(from Wikipedia) Rhode Island Auditorium was an indoor arena in Providence, at 1111 North Main Street. It hosted the NBA’s Providence Steamrollers basketball team from 1946 until 1949, and the Providence Reds ice hockey team until the Providence Civic Center (now the Dunkin’ Donuts Center) was opened in 1972. The arena held 5,300 people and opened in 1926. It was torn down after the opening of the Civic Center and parking now occupies the old site.
(from www.onfrozenpond.com) Rhode Island Auditorium was built in 1925 by a group of investors headed by Rhode Island native Hubert Milot. It opened at 1111 North Main Street in Providence on February 18, 1926. At that time there were only two other organized professional hockey teams in the United States, the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers.
Surprisingly, when the Auditorium made its debut, it was not for a hockey game. Instead, an overflow crowd of 6,000 spectators jammed the new building to enjoy an ice skating show.
The next fall, the Providence Reds joined the Canadian-American Hockey League composed of the Philadelphia Arrows, Quebec Beavers, New Haven Eagles and Boston Bruin Cubs. Judge James E. Dooley, a leading sports figure at the famed Narragansett Racetrack on the Pawtucket-East Providence line, was founder of the first Reds team.
Louis A. R. Pieri, a Brown University graduate, basketball and football player, became manager of the Auditorium in 1929. Then in 1938, he and his wife Mildred, daughter Lucille and son Louis took ownership of both the building and the Reds hockey team. Pieri later became one of the most important sports figures in the United States.
For years, while the big building stood on North Main Street, it was called both Rhode Island Auditorium and The Arena. Photos of the edifice show the name Rhode Island Auditorium, back-lit by neon lights on the marquee over the main entrance. Yet high above, at the very top of the building’s facade itself, was the word ARENA, painted in big, white capital letters.
The thousands of fans who flocked there for hockey, basketball, boxing and shows of every description, called it either Rhode Island Auditorium or The Arena. However, dating back to its very earliest years in the 1930s, the front page of every game program called it Rhode Island Auditorium.
Adam Ant, Aerosmith, Alex Hors Rock Time Band (1969), Jean Autrey, Beach Boys (1966), Bee Gees (1968), Blood Sweat And Tears (1968), Johnny Cash, Chicago Transit Authority, Cream, The Doors, Bob Dylan and the Hawks, Aretha Franklin, Grand Funk Railroad (1970), Bill Halley and The Comets, the Jimi Hendrix Experience (1968), Iggy Pop, Rickie Lee Jones, The Mothers of Invention (1968), Buddy Myles, the Plasmatics, The Ramones, Buffalo Springfield, Steppenwolf, Sly and the Family Stone, George Thorogood & the Destroyers, U2, Vanilla Fudge (1968), The Who (1968), and the Young Rascals (1969).
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Providence Journal | firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s just a parking lot now, another parking lot on North Main Street full of ghosts and old memories, a faint reminder of a lost world.
Once upon a time it was the home of the Rhode Island Auditorium, where the Reds, a minor-league hockey team, played.
It’s also where the Celtics used to play some regular-season games.
Would you believe that every once in a while back in the 1950s there would be an NBA doubleheader in the R.I. Auditorium, which meant that in a league that had only eight teams, half of the NBA was on North Main Street?
Would you believe that back there in the mid-’50s the Celtics one afternoon played on a court that was so slippery that the players were constantly falling down?
Would you believe that the Celtics played some games there from 1950 through the mid-1960s?
It’s all true.
It seems like it happened in some alternate universe. Back then the Celtics players were just given the address of the Auditorium and had to get there by themselves. Bill Russell, who lived in a suburb north of Boston, had to find North Main Street in Providence before there was any Route 95.
And then some.
So why were the Celtics here back then?
The owner of the Celtics was Walter Brown, who also owned the Boston Bruins and the Boston Garden. By 1950 his Celtics were all but bleeding money, and he needed financial help. He turned to his friend Lou Pieri, a portly man with slicked-back hair and dark suits who owned the R.I. Auditorium. Pieri kicked in some cash and became a minority partner of the Celtics. Part of the deal was that the Celtics would play a few games a year in Providence.
