Quicken Loans Arena History
History and Fun Facts About The Q
- Meet Me At The Market
- A Unique Partnership
- Memories of the Great Indoors
- Uniquely Cleveland
- In the Art of the City
- Historic Gateway Neighborhood
- New Ownership and New Era
In the late 1800s, Cleveland’s Central Market area — where Quicken Loans Arena stands today — was the center of the city, a residential neighborhood and busy bazaar just a few blocks from the growing commercial district of Public Square. A gathering spot rich with history, it was a place your great-great grandparents might have gone to roam the market and talk about the day’s events. Sadly, the life of the Central Market was cut short in the 1940s when it was destroyed by fire. Little was done to renovate the area in the years that followed. By 1990, all that remained in what was once a hub of activity was a long line of primarily empty commercial buildings and mostly underutilized surface parking lots. It seemed as if the excitement of the Central Market area could never be restored.
For more than a decade there had been talk of a downtown stadium project. In 1984, for example, there was even a county ballot issue campaign to construct a 72,000-seat retractable domed stadium for baseball and football. Voters weren’t ready, and they turned it down. That could have been the end of it forever. Many believed that would be the case.
To others, however, a lost ballot issue was not a lost cause. They believed in the Gateway concept long before the name Gateway ever surfaced. Principal among these people of civic vision in the late 1980s were former Ohio Governor Richard Celeste, then Mayor and now Senator George Voinovich, former Cleveland City Council President George Forbes and Cuyahoga County Commissioner Tim Hagan. They kept the dream alive. They knew Gateway would be an essential building block for the economy of all of Northeast Ohio.
Today, at the corner of Huron and Ontario roads, in the heart of downtown Cleveland, is “Gateway,” a 28-acre sports and entertainment complex made up of Quicken Loans Arena, its next-door neighbor Progressive Field (formerly Jacobs Field), home of the Cleveland Indians, and Gateway Plaza.
Ground breaking for Gund Arena – April 27, 1992
Thanks to the people of Northeast Ohio and local civic and business leaders, the Central Market area is alive once again! In the early 1990s, the plan to build a new stadium resurfaced, bringing with it new life and a new name — “Gateway.”
Picking up where their predecessors left off, Cleveland Mayor Michael White, City Council President Jay Westbrook and many members of the Cleveland City Council campaigned vigorously for the Gateway project. They worked over several years with Cuyahoga County Commissioners Tim Hagan, Virgil Brown, Mary Boyle and James Petro to persuade the people of Northeast Ohio to support this important regional economic development project.
Business leaders pitched in with their support. Cleveland Tomorrow, an organization of chief executive officers from the largest Cleveland-area companies, created a very important development fund to help launch Gateway. Ultimately, these joint efforts turned into a unique public/private partnership between the State of Ohio, Cuyahoga County, the City of Cleveland and the corporate community of Northeast Ohio – working together to build America’s only side-by-side arena and ballpark project.
Gordon Gund, minority owner of the Cavaliers and the Coliseum, John Graham, Vice Chairman of Cavaliers/Gund Arena Company Business Division, and Richard Watson, Co-Managing Director of Spieth, Bell, McCurdy & Newell Co., L.P.A. and Cavaliers legal counsel, worked closely with these public officials and business leaders for several years to help make Quicken Loans Arena possible.
Gund Arena under construction
To oversee the project, Mayor White and County Commissioner Tim Hagan created the Gateway Economic Development Corporation, a non-profit organization spearheaded by its Board, its first chairman Patrick Parker, who was followed by chairman James Biggar and its executive director Tom Chema. The group educated the people of Cuyahoga County about the advantages of building the complex and convinced the corporate community to invest in the project. The ballot issue passed in 1990.
Today, Gateway brings new life to the Central Market area and again makes it a focal point of the city and the region. The new Central Market area — Gateway — is a place where people from all over the country enter the city of Cleveland.
Arena entertainment began in Cleveland at the 2,000-seat Elysium, located at Euclid Avenue and East 107th Street. The facility was built in 1907 by local sports promoter Al Sutphin. It became home for the International Hockey League’s Cleveland Falcons (later renamed the Cleveland Barons). Yet, hockey was a fast-growing passion in Cleveland and by the mid-1930s, the Elysium was too small to accommodate the increasing number of fans. So, in 1938, Cleveland hockey moved to the Cleveland Arena, a 10,000-seat “All-Sport Palace” built to accommodate growing numbers of hockey fans …. and more! During its lifetime, the Cleveland Arena was home to a variety of sports teams, including the Crusaders of the World Hockey Association, the Rebels of the Basketball Association of America, the Pipers of the American Basketball League and, finally, the Cleveland Cavaliers of the National Basketball Association.
Just like its future relative, Quicken Loans Arena, the Cleveland Arena hosted a variety of other events. The Ice Follies, rock-n-roll concerts, rodeos, professional wrestling, bicycle races, high school and college basketball tournaments and every other indoor event you can imagine.
