War Memorial Sports Arena: The great Dayton sports facility that never happened

Before there was UD Arena, a different arena was proposed for the same location.

In 1948, a $4 million War Memorial Sports Arena was proposed on 110 acres donated by NCR, across the Great Miami River from the Deeds Carillon.

At the time, Dayton only had Memorial Hall the the Fairgrounds Coliseum in which to hold all large indoor activities.

It was to be dedicated to the memory of servicemen who died in World War II.

The proposed arena

The auditorium was designed to be used for all types of indoor sports, public assemblies, exhibitions, conventions and “mass pageantry.”

It was designed to hold 10,500 people. There would be 8,000 permanent seats and 2,500 temporary seats.

The arena floor was to be 110 by 190 feet, large enough for three basketball courts. Seats were to be located in a U-shaped pattern with a large stage at the open end of the U.

The design was made so that no supporting posts would hinder views from the seats.

About $3 million of the total cost was to go into the building with the remaining funds going towards landscaping and equipment.

Voicing support

The Dayton Junior Association of Commerce (JAC) was carrying out the campaign to win support of the bond issue.

Reporter Bob Husted’s sports column in the Dayton Herald in favor of the arena levy said, “We Daytonians like to regard ourselves as ‘big league.’ And we have attained such stature in many ways only to remain definitely Class D when it comes to having what virtually every other metropolis the size of our town possesses — a sports auditorium.”

The Dayton Herald and Dayton Daily News both ran a series of statements from Dayton public high school coaches urging the levy to pass.

The coaches mentioned a variety of advantages to having a new sports arena, including better locker rooms, improved seating, better bathrooms and the ability to handle larger crowds.

Even Dayton Daily News Hall of Fame sports writer Si Burick, who normally stayed away from politics and elections, weighed in, saying, “This up-to-date city is strictly horse-and-buggy when it comes to providing a place to meet indoors in any great number. Every basketball season, for instance, we invite visitors from the neighboring communities to see high school tournament games, then we shut them out for lack of space.”

The tax levy

A county bond issue to cover the cost of the project was put on the ballot in November 1948.

For the levy to pass, it needed 65 percent of the majority.

The tax levy on the bond issue would have cost 51 cents per $1000 of tax valuation. At that time, it meant the average taxpayer would contribute $2 to $2.50 each year for 20 years.

Voting results

Voting results for the War Memorial Sports Arena:

For: 51,162

Against: 57,862

It failed to get a simple majority, let alone the 65 percent majority for passage.

In voting down the sports arena bond issue, voters indicated that they didn’t approve of public funds financing a combination fieldhouse-stadium.

It was believed that any such project for Dayton would then have to be financed by private funds.

University of Dayton Arena

In 1950, the University of Dayton opened the University of Dayton Fieldhouse, designed to seat approximately 5,500 people, close to the University chapel on campus,

Between 1950 and 1969, the Fieldhouse hosted a number of Dayton Flyers and high school games along with other local events.

Dayton Flyers basketball crowds finally outgrew the Fieldhouse, and plans came together to build the University of Dayton Arena. After a downtown Dayton location for the arena fell through, it was decided to build the arena next to Welcome Stadium, at the site once proposed for the War Memorial Sports Arena

A groundbreaking for the 13,435-seat multi-purpose arena was held on Nov. 6, 1968.

The Dayton Flyers opened UD Arena with a game against Bowling Green on Dec. 6, 1969.

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