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Commentary: St. John Arena ‘not just another building’

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St. John Arena isn’t just another campus building. It’s a cornerstone of the greatness that is Ohio State athletics. It housed our men’s basketball program’s lone national championship team. It carries so much more significance than the name “Building 076,” its identification number marked on campus maps, could ever give it.

I, along with thousands of other students before and after me, spent one of my first days on campus inside its hallowed walls at convocation freshman year. I watched my brother receive his OSU diploma there when I was younger. I took my dad there for last year’s Skull Session prior to the football game versus Purdue. It has long provided the backdrop when ESPN’s College GameDay comes to town.

Without a doubt, I am one of many who share cherished memories of the 57-year-old building; which is exactly why the news of its demolition is so hard to digest.

Last November, the university announced that a $10 million gift from businessman Sam Covelli would pave the way for a new 4,000-seat facility, named Covelli Arena, to replace St. John Arena. Covelli, the CEO of Covelli Enterprises in Warren, Ohio, is the largest franchisee of Panera Bread in the United States.

According to a release from OSU, the arena will be a meeting place for roughly 13,000 participants in Department of Athletics’ camps each year. It will also house seven varsity sports including volleyball, gymnastics, fencing and wrestling. Despite all these new additions, I will still miss the old building.

If they choose to, I am willing to put money on the thought that the athletic department could auction off every last wooden seat in the place prior to demolition.

This news of the impending destruction comes as no surprise, because nothing does anymore when it comes to our athletic department’s greed for money (see: Gator Bowl, 2012).

I understand that new facilities with vamped up amenities attract the nation’s best athletes. I’m totally fine with moving those sports that will call Covelli Arena home. But what I don’t understand is why St. John has to come to the ground.

The university could still use it for any number of pursuits, including a physical hall of fame, office space or rec sports. My guess is E. Gordon Gee, who was president at the time when the announcement was made and frequently pushed to make students live on campus for two years, saw no way to convert it into student housing and decided to tear it down.

It’ll be a sad day for this campus when the button is pushed to demolish St. John Arena in late 2014 or early 2015. I’m still recovering from watching Riverfront Stadium, home of my childhood Cincinnati Reds, implode one cold Sunday morning in December of 2002.

So make sure you take a step inside St. John Arena this year. Take pictures, watch a volleyball match, breathe in its historic building mustiness and above all, remember its importance to this great university.

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