Pieri also had one more demand, one that would change the fate of the team.
He told Brown that the Celtics had to hire a young coach named Red Auerbach, who recently had been fired by some team called Tri-Cities. It seems that Pieri, whose Providence Steamrollers had played in the early years of the NBA and had been awful at the gate as well as on the court, had asked Auerbach for an evaluation of his team. Auerbach essentially told him that he had no players, a lousy arena, and probably needed another half-million dollars just to be competitive.
Pieri closed down the Steamrollers.
But he was so impressed with Auerbach that he told Brown that if he wanted his money, he had to hire Auerbach.
So it began.
The NBA had all the glamour of roller derby back in those early years, and the Celtics used to get outdrawn in the Boston Garden by the Globetrotters. There were a lot of years when the Celtics were always trying to make payroll, never mind win games. And a few times a year they came down to Providence to play in the Rhode Island Auditorium.
I sometimes think of those days when I’m in the TD Garden in Boston, with the light shows and the cheerleaders and the flashing message boards and all the other accoutrements of the contemporary NBA. How different the NBA of my childhood was!
I was in high school in the early 1960s, and invariably we’d go to a few Celtics games a year. You never needed to buy tickets ahead of time. They were cheap and you could always buy them at the door. We would sit behind one of the baskets, close to the floor. It was never crowded. There were no cheerleaders. There was no flash. It was the opposite of flash: a drafty old building where the rats ran around like they owned the place.
One night Russell knocked out the Lakers’ Jim Krebs with one punch at halfcourt.
Back then, Alumni Hall at Providence College and URI’s Keaney Gym had much more flash than the Celtics ever did in the Rhode Island Auditorium. At least for me. The college games were bright and shiny-new, with bands and atmosphere.
The Celtics in Providence? Just a basketball game where you could hear the sneakers squeaking.
The Celtics were in the middle of their glory years, in the midst of the most successful run in NBA history, full of names that live forever in Celtics history: Russell. Cousy. Heinsohn. Havlicek. Sharman. The Jones Boys. Sanders. And always Auerbach, the man now recognized as one of the greatest coaches in basketball history.
Did we know what we had then?
Not even close.
But they were here a few nights a year then, year after year.
A piece of Celtics’ history that’s now just a parking lot full of ghosts and memories.
Paul Cournoyer Feb 1 2017 I remember going to the RIA every Sunday night with my brother and friends from West Warwick. $3.50 Sometimes on a Wed. Student night for $2.50. he smoke filled arena, Vivian at the organ and Jack Cleary on the PA in the press box with the ladder stairs in back. I remember when the Voyagers came to town one Sunday and asking: “Who is that tall goalie Ken Dryden”? Hoping for a scrap with Battleship Kelly. Great Memories and fun times in my childhood.
billy cicone Mar 11 2016 AS I REMEMBER THE GREAT TIMES I ENJOYED AT RI AUDITORIUM,,GOING THERE IN THE LATE 50'S AND EARLY 60'S WATCHING THE CELTICS WITH HAVLICEK,RUSSELL,SANDERS,THE JONES,,,WOW,,,THERE WAS A STEAK HOUSE MY UNCLE WOULD TAKE ME TO EAT BEFORE THE GAME,IT WAS 1 MIN. FROM THE AUDITORIUM,I MET KC JONES ONE NIGHT,IN THERE,,,MEMORIES,THEN GROWING UP I WENT TO MY FIRST CONCERT THERE ,JIMI HENDRIX ,THEN STEPPENWOLF,BLACK SABBATH,,,WE COULDN'T GET IN TO SEE CREAM,IT WAS SOLD OUT,,,,,THERE WILL NEVER BE ANOTHER PLACE LIKE RI AUDITORIUM.....
