976, they probably would have made it to the NHL in 1979.

Information on this page is from The Complete Historical and Statistical Reference to the World Hockey Association 1972-1979; by Scott Adam Surgent as written by Andrew Stiffler

On October 16, 1998, wrote: Living in suburban Akron, I remember riding my bike to route 303 to watch the construction crews build the Coliseum. I will never forget the community celebration when it opened with a Frank Sinatra concert in 1974. Unable to reach the parking lot, people were actually parking on the berm and along the median of near bye I-271 and walking the rest of the way in the night gowns and tuxedos. The Coliseum was the finest facility of its time, and still would rank as one of the nicer areas in the NBA. I was a vendor, selling soda pop, peanuts and popcorn at the Coliseum in 1975, 76 and in 1977 worked as a bus boy in Swingos Restaurant on the Lodge-two level. It was quite an experience for a 14 year old. I saw just about every type of event, from WHA hockey to rock groups like The Kiss, Who, even Elvis the year before he died. It is quite sad to see the Coliseum now. It rests in Richfield surrounded by a cracking parking lot, overgrown with weeds at the tender age of only 24. The Gunds, who still own the building, have not announced what they will do with the one-use facility. Everything, including converting it into a prison, has been mentioned. But what likely will happen is that it will be destroyed, with the land sold to a near bye national park. A sad ending for a grand lady with many stories to tell.

On November 20, 1998 J. B. Maguire, wrote: Some further info about the Richfield Coliseum:

  • It was one of the first (if not the first) arenas to have private suites, a restaurant from which people could watch events, and a video scoreboard.
  • The Coliseum was a privately-owned facility constructed by Cavs and Crusaders owner Nick Mileti.
  • The idea of locating it south of Cleveland was to try to attract fans from Akron and Canton who did not want to drive into downtown Cleveland. However, it didn't attract as many fans from that region as hoped, and to make matters worse, some Cleveland residents now did not want to make the trip--the area did not really have much in the way of restaurants which fans like to frequent before or after games, and mass transit did not adequately support the area. When the Cavaliers were among the league's elite, they had no trouble attracting sellout crowds (21,000), but when you had pitiful teams like the WHA Crusaders (which weren't bad their first two seasons but slipped steadily downward thereafter) and the NHL Barons, who wanted to go out of their way to see them? Had the arena been constructed in Cleveland, even the bad teams would have attracted more fans from a larger population base who might attend any game on the spur of the moment just to have something to do.
  • Even after 20+ years of urban growth and development, the arena is still somewhat "out in the sticks"! I was travelling in that area in 1993 and was heading south to the Ohio Turnpike when I missed my exit. When I took the next exit to turn back north, I was shocked to see that I was at the Coliseum! I didn't expect to see it "way out there."
  • The Coliseum's first event was to have been the Crusaders 74-75 season opener, but the ice making equipment failed and the game was postponed.
  • The Coliseum hosted the 1975-76 WHA All-Star game which pitted stars of American-based teams against Canadian-based teams. That also proved to be the Crusaders final season.
  • It was the host of perhaps the wildest game in hockey history. During the 1975-76 season, the Toronto Toros stormed out to an 8-2 lead midway through the second period, but by the end of the period the Crusaders had narrowed the gap to 8-5. Some ill-timed penalties against Toronto in the third period further swung the momentum Cleveland's way, and they actually gained a 9-8 lead before Toronto tied the game. Cleveland's Russ Walker scored with about 10 seconds left to play to give the Crusaders a 10-9 victory.

The arena as constructed differs significantly from the artist's conception. The actual Coliseum maintained the general style, but instead of being built on raised ground with a low exposed exterior profile (like McNichols Arena in Denver or Reunion Arena in Dallas), the contractors and landscapers did not bother to create that "mound" of earth and built it on flat ground. It has far fewer of the decorative pillars, and its profile stands quite tall as most others do (such as United Center and Denver's under-construction Pepsi Center).

