Artifacts from New Haven Arena coming back...
(7/12/2010) (from New Haven Register)
Stored away for decades, artifacts from New Haven Arena coming back
NEW HAVEN — Paul Sandella remembers the yellow-brick-lined interior, the smoke filled stands, the fights and just the sheer excitement of the place.
Paul, his brother, Rick, and his dad were among the loyal fans of the New Haven Blades hockey team that played at the New Haven Arena in the early 1970s, with the family heading in from Wallingford for those twice-weekly home games.
After it closed in 1972 and hockey fans had to go to the New Haven Coliseum to get their fix, “the quality of the games went up, but the passion from the crowd diminished. A lot of energy was lost,” Sandella said.
In a fitting historical twist, Sandella will now be able to look out from his office window at Fire Headquarters on Grand Avenue, where he is the acting deputy chief, and gaze upon a big chunk of Arena memorabilia.
For almost half a century, three concrete cast panels depicting “Lady Victory” and sports figures looked down on Grove Street as thousands of music fans and skating and hockey fanatics passed by below on their way into the New Haven Arena.
Crated and stored away for another three decades, Febo Ferrari’s artwork will soon be on display within the sightline of the original Arena at Grove, State and Orange streets, now the headquarters of the FBI.
Demolished in 1975, the Arena was the largest space of its kind in Connecticut for entertainment and sporting events for some 45 years, a three-story brick building built and operated by the Podoloffs, a prominent Greater New Haven family.
The city’s newest public space at Grand Avenue and Artisan Street “begs for something to be there,” said Cultural Affairs Director Barbara Lamb.
Not only can you see the original Arena site from the space, but its location next to the main firehouse means it won’t be in an isolated area.
“They can keep an eye on it,” she said of the round-the-clock firefighter shifts. Wiring to illuminate the monument has already been installed at the site, a detail that was taken care of during construction of the new bridge at Grand Avenue and State Street.
The three 800-pound vertical panels outlasted the Arena and the New Haven Coliseum, where they were stored for the life of that facility, until it was imploded in January 2007. The original plan to place them in the lobby of the Coliseum never materialized.
For a few more years they were kept safe “in a wooden doghouse,” in Sandella’s words, under the helix at Temple Plaza. They are now at a warehouse owned by Proiron, in West Haven, a sister company to Promoco, a metal/iron fabrication shop.
Sandella kept track of them over the years, and stayed in touch with city officials as they looked for a proper home for the panels. He wasn’t convinced they were always treated with the respect they deserve, but he’s glad they are still around.
Dave Hainsworth, the popular goalie for the Blades from 1968-72, remembers the Arena as a “cozy place to play.”
“It was a place where fans hung out after the game,” he said. “It kind of became one big family.”
Hainsworth said the place was always in use. If it wasn’t hockey or ice skating, there were basketball tournaments and organized boxing.
“I remember we came back from being on the road once and the circus was here. The elephants were in the garage. A reminder of them hung in the air for a week and half after they were gone,” Hainsworth said.
Margaret Bodell, in her capacity as public arts coordinator for the city, has been working on the history of Ferrari’s artwork, as well as the Arena.
“They are really majestic icons,” Bodell said, referring to the reliefs.
From left to right, standing guard over the entrance of the Arena from 1927 until 1975, the three figures depicted were:
- A male figure wearing knickers, a jersey and skates, with a hockey stick and puck, but no protective gear.
- A classically dressed female holding an urn and wearing a laurel wreath to symbolize victory, with the word “Sport” inscribed at the bottom.
- A male boxer, to symbolize a pasttime that was wildly popular at the turn of the 20th century, when immigrants and others would enter the ring to earn some money and local fame.
All three are now resting at Proiron until the three-sided frame where they will be installed is finished.
The craftsmen at Proiron and Promoco are very familiar with New Haven having done much of the ornamental ironwork in the city’s schools, including the metal spiral staircase at Metropolitan High School.
They also cast the arch by sculptor Gar Waterman that straddles Wooster Street, the seagrass fence behind the Shubert Theatre in Temple Plaza, the iron railing around the fountain on the city Green and the owl that sits on top of Engleman Hall at Southern Connecticut State University.
James Carbonneau, manager at Proiron, said it will probably take three workers to construct the monument, which will feature brushed stainless steel frames around each of the panels. Explanatory plaques will provide details about the Arena and Ferrari.
“It will also contain a tribute plaque for folks who are going to contribute to the maintenance of it,” Bodell said.
Carbonneau expects it will be installed in September. Assistant Economic Development Director Tony Bialecki said the ironwork is covered by a $10,000 grant connected to saving artifacts from the Coliseum, but the city plans to look for donated labor when it comes to the actual installation.
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