Dennis Lesieur Aug 14 2015 My very first concert as a 15 year old was the Beach Boys! I also got interested in Ice Hockey watching the Reds on Sunday nights! The smoke filled Arena usually filled to capacity was great. Marcel Paille, the Red’s goal tender never wore a mask. About 8 years later, I worked in construction converting the abandoned Arena into a tennis club and Charlie’s restaurant, later becoming the 1111 club, and Cheater’s men's club. My wedding shower was held at Charlie’s in 1979. Many fond memories in different capacities were experinced in this building!
jerry leveille Aug 2 2015 in 1958, my sister Nancy and her boyfriend took me to the Auditorium to see Alann Freeds traveling Rock n Roll show, which was quite controversial at the time. We were early, before the show (I was 13) I wandered down below the stands, security was lax in those days, went into a room and there was... Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Buddy Holly. I told Mr. Berry that I wanted to play guitar just like him. Got their autographs, lost them since. Six years later, my band The Bel-Aires opened for the Searchers. It was a Monday nite, the night before, they were in Ed Sullivan. Chuck Stevens was our manager! Later in the sixties, I went to the Reds games every Sunday night. Great memories.
Dennis Lesieur Jun 24 2015 My very first concert in November 1966, the Beach Boys. I was only 14, really awesome event! Also attended many Sunday night Red’s games. We had a neighbor John Nolan, he was a part time ticket booth worker, who would set aside the better seats for us on Sunday nights. This was also the first time I could purchase a Narragansett beer, I was not 21 yet! It was served in a wax coated paper cup! Later in my life, I worked for Charlie Tapalian, who purchased the Arena for $225,000, along with his partner, Sol Resnick of Emblem & Badge. Great memories!
bobby desjardins Dec 7 2014 I live in New Orleans now but have many great memories of the building. I was born in Woonsocket, grew up in West Warwick, my father took my brothers and myself to reds games, I remember going in on snowy nights into the smoke filled lobby smelling the roasted peanuts, pizza, and the cigars. I miss the place… i wish somehow the building was never torn down. I still have Bobby Leduc’s stick and purchased a print framed of the artist painting of the auditorium at my home.
Thom Jun 6 2014 I recall my parents taking us to the Clyde Beatty Cole Bros circus at the Auditorium. My only memory was when a woman was hoisted by her hair, got tangled while doing acrobatics and had to be lowered and untangled by the crew. The memory came back after the incident with the Ringling Bros Circus and the 8 women who fell while hanging by their hair. Don't hang by your hair in RI. And does anybody remember the crooked glass around the hickey rink? It was as if management had bought remennts; they all extended up to different heights. I want to a playoff game between the Reds and the Boston Braves. A friend got whacked with the tip of a stick as its owner was smashed into the boards.
Lou Metz May 10 2014 I was fortunate to grow up close to the Arena. As a kid in the 1960s I used to walk down the hill to see Reds games, Celtics games, the circus, the rodeo, etc. When the circus or rodeo was in town, they use to keep the animals behind the building and next to the wall on the south side of the building. There was a pretty big parking lot next to that with a big old house on it. Across the lot was a Kelly’s Hamburgers place. As a teenager in the early ’70s I went to concerts, public skated, and played some high school and pick up hockey games there. For about 2 years in high school I got to work at the Arena (we always called it "the Arena" or "the Auditorium")- what a blast! I got to know the building pretty well. I even got to work Reds games for a while as a "skate boy", where I got to skate on the ice during intermissions and move the goals for the Zamboni machine. I got to know a few of the Reds players and coach Wilson a little too. My best Reds memory was probably the time after a morning Reds practice when 2-3 of the workers, including me, went across the street to the Penalty Box bar (the drinking age was 18 then) with Bob "Battleship" Kelley and had some beers. A good guy and tough fighter on the ice. Kelley ended up of course in the NHL. So many memories. I miss the building and the atmosphere and characters there.
Dennis MacKay Feb 7 2014 RI Reds , RI school boy hockey (LaSalle vs East Prov.) Ice skating Sunday afternoons (Red Hots & hot chocolate)Harlem Globe Trotters, Roller Derby, RB & BB Circus, Rodeos, Hendrix, Cream, Iron Butterfly, Jethro Tull, Leon Russel (guest appearance Elton John sang "Levon" played Russel’s piano). I think the last concert I saw there, Black Sabbath. When I was little it was Kellys' Hamburgers. Later after Civic opened and Main Event had space (Eric Burden) It was go see Al & Ginger Harris at the Penalty Box.