Article from the Akron Beacon Journal, January 8, 1999.

Deal closes, move to erase Coliseum begins
Gunds agree to sell property to land trust that will resell it to park.
Demolition to take 4 months

As Bobby DiGeronimo walked through the Coliseum one day last spring to estimate what he'd charge to tear down the behemoth, he couldn't resist a small detour.

He paused near his company's old loge and indulged in a moment of nostalgia.

"I was thinking about the Frank Sinatra opening, and I got a little melancholy,'' said DiGeronimo, who was at the 20,000-seat arena's opening concert in 1974. "I think it's a little sad.'' George and Gordon Gund, the Coliseum's owners since 1981, closed a $7 million deal to sell the property yesterday to a nonprofit land holding group.

The Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area will then buy the property from the San Francisco-based Trust for Public Land for $9.27 million, perhaps as soon as Jan. 31, said Chris Knopf, director of the trust's Cleveland office.

The trust is paying DiGeronimo's Independence Excavating to clear the land of the empty building, parking lots and fencing. DiGeronimo said it will take his demolition crew about four months to smash the building into small pieces and cover them with dirt, burying the Coliseum in its own basement.

The building has been empty since 1994, when the Gunds moved the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Gund Arena downtown. No fewer than 60 suitors, including retail developers, inquired about the site, said Gund brothers spokesman John Graham. But the Gunds wanted it to go to the national park.

"Although we had more attractive financial offers, we felt that it was most important to preserve the rural character of the community and avoid adversely affecting the park,'' Gordon Gund said.

Park Superintendent John Debo spent most of yesterday waiting for word that the park will grow by 327 acres. The call finally came about 4:30 p.m. "Personally, I definitely will . . . hoist a glass and toast the acquisition of the Richfield Coliseum,'' Debo said, adding that he has wanted the property for the park since the Coliseum closed.

"We've acquired a lot of land since the park was established -- about 19,000 acres -- but I can't think of another piece of property that was more important . . . in terms of preserving the integrity of the park.'' Soon after the land is transferred to the park, the excavating company could begin the process of returning the mass of concrete to a grassy meadow.

Graham said he doubts there will be much worth salvaging inside the building -- the seats were ripped out and reused soon after the arena was shuttered. The basketball floor was transferred to the Gund. DiGeronimo said a few pieces of dated office furniture are about all that remains.

After everything is taken out -- from the carpeting to the steel girders -- a wrecking ball will plunge into the concrete walls. Only the "clean,'' uncontaminated construction debris will be pushed into the 40-foot basement.

The grave will be covered with topsoil, and 10 years from now, it will be the beginning of the area's newest woodlands, Debo said. DiGeronimo said his job is to ensure there's no trace of the neglected building at Interstate 271 and state Route 303: "You won't be able to see, hopefully, where the Coliseum was.''

The finality of the statement pulled back the memory of an autumn night nearly 25 years ago.

"I was there opening day. It was a really bizarre scene,'' DiGeronimo said. "They didn't have all the parking lots finished yet, and the I-271 freeway was jammed. Everyone just parked right in the middle of I-271 and walked.

"A lot of people who played there are now gone. Time moves on and you hate to see a building like that depart.''

On February 4, 1999 Kathi Sanoba wrote: Just to update your site, the Gund Brothers finally (and I believe reluctantly) sold the Coliseum to the National Park Service. The building will be torn down, and the land allowed to return to nature as a part of the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area (to which it is adjacent).

This is good news for the people in the area and to those of us who use the park, as rumor had the building and/or the site being turned into a jail, a mall, a outlet center, housing development, office park, etc., etc.

The Coliseum was a great building, and I wish it could have been moved to downtown Cleveland (the new arena is not a good hockey arena and has no personality). However, I also spend a lot of time in the National Park and if it has to go, I'm glad this is what will happen to it. Demolishion is scheduled for sometime this year.

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