WATCH: 20 years ago today St. Louis Arena demolished by explosives

On February 27, 1999, St. Louis said goodbye to an old barn.

February 27, 2019 - 10:13 am
Categories: 

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KFTK) — It was meant to host the National Dairy Show. But the old barn that was built in 1929 ended up becoming a place where real memories were made.

The St. Louis Arena was built for $2 million right before the Great Depression hit and, after it opened, it was the second largest indoor entertainment venue behind the Madison Square Garden in New York City. In 1934 and 1935, it was home to St. Louis' first National Hockey League team: the St. Louis Eagles. The Eagles flew in from Ottawa, where the team suffered financial difficulties as the first incarnation of the Senators. Those financial issues weren't remedied in St. Louis and the Eagles ended up ceasing operations after the 1934-35 season.

The Arena wasn't well-maintained in the 1940s. That's around the time Chicago Black Hawks owners Arthur Wirtz and James Norris bought the neglected building and, after a February 1959 tornado, it became the home of the St. Louis Braves, a minor league affiliate of the Black Hawks. As part of the renovations, fencing that segregated blacks and whites from each other was removed.

In fact, Wirtz is often credited for St. Louis being the final city awarded an NHL expansion team in 1966, as Wirtz wanted an NHL team to play at his St. Louis Arena. And thus, the St. Louis Blues were born.

From then on, the St. Louis Arena became a home for not just hockey, but also events like the Spirits of St. Louis ABA basketball, NCAA basketball, indoor soccer, roller hockey, and concerts featuring acts ranging from Led Zeppelin to Michael Jackson. 

By the time the 1990s rolled around, the old barn was starting to show its age as arenas in North America were being build and/or modernized. In 1994, the St. Louis Arena closed to make way for the then-Kiel Center (now Enterprise Center).

And after five years of abandonment and debate over its future use, it all came tumbling down.

Today, the site near Hampton and Oakland is now "The Highlands" business and residential building development.