Port Authority may sell Cincinnati Gardens seats this holiday season

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati Gardens seats may be found next to Christmas trees in area homes this December.

The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority is considering a plan to host a holiday sale for the 10,000 seats inside the Cincinnati Gardens, WCPO.com has learned.

However, there is confirmed lead paint on some of the seats so the Port has to appropriately determine the risk before moving forward. No other details of the plan are known at this time.

The Port Authority discussed the Cincinnati Gardens property Wednesday morning at a board meeting. The Port closed on the purchase of the 67-year-old arena located at 2250 Seymour Ave. in the Bond Hill neighborhood July 20.

The Gardens staff turned off the lights for the final time Aug. 17 to officially close the building.

A preliminary demolition date is still targeted for the first quarter of 2017. The plan is for the 19-acre site to be re-purposed for light manufacturing.

The Port is also working with the family of Henry Mott regarding the relocation of the six unique bas-relief sporting figures on the outside of the Gardens building. There are two figures each of a boxer, basketball and hockey player cut in a three-dimensional pattern, each standing about 10 feet high flanking the entrance.

The Mott family is planning for the relocation of the sculptures at a site to be determined.

The sculptures were the result of a design competition held in 1948 by the Art Academy of Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Gardens’ architect/engineering firm A.M. Kinney of Cincinnati, according to Gardens historian John Perin.

The Gardens was built in 1949 and was the seventh largest arena in the country at the time. The Gardens cost $3 million to build in 1949 -- the equivalent of more than $29 million today.

The Montreal Canadiens played an exhibition game Feb. 22, 1949 in front of 11,500 to open the Gardens. 

The arena hosted countless sporting events and concerts along with comedians, symphony orchestras, Broadway-style musicals, political rallies, roller derby, circuses, dog shows, dirt track auto racing and faith events.

The Beatles, Jackson Five, Jimi Hendrix and Elvis Presley performed there. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rev. Billy Graham spoke there.

The largest recorded crowd in Gardens history occurred Oct. 25, 1960 as 19,000 attended a Richard Nixon and Henry Cabot Lodge campaign rally

The NBA’s Cincinnati Royals played there from 1957 to 1972. The franchise moved after the '71-72 season and became the Kansas City-Omaha Kings in 1972-73. The team was known as the Kansas City Kings from 1975-85 and later became the current Sacramento Kings.

The Gardens hosted the 1966 NBA All-Star Game, which included Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Jerry West, Oscar Robertson and Jerry Lucas, among others. Legendary coach Red Auerbach coached the East squad.

The Gardens also hosted UC basketball games featuring the Big O prior to his arrival with the Royals, and Middletown High School basketball games featuring Lucas prior to his arrival with Cincinnati's NBA team. The Ohio high school state basketball finals were played there in 1953 and '55.

Xavier University used the Gardens as its home court starting with the 1983-84 season. The final Xavier game at the Gardens was an NIT first round game against Marquette on March 15, 2000.

The facility most recently served as home to Cincinnati Rollergirls, the city's first amateur, all-female, flat track roller derby team. The Rollergirls had the final event in the history of the arena June 11, 2016.

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