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St. Louis Arena

St. Louis Arena
The St. Louis Arena on February 27, 1999, the day of its controlled demolition
Location St. Louis, Missouri
Opened 1929
Closed 1994
Demolished February 27, 1999
Construction cost $2 million
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 (National Basketball Association) (occasional use; 1955-1968)
St. Louis Bombers (NBA) (1946-1950)
Spirits of St. Louis (American Basketball Association) (1974-1976)
St. Louis Steamers (Major Soccer League) (1979-1988)
St. Louis Storm (MISL) (1989-1992)
St. Louis Ambush (National Professional Soccer League) (1992-1994)
St. Louis Vipers (Roller Hockey International) (1993-1994)
Capacity 20,000

The St. Louis Arena (also known as The Checkerdome from 1977 to 1983, and popularly referred to as "The Barn") was an indoor arena located in St. Louis, Missouri, that stood from 1929 to 1999. The arena was the site of conventions, concerts, political rallies, horse shows, circuses, boxing matches, roller derby competitions, 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 was home to various sports teams.



The Building Comes to Life

At the conclusion of the 1904 Worlds 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 racial segregation, dating back to the time of the St. Louis Eagles.

The St. Louis Blues Era (1967-1994)

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.

Closure & Demolition (1994-1999)

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 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.

Despite public opinion which was in favour of saving the Arena, it was demolished on February 27,1999, in a controlled explosion.

References & Notes

  • Finnigan, Joan (1992). Old Scores, New Goals: The Story of the Ottawa Senators. Quarry Press. ISBN 1550820419. 
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

Succeeded by
University of Denver Arena
Denver, Colorado
Preceded by

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

Succeeded by

Boston Garden
Northlands Coliseum
Preceded by
Ottawa Auditorium
Home of the
St. Louis Eagles

1934 – 1935
Succeeded by
last arena
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