Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Cincinnati Gardens.




Opening in 1949, the arena which seated 11,000 patrons, became Cincinnati's premiere indoor venue. Modeled after Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, this area would go through history playing host to professional basketball, indoor soccer, concerts, Richard Nixon, Elvis, boxing, roller derby, monster trucks, and so much more. Perhaps though, the Gardens most interesting event history is rooted in Ice Hockey.



Originally the Gardens played host to the Cincinnati Mohawks minor league hockey team who are remembered as one of the most winningest teams in IHL history. Over the years it would also play host to the Cincinnati Wings, Cincinnati Swords, Cincinnati Cyclones (who now play at U.S. Bank Arena), and maybe most notably; the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks.




The Cincinnati Mighty Ducks played at the Gardens from 1997 - 2005. Down the road in downtown Cincinnati, the Cincinnati Cyclones played in a rival hockey league. For many years Cincinnati was host to two minor league hockey teams. The Ducks were well known for the high level of talent the team had and the tradition of hockey in the Gardens. Games constantly filled up with spectators as the Gardens offered free parking and group ticket discounts while the rival Cyclones downtown suffered from low attendance and eventually folded.



- The Gardens concessions stands sit empty on a typical Saturday night of Junior and youth hockey.
The Ducks had become the only pro hockey game in town and repeatedly went to the AHL Calder Cup playoffs. Unfortunately after losing their affiliation with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks and Detroit Red Wings, the Cincinnati Might Ducks folded leaving the Gardens without a main hockey tenant.



- The scoreboard at the Gardens still features a Cincinnati Mighty Ducks logo featuring the mascot "Buster." 1360 HOMER is now known as 1530 HOMER.
With the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks out of the picture, the Cyclones returned to the U.S. Bank Arena in 2006 and started up in the ECHL. Currently they are in first place after breaking the ECHL win streak record and are the only pro hockey team currently playing in Cincinnati. The Gardens attempted a new AHL franchise to replace the Ducks. The Cincinnati Railraiders were announced, merchandise was being sold, and plans were made. However, after the team failed to meet the AHL's requirement for initial season ticket sales, the franchise never got off the ground. Currently the Gardens plays host to various events such as the Shrine Circus and junior/youth hockey while rumors of a new minor league franchise hockey still abound. Someday maybe this historical arena will return to its place in modern hockey history.

Update: Sept. 21, 2017 | In the years that followed since this article was published, minor league hockey never did return to the Gardens. I did get to photograph a circus and some monster trucks though. Unfortunately, the building was set for demolition as of this update. It's currently shuttered and awaiting the wrecking ball. To check out all the Gardens stories from over the years (including the time I got to go into the roof looking for an abandoned press box and how I got some seats) visit here.

3 comments:

  1. This is a great report of the Gardens Gorden, I have played at the gardens multiple times while playing for the Dayton Blue Hawks Travel aa and aaa hockey team while I was in high school. My senior year we went on to win state, many memories from the gardens. I have not been back sense I need to make my way out there sometime.

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  2. Nice post! I have played (and still do) hockey at the Gardens many, many times as a member of a local amateur hockey league...and I'm always pumped up to be playing the sport I live in that building!

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  3. The Cicinnati Gardens is now home of the new minor league hockey team called the Cincinnati Thunder.

    See: cincythunderhockey.com/view/cincythunderhockey

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