But, much like its predecessor the Elysium, the Arena became somewhat outdated with time. Plus, more and more people were beginning to attend events, and there was a need for a larger facility. In 1974, indoor events moved from downtown Cleveland to the new 20,000-seat Coliseum 25 miles south of Cleveland in Richfield, Ohio. The Coliseum was purchased by George and Gordon Gund in 1981, who operated it for 13 years prior to moving back downtown to Quicken Loans Arena in 1994.
Today, new memories are being made at Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland’s center for world-class sports and entertainment in Northeast Ohio.
Quicken Loans Arena is in the forefront of sports and entertainment facilities in America. Its contemporary design, state-of-the-art features, awesome fan amenities and spectacular events are a source of pride and fun for everyone who visits.
Designers at Ellerbe Becket, a Kansas City architectural firm specializing in sports and entertainment facilities, and Robert P. Madison International Inc., a local architectural firm, set out to produce an entertainment facility like no other in the country. They wanted to avoid a cookie-cutter approach to arena design and gave Quicken Loans Arena a style that is uniquely Cleveland.
The Arena’s enormous 108′ x 48′ bay window is a billboard for activity. It allows passers-by to see the action going on inside the building, while providing insiders with a spectacular view of Cleveland’s Industrial Flats.
The sweeping roof line creates a sense of movement in the facility’s design. The shape of the roof itself is the shape of the site rotated 90 degrees, and is a signature of the building’s design.
Market Place / Meeting Place Photo: Don Snyder
The Gateway complex boasts one of the most exciting collections of public art in the country — a real first for sports and entertainment facilities. Cavaliers principal owner Gordon Gund, along with his wife Lulie Gund, brother George Gund and business associates John Graham and Richard Watson, made the first contribution to public art at Gateway. It was used to fund two of Gateway’s major public pieces.
“Meet Me Here,” by Nancy Dwyer, a conceptual artist from New York City, is a seating element located near the ceremonial front entrance of the Arena. Dwyer also designed “Who’s On First?”, which is situated near Progressive Field.
Angelica Pozo and Penny Rakoff, two local artists, worked together to make the history of the Gateway site visual in ceramic tile, using historical photos and other archival material. The tiles were incorporated into a bench that defines an area next to Quicken Loans Arena where trees are planted.
The Historic Gateway Neighborhood (HGN) is a non-profit local development corporation in downtown Cleveland. It was established in 1992 when two pre-existing development groups recognized the potential of the neighborhood surrounding the Gateway complex, future home to Quicken Loans Arena and Progressive Field. The two groups merged to form the Historic Gateway Neighborhood.
Since 1988, the neighborhood has been a leader of downtown Cleveland’s renewal and emergence as a place to live, visit, and enjoy entertainment. Known as the Gateway District, the area has become downtown Cleveland’s most visited year-round entertainment destination. The Cavaliers, Monsters, Gladiators and Indians have made it a mecca for sports fun.
To learn more about the Gateway District and all that it has to offer visit www.clevelandgatewaydistrict.com.
Dan Gilbert shakes hands with Gordon Gund
On March 1, 2005, the National Basketball Association (NBA) approved the purchase of the Cleveland Cavaliers by an investor group led by Dan Gilbert, the chairman and founder of Quicken Loans, Inc. Gilbert and his partnership group purchased the franchise from brothers Gordon and George Gund, who owned the Cavaliers since 1981. Gilbert is the fourth owner in the 35-year history of the Cavaliers franchise.
With the new ownership transition, comes a new era to the Cavaliers / Quicken Loans Arena organization. Upon purchase of the team, the name Cavaliers/Gund Arena Company changed to Cavaliers Operating Company, LLC. In addition to Gilbert, new leadership joined the organization with minority owners David Katzman, who is Vice Chairman of Quicken Loans, Grammy Award winning artist Usher Raymond IV, and Gary Gilbert, a movie producer and Dan’s brother.
“We will focus on excellence at all levels of the organization and do all we can to bring an NBA championship home to Cleveland,” said Gilbert. “Ownership of the Cleveland Cavaliers is an honor and a privilege. It also entails a responsibility to the fans and the community. We intend to have a positive impact on as many people as we can throughout northeast Ohio.”
New ownership plans include enhancing the 10-year-old venue to provide a better fan experience that is comfortable and fun for the variety of events hosted at Quicken Loans Arena including the Cavaliers games. “We look for fun and exciting ways to deliver the best fan experience in the NBA and to enhance the arena as one of the area’s premier entertainment facilities. Usher is the ‘ultimate entertainer’ and will be assisting us in this area,” said Katzman.
Looking towards the future, Gilbert explains, “We expect to build a world-class organization here. Not just on the court, but everywhere. We’re going to enhance or come up with ideas or innovations in every aspect. We put everything into what we do,” he said, “We’re passionate and committed. There are two things we look at when we do a new deal – have fun and be successful. This is the ultimate deal.”