1 Year Later: Empty Cincinnati Gardens Near Demolition

Jul 21, 2017

The seats are gone -- removed and sold. The large porcelain CINCINNATI GARDENS letters erected for the 1949 opening have been promised to the American Sign Museum in Camp Washington.

And sometime in the not too distant future the Cincinnati Gardens arena – home of Oscar Robertson's NBA Cincinnati Royals, and the minor league Swords, Cyclones, Mohawks and Mighty Ducks – will be a pile of rubble.

A year ago today,  the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority took possession of the Cincinnati Gardens, built at 2250 Seymour Avenue shortly after World War II, and 19 acres of property for $1.75 million.

Rock 'n' roll concert poster displayed in the Gardens in 2016.
Credit John Kiesewetter

When I realized it had been a year since I posted my "Photo Essay: The Cincinnati Gardens - 67 Years, 67 Memories,"  from touring the building shortly before the sale, I requested an update.

The Gardens had hosted presidents and pop stars (Richard Nixon, George Bush, the Beatles, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Madonna), rockers and wrestlers (Guns & Roses, Rolling Stones, Bon Jovi, Pearl Jam, Gorgeous George, Ric Flair), but in recent decades the venue was bypassed for more modern facilities due to the Gardens' lack of air conditioning and handicap accessibility.  

Here's what I learned about the Port Authority's redevelopment plans for the site:

DEMOLITION: Bid specifications needed to hire a demolition contractor "are expected to be complete in August," says Gail Paul, Port Authority vice president for communication strategy.

"Project plans and specifications are complete. Activities will include abatement, remediation, demolition and earthwork. The project schedule remains under review," Paul says.

Cincinnati Gardens relief designed by Henry Mott.
Credit John Kiesewetter

SPORTS RELIEFS: The fate is uncertain for the six huge sports reliefs of a boxer, basketball player and hockey player on either side of the front entrance. They were designed by Henry Mott, who won a 1948 Art Academy of Cincinnati competition.

"There is an approach to save the sports reliefs, and whether it ultimately succeeds depends on a number of factors, including the condition of the reliefs, which we will assess prior to extracting them before demolition – and the availability of resources to relocate them.  The family of the artist is planning to raise funds for their relocation, we are told," Paul says.