Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Last Days of the Lorain Arena – 1968

I haven't mentioned the former Lorain Arena for a while in this blog. It's still for sale (here), and still listed by blog reader Bill Latrany.

The other day on microfilm I found the article at left, which fills in a bit of the history when the building was making its transition from skate arena to industrial use. The article is from the September 17, 1968 Lorain Journal.

Rather than make you squint at it using the unpopular Blogger viewer, I've transcribed it below.


Council Sounds Death Knell On Lorain's Skating Arena
by Tom McPheeters
Staff Writer

Pleading that they are not really "nasty old men", Lorain City Council last night approved a zone change to allow light industry to operate in the Lorain Arena.

At a public hearing before council's meeting, the rezoning faced opposition from roller skaters, who will now lose the one roller rink in Lorain.

The skaters were aware that their real argument was with the owners of the Arena, who maintain that they must close down because business simply is not good enough to continue.

So some of the sharpest questions from the audience were aimed at finding out why the failure, and why the city had done nothing to save a valuable recreation facility.

Mrs. Jesse Ceja, of 2110 Homewood Drive, Lorain, who had been active in organizing opposition to the closedown, asked the owners, "why couldn't you come to us and ask for help."

She maintained that the Arena had never been run in a way that would make it attractive and that skaters had put in many hours of work over the years helping to keep it going.

"Give us a chance to help you make your business what it should have been when it started out," she said.

Speaking for the owners, lawyer Ray Miraldi agreed that "perhaps there has been some mismanagement." To be realistic, he said, it is necessary to recognize that the owners have never gotten a return on their investment, still have a large debt, and simply can't afford to subsidize recreation.

Asked why the city never stepped in, Mayor Woodrow Mathna replied it had never been asked, and probably would have been reluctant to spend the money if it had been asked.

Councilman-at-large Michael Bulzomi added that the Youth Center had considered the Arena as a home at one time, but found it unacceptable. They had also considered roller skating at their present building, but lack of space and money to make it feasible at present, he said.

Council, obviously anxious to see that the roller skaters had their full say, allowed an hour for the public hearing. However, said Councilman William Parker, "we cannot control, through zoning, what goes out of an arena. We can only control what goes in."

Motor Homes Inc., the new tenant, is very satisfactory, he said. He emphasized that the operation, fitting insides to camper vans, is very "light" industry.

According to Ray Tripp, who will manage the plant, work on alterations should start in the next few days, just as soon as workers can be hired.

Plans, which were approved at a special meeting of the Planning Commission earlier yesterday, call for sales and accounting offices to be built in the front of the present Arena structure after the canopy and sign have been removed. The front lot will be landscaped and provide 11 visitor parking spaces.

There will be 25 employee parking spaces on the west side, allowing an access lane for fire trucks, and 76 spaces for the camper units on the east side of the building, enclosed by a cyclone fence.


Speaking of the Lorain Arena, here's a link to a great article about by award-winning writer Alana Baranick about Jeanne Krenek of Lorain, who was well known in the skating world and who sadly passed away in September. She skated and trained/coached many others at various Lorain County roller rinks, including the Lorain Arena and Lorain Skateworld. (Contrary to what the article says, however, the Lorain Arena was not built on the site of the Coliseum.)

The article also includes a great vintage photo gallery of Jeanne skating and performing.

1 comment:

Jerry A. Mccoy said...

I had no idea that the skating arena closed in 1968 which means I was no older than 10. I have vivid memories of rollerskating there but thought I was older. Thanks for the blog!