MUSIC - Same ol song and dance by Aerosmith
St. Louis Arena - Opened in 1929, closed in 1994 finally demolished in 1999. An industrial complex sits on the site. Known as St. Louis Arena 1929 - 1976, the Checkerdome 1977 - 1983, St. Louis Arena 1983 - 1999.
Location - 5700 Oakland Ave., St. Louis, Missouri.
If you drive by 5700 Oakland Avenue in St. Louis, chances are you won't recognize what was once there. Instead of the barn like building that housed indoor events in St. Louis for almost 70 years, an industrial complex arises from the ground. The dogtown neighborhood was the setting for the St. Louis arena. To locals it was simply known as the Arena and the barn.
Built in 1929, the arena sat directly across the street (later the 40 expressway) from Forest Park. For the first 38 years, the arena was home to minor league hockey, political rallies, concerts, and the like. The St. Louis Hawks of the NBA, (Now the Atlanta Hawks) occasionally used the arena from 1955 thru 1968. The ABA also played here. The Spirits of St. Louis used the arena from 1974 - 1976. Indoor soccer was played under the roof from 1979 till the building closed in 1994. The University of St. Louis Billikens used the court on and off from 1968 till the arena closed. But kings of the building were the St. Louis Blues of the NHL.
The Blues had a huge following at the arena. Like its brother Chicago stadium, the building literally rocked. Especially during playoff time. The Blues were created in 1967, and made the Stanley cup finals in each of their first three years. Even though they made the finals, they lost all three times. For the most part, the Blues were competitive at the arena. In 1977, Ralston Purina bought the Blues and the building and renamed it the Checkerdome. They retained ownership until 1983, when the Blues were sold again and the building went back to being the Arena.
The Blues had been wanting a new building, and had even threatened to move to Saskatoon Saskatchewan. Finally, the old Keil auditorium in downtown St. Louis was demolished, and the new Keil center arena was constructed on the site. The center has had 3 different name changes and is now the Scottrade center. As part of private financing for the Keil center, the arena was not allowed any competition to the new arena. The final concert was by Bette Midler in November of 1993, and the final sporting event was on August 16, 1994. It was a roller hockey game between the St. Louis Vipers and the Tampa Bay Tritons. Souvenir seekers hit the arena on September 24, 1994, as just about everything inside the old barn was auctioned off. In October of 1994, the arena was sealed shut, and power was cut off. For 5 years, the building was cemented shut and left abandoned. Finally the inevitable happened. On February 27, 1999, the arena was imploded. An industrial complex as well as residential units occupies the site.
The Blues had a parade of stars that wore the blue note sweater. Hall of famers that played for the Blues were, Bernie Federko, Al MacInnis, Glenn Hall, Joe Mullen, Grant Fuhr, and even Wayne Gretzky. I am sure they can add Brett Hull to that list when he is inducted. The Blues have retired the number 2 for Al MacInnis, Barclay Plager's number 8, Brian Sutter's number 11, the aforementioned Brett Hull and his number 16, Bernie Federko and his 24 and the number 3 for defenseman Bob Gassoff. Gassoff was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1977. The Blues have not issued the number 5 worn by Bob Plager and the number 14 worn by Doug Wickenheiser. Wickenheiser had inoperable lung cancer and died on January 12, 1999. Also, in the rafters of the Scottrade center is a green shamrock in memory of longtime broadcaster Dan Kelly. Kelly had broadcast the Blues games from 1968 till shortly before his death in 1989. In 2006, the Blues named the press box at the Scottrade center in Dan Kelly's honor.
If you ask most St. Louisians, they will probably tell you they would rather go to the old barn to see the Blues. Even with it's cramped concession stands and lack of amenities, the arena was like an old t shirt. Progress is good for the most part, but for sporting venues, progress SUCKS. It is sad to think that another great building is now gone. All that is left are the memories. If Blues fans close their eyes, they can still hear that organ playing "when the saints go marching in" at the old arena.
The back of the arena. 10/87
The east end of the building on a beautiful October day. 10/87
The main entrance and lobby of the arena. 10/87
The concession stands under the main grandstand. 10/87
More of the concourse. 10/87
Setting up for a Boston concert in St. Louis. 10/87
Inside the arena. The luxury suites are up to the left by the KMOX sign. 10/87
A grey day and work begins on sealing up the old arena. Soon, all the entrances will be bricked up and the building will be abandoned. 10/94
The front of the arena, being sealed up forever. 10/94
The back of the barn. 10/94
The entrance in the back. The red doors to the right have already been welded shut. Power has been cut and soon the arena will be dark forever. 10/94
The glass doors will be bricked shut soon. 10/94
These doors are now welded shut and sealed. The employees entrance sign you see here was saved from demolition. It now is hanging in my garage. 10/94
DAMN I wish i had the cajones to break the doors and go inside. 10/94
One last look at the arena being boarded up. 10/94
Fast forward 14 months to January of 1996. A wire fence now surrounds the arena. The entrances are all bricked over. 1/96
A close up of the fence. No way to enter the arena. It sits waiting for demolition. 1/96
If you recall the glass doors in previous shots, now the glass is gone and replaced by brick. 1/96
A very cold and snowy January day in St. Louis. The barn sits, slowly decaying, waiting for the inevitable. 1/96
Lights out. My last view of the interior of the arena. 10/87
One last snowy look at a great building. Many St. Louisians wish they could still head to 5700 Oakland Ave. to catch a Blues game or a rock concert. There was no reason to demolish this great building. Unfortunatly, the political machine got their wish. Rest in peace. 1/96