Nov. 13, 1947: The Sports Arena opens

The Sports Arena in 2004. Photograph by the author.

For sixty years, One Main Street was the home of the Toledo Sports Arena. It was the first thing that greeted you when you went east over the Cherry Street Bridge. When it opened, in addition to an editorial that day in The Blade (which welcomed the arena in more formal language), there was this on the sports page:

Holiday on Ice, in town for ten days, opened the arena that night with tickets ranging from $1.50 to $3.00. The Blade’s reviewer, Mitch Woodbury, loved it:
Toledo stepped into the big time with seven league boots with the opening of this fine auditorium. And it is a pleasure to report the arena’s debut before the local populace is being made in conjunction with a silvery blades carnival which is in every way as major league as the edifice itself. (Nov. 14, 1947)
Major league!

I started going to the Sports Arena at an early age, first with family, later with more negative influences. The hockey, which in my times covered the Blades, Hornets and Goaldiggers, was pretty exciting, and you were always right on top of the action in the single-level arena, as these pictures can attest. As I got older, the big-name acts I saw there were many: Rush, Ozzy Osbourne, Van Halen, and probably a bunch I can’t remember. And $8.50? That’s really reasonable!

As a youthful concertgoer in the late ’70s and early ’80s, let me assure you there was no better venue. The police/security might have given you a long look going in but once you were in, you were free to drink and smoke whatever you brought with you. And people did, like crazy. It was part of the joint’s charm. Plus, whatever you drank in the parking lot on a hot summer afternoon would just be sweated out of you once you got inside.

The builder of the arena, Virgil Gladieux, was a Toledo mainstay, and even forty five years later, in 1992, was still active in its operation.

But time eventually caught up to the 5,100-seat arena. By 2005 the city was in discussions to replace the arena, and after sixty years of hockey, basketball, concerts, auto shows, circuses, sales, Big Time Wrestling, boxing matches (live and closed circuit) and thousands of other events, it was demolished in August, 2007.

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