2923 Streetsboro Road
Richfield, OH 44286
Capacity (basketball): 20,273
Capacity (hockey): 19,756
Cleveland Cavaliers (NBA): 1974-1994
Cleveland Crusaders (WHA): 1974-1976
Cleveland Barons (NHL): 1976-1978
Cleveland Force (MISL): 1978-1992
Cleveland Lumberjacks (IHL): 1992-1994
Cleveland Crunch (MSL): 1992-1994
Cleveland Thunderbolts (AFL): 1992-1993
Built in 1973 at a cost of $36 million, the palatial Coliseum in Richfield, OH stood in the center of Northeastern Ohio’s population. Over 6,000,000 people live less than an hour’s drive from the site. The building was situated on a parcel of land which exceeded 100 acres in size. The structure itself required 8 acres of land, while the remaining land was used for landscaping and parking lots.
The Coliseum opened to a Frank Sinatra concert on October 26, 1974, and throughout it’s existence was a highly regarded concert venue and a sought-after stop for major concert tours ranging from the Led Zeppelin to Whitney Houston.
In addition to concerts, of course, the Richfield Coliseum hosted many of Cleveland’s professional sports teams during its 25-year life. The National Basketball Association’s Cleveland Cavaliers and the World Hockey Association’s Cleveland Crusaders both moved from the downtown Cleveland Arena to the Coliseum, beginning with the 1974-75 season.
The Cavaliers prospered from their new home, while the Crusaders did not.
1976, often called the Miracle of Richfield season by Cavalier fans, saw a surprising Cleveland squad make the NBA playoffs for the first time, move to the second round, and sell out all seven home games in the process. It was about at this point that the Cavs firmly established themselves as the Coliseum’s #1 drawing card.
Dwindling attendance at the Coliseum and the arrival of the National Hockey League in 1976 forced the Crusaders to relocate to the Twin Cities, where they folded during the 1976-77 season.
Cleveland’s second attempt at major league hockey came when the NHL’s California Golden Seals were moved to the Coliseum for the 1976-77 season. They were renamed the Cleveland Barons in an effort to rekindle memories of a successful minor league team that operated under the same name from 1937-1972. However the financial problems that bit the Crusaders towards the end of their run also did in the Barons. After only two seasons, the Barons merged with the Minnesota North Stars. This merger left the Coliseum without a major league hockey team for the next fourteen years.
The NBA was the Coliseum’s only major draw throughout the 80’s, although concerts, the circus, and a successful indoor soccer team called the Cleveland Force also brought revenue to the building. Brothers George and Gordon Gund purchased controlling interest in the Coliseum in 1981; they would purchase the Cavaliers two years later.
Throughout the early 90’s, the Richfield Coliseum was a hotbed of activity. The Cavaliers continued to play there through the 1993-94 season before moving to the new Gund Arena in downtown Cleveland. Professional hockey finally returned to the Coliseum when the International Hockey League’s Lumberjacks moved from Muskegon for the 1992-93 season. They would play two seasons in Richfield before moving to Gund Arena. The Force folded in 1992, only to be replaced by the Cleveland Crunch who also played two seasons in the Coliseum before moving downtown to the Cleveland State University Convocation Center. The Coliseum also saw the brief existence of the Cleveland Thunderbolts, an Arena Football league team.
After former Who frontman Roger Daltrey held a concert in the Coliseum on September 1, 1994, the Richfield Coliseum closed its doors for good.
Over the next five years, the Coliseum laid dormant in it’s location just off of I-271. During most of this time, its fate was uncertain. Popular rumors included conversion of the building into a prison or possibly a shopping mall.
Finally, on January 6, 1999, a sales agreement was reached between the Gunds, the National Park Service, and the Trust for Public Land. The Gunds sold the Coliseum and it’s surrounding facilities for $10 million, and agreed to pay for the demolition of the once-majestic Richfield Coliseum. The land, once the building is razed, was slated to become a part of the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area, which had previously been adjacent with the Coliseum property.