Bobby Desjardins Jul 28 2013 I really miss this place… i wish somehow the building would remain as a historical landmark. My father, uncle would take my brothers ad myself to the reds’ games. I still have Bobby Leduc’s stick that was given to me, and the beautiful print of the auditorium hanging in my bedroom in new orleans.
rob smith Jun 1 2013 2 things i remember about that place… 1) i got a puck at a RI Reds vs Quebec Aces game in the 70s… it was rolling down the stairs and my dad grabbed it… i think i lost it playing hockey at Roger Williams Park… 2) the disco club 11-11 was the Best place on the Friday night… i met the same girl every Friday to dance up on stage… what a great time I had...
Jimmy V Mar 31 2013 $.50 tickets for Sunday night Reds games up top with the Pigeons.
John Cameron Mar 4 2013 I am an author working on the biography of Rocky Marciano, if anyone can recall watching Rocky fight here I would really like to hear your stories: you can contact me here redemptionthelifeanddeathofrocky.weebly.com/contact.html...
Gino DiCarlo Jan 27 2013 I saw my first live Roller Derby at the Auditorium on January 30, 1971. The game, played between the San Francisco Bay Bombers and Northeast Braves, drew a SRO crowd of 6,579. Roller Derby was a huge attraction for the Auditorium. So much so that Reds owner, Louis Pieri, met with the owner of the Roller Derby, Jerry Seltzer, to try and secure a franchise for the building. Today, I am the President and Curator of the National Roller Derby Museum and Archive located in North Providence, Rhode Island. Anyone who has any photographs or things associated with Roller Derby when it was played at the Auditorium should feel free to contact me. I would love to hear from you.
Paul Klenk Jan 14 2013 I grew up in Mansfield MA and during summers of my high schools years, grades 10, 11, and 12, I attended concerts at The Arena. Because I was employed on the grounds crew at Wheaton College in Norton, MA, it was easy to steal away during lunch, drive furiously to the ticket window, and make purchases for upcoming events. My memory is sharp and I know the shows that I saw. These included Hendrix and his warm-up band was Buddy Myles, Steppenwolf, and Chicago Transit Authority.
Al Arsenault Dec 12 2012 I enjoyed attending hockey games in the old arena. As smoking was allowed in the arena, by the time the third period arrived smoke filled the arena. If you had bleeder seats, then you were lucky to see the ice. As I was teaching in Lewiston, Maine at the time, I enjoyed attending the New England Hockey Tournaments which were held there each year.
Buddy Goldshine Sep 11 2012 My friend and I were one of those kids who would get floor seats to the Celtic games at the arena every time they came. I have a picture with Bob Cousy in the hall of the locker room.
Dave Seidman Sep 10 2012 I too have this Arena picture framed and hanging in my office as a remembrance of great times and events held in that building. The Reds had a working agreement with the New York Rangers and we had players like Camille Henry, Johnny Bower, Marcel Paille to mention a few NY owned guys and of course Ed Giacamin who I ran into in Ft Myers, Florida several years ago. Topper (Zelio Toppazini),and Paul Larivee were mainstays of those Reds teams. George Army was the trainer. I miss that place as it was fun. I remember a restaurant close by called Tops Gaylord. North Main Street was the place to be. Also, a record store not too far away was Carl’s Diggins.
Howard Pedlikin Sep 9 2012 I fondly remember going to our High School hockey games at the arena when the Providence HS had a league. I also went to “free skate” at the arena in the 50s as it was close to my father’s store, Irvings Market, on No Main St. The arena was the only place with ice for hockey team practice in the 40s and 50s, thus many teams had 3am or 4am ice time. But it was a cozy place, every seat was close to the ice, and I think that I recall HS cheerleaders. It was a great spot for kids to stay out of trouble, I believe.
