$10M Gift Buys St. John Arena Date With Wrecking Ball


UPDATED: Wednesday November 21, 2012 6:32 PM

It has been a fixture on the Ohio State University campus for more than half a century, but soon its days will come to an end.

St. John Arena's date with the wrecking ball hasn't been set, but university leaders say that it's too expensive to maintain. The arena opened in the 1950s and needs $30 million to $40 million in repairs.

It is all part of a master plan to create what the university calls an “athletics district” funded partially by a $10 million gift from Sam Covelli, the country's largest owner of Panera restaurants.

The iconic St. John Arena will be replaced by The Covelli Center, which will house all sports currently played at St. John Arena.

Larry Romanoff remembers walking into St. John Arena for the first time when he was in high school. That day would lead to a career inside the arena.

“My office was in there for 30 years,” Romanoff said.

When the arena was built in 1956, nearly everything was unique from its size, it close up views even the ventilation system was state of the art.

“It's going to be a sad day when the building goes down,” Romanoff said.

The proposed site for the new 4,000-seat arena is off Ackerman Road and Fred Taylor Drive, just east of 315. Ohio State University officials hope to break ground in late 2014 or early 2015.

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