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New facility to replace St. John Arena; future of historic arena in doubt

St. John Arena, Ohio State University

Historic St. John Arena at Ohio State University will be replaced as home to the wrestling program and other sports programs, as a major donation will allow construction of a new arena on campus.

A $10-milion gift from Sam Covelli, who owns the most Panera Bread franchises in the country, will be used to build a new arena on campus to house the wrestling team and seven other athletic programs. The fundraising for the facility isn’t completed, and ground won’t be broken on the new arena until 2014 or 2015.

Covelli Arena, Ohio State University

The issue: what to do with St. John Arena. The basketball team now plays at Value City Arena at the Jerome Schottenstein Center (although a Buckeye game is occasionally scheduled for St. John Arena where there’s a scheduling conflict), and with the new arena there’s no need for an older facility requiring some $30 million in upgrades just to remain functional. St. John Arena opened in November 1956 and cost less than $4 million. It’s associated with a winning Buckeyes program: the 1960 team was the national champion, while the Buckeyes were runners-up the next two years and recorded a record five consecutive Big Ten titles between 1960 and 1964. The intent is to tear down the venerable facility, though there’s no timetable as of yet. From the Columbus Dispatch:

St. John opened in 1956. Built for slightly less than $4 million — $34 million in today’s dollars — it was considered state of the art, with its more than 13,000 chairback seats, four-sided spectator array with unobstructed views, soaring ceiling and gleaming silver four-barrel roof.

For years, fans have been trying to prevent demolition of the building, saying it is full of wonderful memories. Most notably, it helped Ohio State attract the basketball team that won the 1960 national championship, the only NCAA basketball title in school history.

But time has taken a toll on the arena, OSU officials said. It has roof problems and needs extensive repairs to its electrical, plumbing and heating and ventilation systems, they said. Upgrades also are needed to make the building more handicapped accessible and to improve the overall fan experience.

Top image by Allan Foster, via

Bottom image courtesy of Ohio State University.

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