Roller skating has long been a popular activity in the Lorain area. For those that currently enjoy this pastime, Skate World
on West Lake Road (US Route 6) is the place to go, and has been since the mid-1970's. For many Lorain senior citizens who grew up in the 1920's, 30's and 40's, the well-known Coliseum
(which I blogged about back here
) was their generation's choice.
But there was another popular roller skating rink in the Lorain area that is often overlooked in nostalgia circles: the Lorain Arena
. Perhaps this is because its heyday was from the mid-1950's until the late 1960's; too late for the Greatest Generation and too early for the last of the Baby Boomers.
The interesting thing is that unlike the Coliseum, which burned down, the Lorain Arena is still there. And it's currently for sale, too, listed by Bill Latrany
of Coldwell Banker Hunter Realty. That's a photo of it above – the Arena is the large building on the right. (For the last several decades it housed the Kerr Beverage complex.
So you don't know the story of the Lorain Arena? Well, let's get things rolling with Part 1 of this series!
The Lorain Arena owed its existence to the fact that the Coliseum burned down in 1952, leaving Lorain with no skating rink. This article, from the April 2, 1955 Lorain Journal
Popular Businessmen 'Fathers of Arena
Two popular Lorain businessmen, William A. Bauer and Robert L. Baetz, are the "fathers" of the new $250,000 Lorain Arena, Stop 107, W. Lake Road.
The two men, natives of Lorain, talked about the vital need for a roller skating rink and multi-purpose auditorium during a Thanksgiving Day dinner in 1953.
A few days later they began making trips to view skating rinks and auditoriums in various parts of the state.
Within a few months, Bauer and Baetz began getting financial support for their idea and before 1954 was out the building was well on its way to being completed with local capital.
The arena represents an investment of about $250,000 and is located on land previously owned by Baetz. The Lorain Arena, Inc., of which Bauer is president, bought the Baetz Dairy Bar building and land on which to build the arena as an addition to the dairy bar.
Bauer, as head of the Board, and Baetz, as a board member, are the spearheads of the arena operations.
Bauer, known as "Bill" to his many friends, attended Lorain High School and has been a sportsman most of his life.
While serving as a manager and superintendent for Fisher Food stores in the Lorain Co. area for 18 years prior to 1944, he was instrumental in backing numerous baseball, basketball, football and bowling teams.
He purchased the Park Restaurant at the Loop in 1944 and operated it successfully until he sold it recently to his son-in-law, David (Danny) Cambararo.
Baetz, a member of a pioneer Lorain and Lorain county family, is owner of Baetz Dairy and is widely known in Masonic and fraternal circles here.
He entered the dairy business in 1935 and became owner on 1943. His parents, the late Mr. and Mrs. Adam Baetz, got started in the dairy business in 1897.
Baetz was graduated from Lorain High School.
Before the Lorain Arena officially opened on Saturday, April 2 1955, there was a preview of sorts for the building. It hosted an Auto Show on March 25, 26 and 27. Here (from library microfilm) is the full page ad promoting the event.
And here is the full page ad for the Grand Opening of the Lorain Arena that ran on April 2. (Click on it so you can read it.)
At the bottom of the ad the dress code is stated. The rules for men are interesting: "For afternoon and evening, gentlemen must wear ties with dress shirts. Sport shirts with attached collars are permissible. T-shirts, turtle neck sweaters or dungarees are not permissible."
There was quite a build-up for the grand opening. Here is one of many articles from the Lorain Journal that ran the day before, under the umbrella headline "Roller Skating Returns With Arena Opening.
Doors Open Saturday, Large Crowd Expected
Roller skating, a popular sport here for many years until the Coliseum burned down in 1952, will stage a comeback Saturday evening when the giant rink opens at the new $250,000 Lorain Arena, Stop 107, W. Lake Road.
Tony Mayo, nationally known professional roller skating instructor and manager of the arena, said he expects a record crowd for the opening session to start at 8 p.m. The doors will open at 7:30 p.m..
There will be roller skating every night, except Monday, from 8 p.m. to 10:45 p.m.
Matinee skating sessions have been scheduled for Saturdays and Sundays and there will be morning sessions Tuesdays and Saturdays.
Auto Show Scene
The Lorain Arena, scene of the first automobile show here in 25 years last weekend, has what is described as the largest and finest roller skating floor in the state.
Floor sanders and other workers are scheduled to have the maple floor in top shape for the opening. The floor contains about 24,000 square feet of space for skating. The lobby has more than 4,000 square feet.
A glass enclosed, elevated stage has been erected on the south end of the rink for the organist, Harold Kribbs, and his $3,000 Hammond organ.
Kribbs is widely known to skaters in the Lorain-Cleveland area. He played the organ for skating at the Coliseum here before the rink building burned down and has played at Cleveland and Elyria rinks and night clubs.
The arena has a king-size snack bar, which will feature hot sandwiches and beverages, including milk products.
Mayo said no alcoholic beverages would be sold anywhere on the arena premises and that loitering would not be tolerated.
The arena also has skate repair and new skate sales and rental departments. There is a large check room for skates and clothing and there are two large dressing rooms.
Mayo says the ladies will enjoy the full length mirror in the ladies powder room.
There is ample parking space for more than 800 automobiles in the rear, front and west side of the arena building.