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Concert Venues :: St. Louis Arena


Now Known As
Date Opened 1929
Venue Capacity 20,000
Venue URL
Venue Address 5700 Oakland Avenue
St. Louis, MO 63110

Venue Information

The St. Louis Arena (also known as The Checkerdome from 1977 to 1983) was an indoor arena located in St. Louis, Missouri, that stood from 1929 to 1999.

Kiewit's design called for a lamella roof upheld by twenty cantilever steel trusses. The lamella design consisted of Douglas fir ribs, 3.75 inches thick, 17.5 inches wide and fifteen feet long, fitted together diagonally giving the appearance of fish scales. Technological advances made it possible to construct the building with no view-obscuring internal support pillars. The huge structure was completed in just over a year. At 476 feet long and 276 feet wide it was, next to Madison Square Garden, the largest indoor entertainment space in the country. It was so large that a 13-story building could have been erected inside of it. The arena was completed in 1929.

The facility had to be heavily renovated when the NHL St. Louis Blues began playing there in 1967. As a condition of getting the expansion franchise, Blues owner Sid Salomon Jr. purchased the Arena from the Chicago Blackhawks (who used it for occasional exhibition games), and spent several million dollars renovating the building. By opening night, the arena held almost 15,000 seats, up from 12,000 at the start of 1967. 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 country, which is remarkable considering that the Arena was not originally built for hockey.

In 1977, the Arena and the Blues were purchased by Ralston Purina, who rechristened the building as The Checkerdome to reflect the new ownership. By 1983, the cereal and pet food corporation had lost interest in the Blues and the Arena, and forfeited the team to the league. It was purchased by Harry Ornest, a Los Angeles-based businessman, who promptly returned the Arena to its original name.

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 Dogtown-neighborhood Arena not be allowed to compete with Kiel Center for any events whatsoever, 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.

Public opinion was overwhelmingly in favor of saving "the Old Barn" as it was affectionately nicknamed, but when local artist Bob Cassilly (founder of the private, non-profit City Museum) approached the city government with a $200,000 down payment in hand toward purchasing the building, Civic Progress pressured the city to instead force through a hurried demolition through a controlled implosion on February 27, 1999, in the direct face of popular opposition.

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