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Remembering the Cincinnati Gardens

May+be+the+last+time+I+ever+see+the+Cincinnati+Gardens.
May be the last time I ever see the Cincinnati Gardens.

May be the last time I ever see the Cincinnati Gardens.

May be the last time I ever see the Cincinnati Gardens.

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If you ask anyone in Cincinnati about the Cincinnati Gardens, I would bet that at least half of them are familiar with the iconic building. Opened in 1949, the Gardens has played a huge role in Cincinnati entertainment history. A bargain to build, it cost only three million dollars to complete. It’s first ever event was an exhibition hockey game between the Montreal Canadians and a minor league team from Texas. Modeled after Boston Garden, Madison Square Garden, Maple Leaf Garden, and the Olympia (Detroit), the Cincinnati Gardens originally held 10,208 seats.

Countless concerts, political events, shows, hockey games, basketball games and even the circus have gone through the beautiful building. Singers like Elvis, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, and Tom Petty have all played there. The Gardens was also home to several big sports teams including the NBA Cincinnati Royals, Xavier University, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati Mohawks hockey, Cincinnati Mighty Ducks hockey and other minor league teams. And, from the beginning, the gardens was open to the public for open ice skating and youth hockey leagues.

So many special moments took place in the building. In my opinion, the best moment was the 1999 Crosstown Shootout. The score was 66-64 Xavier, with 3.3 seconds left and Xavier’s Lloyd Prince was at the free throw line. He missed the first shot, then the second. He caught the rebound on the second shot to give Xavier the win against #1 ranked Cincinnati.

 

Even though this building has so much rich history, all good things eventually come to an end. It was announced on June 16, 2016, that the Cincinnati Port Authority had purchased the building and the property around it for $1.75 million dollars. The plan is to knock down the existing structure and create jobs by building some unnamed type of development. Demolition will cost around four million dollars and will occur at the end of this year.

The closing of the Gardens has had a huge effect on youth hockey in Cincinnati. In recent years, the sport has been enjoying a steady regional growth in the number of players and teams. Now it seems that growth has come to a complete halt with the Gardens’ shut down. When the arena closed, teams were forced to depend on Northland and Sports Plus arenas for ice time. Ice time prices increased and ice availability decreased. For example, one hour of ice time currently costs $210 dollars at Elder’s home rink, Northland. US Bank Arena is not even an option to rent because of its pricing. The Cincinnati Cyclones do not even practice downtown at their home ice because of the high cost.

Photo taken from victoryviews.com
 (left to right) Ron Larkin, Matt Fanning, and Matt Mahon celebrate a goal

All area high school hockey teams felt the pinch. Beginning last season, the ice time for the Elder Hockey team, of which I am a member, shrank. We now have one less practice a week and our practice times have been shortened. We also have to drive an extra 15 minutes to Evendale for practice. During my freshman and sophomore years, we conveniently practiced right after school, every practice. This year, we have to wait until 8:30 at night. Also, at the Gardens, we had our own private locker room where we could store and lock all of our equipment. Now, we no longer have that luxury. I think the hockey team has gone through the most upheaval of any sport at Elder.

Photo taken from ehsports.com
National anthem before a game at the Gardens vs. Sycamore during the 2014-2015 season.

 

During the summer of 2016, the hockey team was given one day to clean everything out of the Gardens that belonged to us. When we arrived, the Port Authority surprised us by requiring everyone to sign a waiver (for some unknown reason). Our job that day was to basically tear the locker room down and take everything out. Since I am both a history buff and a curious kind of guy, when we had a break I went around the building and took pictures. It was tough because the lights were out and it was dark. And, if you have ever been there, you know the inside is sort of creepy. Flashlight in one hand and camera in the other, I basically wandered everywhere; the private box, the Mighty Ducks locker room, visitors’ locker room, the equipment room, and the second floor concourse (which was always blocked off when it was open) were just a few of the places I went.

This building was once considered to be one of the best venues in America. Now it sits in ruins waiting for its demolition date.

When we were all finished with the clean-out, I knew it was the last time I would walk through the historic building.

I have played or watched hockey at the Gardens since I was small, so it felt sad walking out of the doors that last time. I thought about the countless times my teammates and I took the long path to the main rink from our locker room. Walking past everyone, going through the tunnel and jumping on the ice. There is no other ice rink like it.

 

This past week, I decided to venture back to the Gardens and see what the building looks like now. When I got there, I was really surprised. The property is completely unkept. The parking lot across the street is blown up, everything is over grown. Signs have been busted in half, and homeless people are present. Every memorial plaque or dedication was gone. One strange thing I noticed was a cop car sitting on the sidewalk, with no one in it. The weather was appropriate for my mood – cold and cloudy.

In conclusion, there is no question that I miss everything about the arena. It was truly a special place to watch or play a game. The Gardens was Elder’s home ice since the program started in 2002. It was appropriate that Elder’s last game at the Gardens was the program’s first league championship game. In that game, I was honored to score the last Elder goal in that building (one of the easiest open net goals ever) and leave with a bang.

Photo taken by Emily Bredestege
The team poses for a picture as they win the SWOHSHL Championship over Alter. The last game played at the Cincinnati Gardens.

The Gardens has done good for me. The Gardens has done good for Elder. Still, it is disappointing to see the Port Authority tear down a building to which so many people feel a personal connection.

 

 

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1 Comment

One Response to “Remembering the Cincinnati Gardens”

  1. Quill Critic on November 9th, 2017 2:06 pm

    What a great article! Great videos, pictures and information!

    [Reply]

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




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Remembering the Cincinnati Gardens