Jim Pilkington Aug aa 2012 I remember going to the auditorium in the late fortys and early fifties to see both hockey and the fights. i also saw some basketball games with my dad there too. The Providence Steamrollers with Ernie Calverly was a great team. High school hockey was also well attended. I can also remember the Range Rider as well. There were those great hockey teams with Carl Liscomb and Zellio Toppazzini who were great to watch. When George Aroujo was coming up all the big names in that division would come to the arena. His biggest fight there at the time was when he defeated Del Flanagan on his way to his title bout with Jimmy Carter. Those great fights too with Ralph Zannelli. I saw him fight Kid Gavalan there in the early fifties. a great place. Lots of memories
Charlene King Aug 11 2012 A few people sharing their memories of the old RI Auditorium mentioned hearing the organ playing at the RI Reds Hockey games, particularly on a Sunday night game. The woman playing the organ was our neighbor from across the street from our house, Miss Vivian Porter. She was about 4-11 and a real lady and she could really play!!! I haven’t too many regrets in my life, but I wish now that I had taken her up on free piano lessons she offered my sister and I!!! I had never seen a hockey game there, though, but did attend the circus and horse shows with my cousins.
Steven Brown Jun 25 2012 My dad used to take me and my brothers to the place to watch high school hockey, me and my brothers used to comb the place and find a ton of hockey pucks while dad watched the games, gone but not forgotten.
steve z May 6 2012 My only two shows: (10/71) Jethro Tull performing "Aqualung" and the RI Reds the same year. I remember the four of us at the Tull concert (18 at the time) with long shoulder length hair wearing long overcoats... What a great time!
Ed Vallee Mar 17 2012 Went to my first real concert at the RI Auditorium and saw The Righteous Brohers! Must have been around '65 or '66. If anyone out there knows the date for sure, please lemme know. I wan’t even driving yet, but I met a girl, Cathy M., that summer in Narragansett. After vacation was over, she went back home to Providence. I called her on the phone and asked her to go to the concert with me. My father drove me to her house, picked her up, and brought us both to the concert. He had a few beers at the Penalty Box (the corner bar) while waiting for the concert to be over, and then we drove Cathy back home after the show. Lost touch with Cathy after that, but always cherished that memory. And by the way, @Robert Fagan, I did get to go to that Doors concert and met Jim Morrison! Sorry.
Joe Buben Feb 12 2012 I lived the first 17 years (1945 to 1963) of my life a few blocks from the Arena at 1187 North Main. I would love to hear from any others that lived near the Arena in that time period. I came from a poor family and would never have seen anything more entertaining than TV in my childhood had it not been for the Arena. My brothers worked parking cars there. So between that and the many ways to sneak in or sometimes just hang around by the front entrance and someone would give away an extra ticket. So I saw the Reds, Celtics, Ice Capades, rodeos (one with Jock Mahoney, the Range Rider). I was there the night his partner during a fake fight broke his arm. I was there when a circus performer fell from the high wire into the stands. Fortunately he only broke some bones. I remember seeing many stars like Bobby Darren. I knew many of the rink rats (kids that hung around the Arena and got as much ice time as they could. Some went on to become great hockey players in High School and College like Bobby Goudreau, Bosco (Dennis) Sweeney. Speaking of High School hockey, all schools played at the Arena in that era with several games a night (for one admission) one after the other. Kids from all over the state went and spent the night there watching hockey, socializing and many couples meet each other that way. It was a great time. I had the pleasure only once of appearing on stage at the Arena. I played a Roman Soldier in a passion play. I kissed my first girl backstage.
dean Nov 10 2010 Bill Reynolds has a nice little article about how and the Celtics ended up playing there. Evidently the players had to find their own way down from Boston, no bus, no i95 at the time: www.projo.com/celtics/content/reynolds_celtics_ri_auditorium_11-10-10_ORKS5_v2.36d60a3.html
Gail Lucas Nov 3 2010 Wow! How wonderful to see that the lithograph used to show the RI Auditorium happens to be showing the fight with my Godfather/Uncle, Tiger Ted Lowry and Marciano. Personally, I hated fights and never went to watch a single bout. Actually, I was too young to attend that boxing match.
However, I distinctly remember the night of that particular fight (shown in the picture). After that fight family and friends came back to our home. There was a lot of conversation regarding my Uncle Ted and the fact that he actually won the fight that night. Family and friends have contended that he won the fight, “Hands down”. For years this would be the sentiment of the folks that attended that fight actually believed he won. My Uncle never commented one way or another about what he thought!
