With the echoes of almost 20 years of concerts, sporting events and other types of entertainment still ringing in some people's ears, Richfield Coliseum will soon be nothing more than a fading memory after a wrecking ball swings against its stone walls for the last time.
The Coliseum and the 327 acres of land on which it sits on was purchased in January by The Trust for Public Land and then sold to the National Park Service to become part of the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area. What was once a meadow on the edge of the park, will become a meadow again when the demolition is complete and nature reclaims the land.
The Trust for Public Land will supervise the demolition, which officially began with the first ceremonial swing of the wrecking ball Tuesday and is expected to continue until sometime this Fall. The Trust held a wrecking ball party Tuesday at the Coliseum that included comments from Trust members, U.S. Rep. Tom Sawyer of Akron and U.S. Rep. Ralph Regula of Canton, and former Congressman John Sieberling.
Sieberling, who Trust president Will Rogers called "The father of the park," talked about how Native Americans made the Cuyahoga Valley a sacred ground because it was used as a traveling route.
"Its an anchor protecting the whole region," he said.
Regula, who has historically been instrumental in the history of the park through his position on the U.S. Congress' Appropriations Committee, said that although there were many victories inside the Coliseum, the greatest victory for the people was restoring the land.
"Maybe the crowds aren't cheering, but future generations will," he said.
Sawyer added a bit of humor to the ceremony by burning a replica Michael Jordan jersey, as a way to exorcise "The Shot," the famous play Jordan made in the Coliseum in 1989 to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the playoffs. He commented on the Coliseum demolition and land reclamation by saying, "It's a sad moment for a great building, and a great moment for the partnership that made it possible to reclaim the land."
Remembered by some as "the house that Nick built," the Coliseum's huge stone facade juts out of the rural surroundings like a giant beacon in a sea of green. With a capacity of more than 20,000, the building cost the successful local businessman Nick Mileti $35 million, a pittance compared to the prize of even smaller structures these days, and completed without the assistance of state or federal subsidies or Permanent Seat Licenses.
Mileti had a dream to build a structure that would last forever, and attract fans from both Cleveland and Akron. Mileti was a graduate of Cleveland's John Adams High School, and at one time owned the Cavaliers, Indians and two hockey teams. He's retired now and living in Florida
The building's storied history began with a concert by the late Frank Sinatra in 1974, and continued with all types of entertainers including Elvis, Wayne Newton, Ozzy Osbourne, The Artist formerly known as Prince, Neil Diamond, Led Zeppelin, Michael Jackson and Bruce Springsteen.
Some of the most memorable times came from sporting events there, like the Cleveland Cavaliers' "The Miracle of Richfield" season when the Cavs beat Washington in the playoffs or when Michael Jordan stole the playoffs from the Cavs with a jump shot over Craig Ehlo in the final moments of the game. Other teams that stuck memories in the building included the Force indoor soccer team and various hockey teams like the Crusaders and Lumberjacks.
Other events there included ice shows, rodeos, circuses and tractor pulls. The Coliseum lost its luster and its tenants after Gund Arena opened in downtown Cleveland, and the last curtain closed at Richfield Coliseum on the Roger Daltrey concert in 1994.