Years and I mean many, many years later I over heard that the fight was lost because my Uncle’s family’s lives would be in jeopardy... if he won the fight. Go figure, it was back in the day and well, no need to add anything more to the point! So, so many people felt that he won the fight and this was a topic of any conversation on the East Side of Providence amid the local boxing scholars for years and years.
When I asked Uncle Ted if it was true about his family being threatened... he would say, “Marciano is not here to defend himself so I will not answer the question.” My Uncle was a wonderful and decent man! He finally realized his life’s dream when he wrote his life story and had the first copy of his book actually in his hand. The title of the book is “God’s in My Corner” and should you decide to purchase the book, remember that “Tiger Ted Lowry” was in his eighties when he completed it, and up to the last two years of his life... he could tell you about his fights and amid other interesting facets of his long life.
I was so very lucky to have him in my life. He was the second person to hold me when I was born. My dad was a tad over the limits of celebrating my birth and my mother would not allow him to hold me... LOL.
So, again, it was a wonderful surprise to see this picture here and in my office I have the same picture beautifully framed. I have had it for more than 13 years.
One final note, the man that created this lithograph attended my Uncle’s 80th birthday party in Connecticut nearly 11 years ago. My Uncle cherished that gift. He has gone on to meet his maker. He died in June 2009. He was married to Alice Lowry and she too…is a beautiful person, they were simply a beautiful couple. RIP Uncle Ted!
bobby desjardins Oct 1 2010 Oh i really still think of those great days of playing hockey after mass on sunday morning and then getting ready to go to see the reds that evening with my dad on snowy nights. I remember getting to the arena early to see the players come out for pre-game warm-ups and hearing the organ play, smelling cigars, pizza, and peanuts roasting. My uncle had season tickets and managed to get bobby leduc’s stick which he gave me and still have in new orleans where i presently live. I also purchased a print by the artist which is hanging in my bedroom... wish the old barn was still standing!
Paul Fernandes Mar 6 2010 I would like to ask anyone that has pictures of the RI Auditoium, LeRoy or concerts if you would like to contribute to the RIROCKS.NET website and I will give you full credit. The website will be launched in April 2010 please contact me at paulfernandes04 [at] yahoo [dot] com. thank you
Mike Farrell Jan 9 2010 I can’t begin to count the number of great nights I spent @ The Auditorium. Sunday night hockey games were a regular in my family. The very first concert I attended was Thanksgiving Eve 1963 with The Beachboys and 2 opening acts. During the following years Hendrix, Cream, The Who and a loooong list of others led me down a path to my professional life as an audio engineer. I actually got to mix several shows in the building in it’s later years and was thrilled to do so in the spot where it all began for me. I have a number of bricks from the building I aquired during demolition lining gardens around my property. I wish I could squeeze some old toons out of them !!
Paul Santos Oct 30 2009 1968, the first concert of my life, The Cream farewell tour, backed by Terri Reid. Not to mention seeing the original WWW, with the likes of Haystack Calhoun and Killer Kawalski.
Rock Aug 2 2009 I remember seeing a Wizard of Oz themed Ice Capades at the old Arena... some time in the early 60s... It was Winter and was really cold inside that place...
Gale Jul 10 2009 I remember seeing Melanie at the Arena. I went ice skating there as well. I don’t live in RI right now, but I do miss the arena.
Jerry Apr 24 2009 When I was a little guy we went to the Auditorium to see a rodeo. The highlight of the night was when the Range Rider (Jock Mahoney) and his side kick Dick West “The All American Boy” made their appearance. I don’t remember any of the rodeo – just thier appearance! The Range Rider was one of the earliest TV shows that I actually remember. Table Talk pies was the sponsor! The Auditorium may be long gone, but the Penalty Box is still there! A small bar right on the corner that got its name from the hockey term of the same name.
Loran Fairfield Apr 4 2009 My best memory of the Auditorium is from spring of ‘69, the last time Jimi Hendrix played there. My friend Jack Hanrahan and I arrived around 7 that nite, walked right to the box office and got two tickets, 6 bucks apiece. No scalper or anything. Just imagine trying to do that for any popular artist today. Great show, I’d swear there were still notes bouncing around the rafters when the place was torn down. Too bad he’s gone.
John Apr 2 2009 Wow, nice parking lot! Great use of the land. This really brings people together. Thank goodness for redevelopment.
Bobby Desjardins Feb 3 2009 I live in new orleans now, but born in r.i. My father and uncle would take my brothers and myself to red games on sunday evening after playing hockey during the day. I remember bobby leduc giving me his stick which i still have to this day! I remember the cigar smoke filling up the place where you could not see across the rink; also the coziness of the building to watch the reds, and the organ playing during pre-game warm ups. i miss the place but will never forget. i purchased one of the limited prints which is hanging in my bedroom here in new orleans.
William Flanagan Jan 26 2009 RI Auditorium hosted a lot of important rock concerts in the 60s and early 70s: Bob Dylan and the Hawks (later The Band), Hendrix twice, the Doors, Buffalo Springfield, Johnny Cash, Sly and the Family Stone – which started a riot and got rock concerts banned in Providence for a couple of years. Merv Griffin did a special called “Sidewalks of New England” that featured Aretha Franklin live at RI Auditorium. In its final days, when half the hall had been converted into The Main Event, a very young U2 played there. And yes, Beacon Shop, just down the street, was the kind of record store that doesn’t exist anymore – not just deep catalog rock and R&B, but yards of classical, jazz, blues, gospel, country, and easy listening. Throw in Korb’s bakery and Miller’s deli and North Main Street was the boulevard of dreams.
Andy Braica Jan 14 2009 My father used to take me to the Arena to see boxing, which I believe was on Monday nights. I recall seeing Chris Schenkel doing the radio cast from ringside. Also, Warren Walden the former WJAR sports caster Ralph Zanelli ,Willie Pep, Geoge Aroujo fought there as well as Rocky Marciano. I also remember seeing Roy Rogers there.
Jesse Levesque Nov 22 2008 I’ll never forget the many Wednesdays and Sunday nights I enjoyed watching the R.I. Reds play hockey at that auditorium. I was just a boy then so the thrill for me was great. My Dad and two uncles used to have season tickets and would bring me along twice per week. They knew one of the ticket takers at the door who would let me in for free. I used to carry and bring-in my own little folding chair and would sit in front of one of the building support columns and be next to my Dad. I even had a plastic horn which my Dad had made for me, even had a mouthpiece on it and that horn was loud! I’m sure many people had seen me sitting in front of that particular column every Sunday night and many Wednesdays. I was fortunate no employees ever threw my Dad out because I never had a ticket!
I remember seeing a live chicken or two and chairs getting thrown on the ice when the Reds weren’t doing so well. I remember several of the Reds players. Only one wore a helmet that I remember during that time (Alton White?). Even Marcel P. (our beloved goaltender) didn’t wear a face mask! I remember one particular game against the Rochester Americans where the Reds had scored over 15 goals! I had never seen a hockey team lose the game and their moral soooo badly as on that night!
The only thing I really disliked about that arena? I’ll never forget the cigarette smoke. It used to fill the arena sooo bad by the third period you could cut it with a knife! Talk about danger of second-hand cigarette smoke? Holy crap it was bad, but seeing the Reds play hockey twice per week when I was just a kid?? It sure was worth it! Many a time in the start of the 3rd period my Dad would allow me to change seats. He knew I hated the cigarette smoke, so he let me go look below where I’d always find an empty seat for myself! I’d sometimes sit in the first row right-up against the glass!! What a thrill it was for me who didn’t even have a ticket and never thought of such things!!
ray buben July 12 2008 I will never forget The Arena. I spent a great deal of my childhood there. I worked in the parking lot for Al Rondeau, I started when I was about 11 years old, I would stand at the entrance of the parking lot waving a flashlight trying to encourage people to park there, my brother George was my competitor across the street. Working there would get us in the arena to see what ever was playing for fre,. Pay was only about a dollar a night. I saw the RI Reds hockey, high school hockey, college hockey, Ice Capades, Ice Follies Famous stars ie Bob hope, Bill Halley and The Comets, Circuses, Jean Autrey, and rodeos it was our main form of entertainment. I am glad we had the ARENA.
Jack Reich Around 1980 I promoted some concerts there… It was called the Main Event and then 11-11 for a short time.
That’s not a shabby line-up but the place was past it’s prime. The building had been sub-divided by then and was a maze.
Donna Rosa Baker My father, Norman Rosa, was the nephew of Louis Pieri and was the building superintendent for years at the Rhode Island Auditorium. Uncle Louis was also my godfather and I have fond memories of visiting the auditorium, watching the games and going to alot of events there. I have great memories of my dad and watching him work the building doing his thing. He stayed in the business until he retired, working other Arenas over the years (St. Louis Arena/Boston Gardens/ and Portland Civic Center in Maine. He was a great man.
I am a deputy juvenile officer for St. Louis County, Missouri. Like the generations before me, I have dedicated years to my profession and contributed alot to the Family Court for the past 29 years. It always feels good to have had dedicated people who came before me showing me the way of good work ethic – the parents, aunts, and uncles and other family members who consider that working hard is hardly working when you’re doing something you love and making a difference in the world of others. Thanks Uncle Louis and Norman Rosa for leading the way!
Ollie Running Water Best I am looking for pictrures of a Pageant that took place in the Rhode Island Auditorium on Friday, Dec. 1, 1939. The Pageant was called “The Brotherhood of Yesterday is the Peace of Tomorrow” I am looking for pictures for our Native Narragansett Indian Museum called “Tomaquag” in Exeter, R.I. These pictures would be approx 66 years old now. We would LOVE to display them. Also interested to see if any had my Great Grandmother Theresa Peckham in them. The Pageant was apparently written by Princess Red Wing.
Thank you. Pleaes e-mail me if you would have any such pictures or souveniers of this play. I would be ever so thankful. OllieB789@aol.com
Marie George I grew up going to all kinds of events there. Ice Capades, Ringling Brothers Circus, and even a Jimi Hendrix concert. It seemed so big to me. I was sad to see it go.
Lester Goulart I used to work there near the end of its era. When I was there it was no longer a ice rink. It had a second floor put in and the top floor was a roller rink and the lower floor had a Salon, (my lady of Fittness) and tennis courts took over where the ice rink used to be ) fore court) there was a diner on the left side of the building. It was owned by a R.I. developer named Charles Tapalian and he tried many different things there, motor-cross, flea market, auctions, etc but nothing seemed to take hold. It was a grand old place though, I miss it and the many memories it used to bring. I agree with the other writer, “Its sure an ugly place now”
Jim Engstrom - Eagle Mountain, Texas I watched my great friend Ray Sauer play high school hockey (Warwick Vets) and remember Mr. Joe Marcello (Photographer) covering the Reds in the late 50’s.
Dean Carlson In it’s last years, it was a disco named 11-11. It also had a video game room on the left side of the building and a roller skating rink on the right. I think I heard Rapper’s Delight for the first time skating around in there.
Robert Fagan I remember two things about the RI Auditorium/Arena. One, very late in it’s existence I believe it became some sort of disco/nightclub, and 2) My mother refused to let me go see the Doors when they played there in about 1968 or so (I was only 11 years old!)
And, by the way – does anyone remember (or have photos of) Beacon Record Shop, which was right down the street a few blocks from the Arena? Biggest and best record store in RI at the time – probably still would be, too…
Thomas Nosal I live right around the corner from where the arena used to be. I’m not old enough to remember it but my dad has told me all about how he used to attend concerts and other events there. Everytime i look at that huge, ugly parking lot that’s there now I wish that place never got torn down.
Stanley Bomes As someone brought up in Providence and as an avid Providence Reds fans I cannot help but have fond memories of the building. It really was the perfect sport arena – especially for hockey. You were right on top of the action. I remember the night they took down the chicken wire and replaced it with plexi-glass. The Reds were loosing and everyone started yelling “bring back the chicken wire.” What a lot of people forget is that prior to the days of Schneider Arena built on the Providence College campus, The PC hockey Friars played their home games in the arena and for a number of years the Boston Celtics played a few games a year there.
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