The Cincinnati Gardens is an indoor sports and entertainment arena located in Cincinnati, Ohio, that opened in 1949. The 25,000 square foot (2,300 m²) brick and limestone building, whose entrance is decorated with six three-dimensional carved athletic figures, was modeled after Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Ontario, by the same architects and engineers who designed and built the more famous arena a quarter century earlier. When it opened, its seating capacity of 11,000+ made it the seventh largest indoor arena in the United States.
The Cincinnati Gardens' first event was an exhibition hockey game. It has been the home of six league championship hockey teams, and most recently was the home of the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks of the American Hockey League, but it also has been host to numerous other sporting events, concerts, stage shows, circuses and political rallies. Recently, in July 2008, Puja Morari Bapu, a renowned Hindu scholar, performed a 9 day lecture known as a katha to several Hindus who gathered in Cincinnati Gardens Arena from all around the world. Currently, the Gardens' primary tenant is the Cincinnati Commandos of the Ultimate Indoor Football League.
The Cincinnati Gardens has been known primarily as a venue for hockey, basketball and boxing.
The Gardens' first event was an exhibition hockey game on February 22, 1949, between the Dallas Texans of the United States Hockey League and their parent National Hockey League team, the Montreal Canadiens. Several of the Texans' players would soon seed the first professional hockey team in Cincinnati, the Cincinnati Mohawks, who played at the Gardens from 1949 through 1958--three seasons in the AHL and six in the International Hockey League. Three NHL Hall of Famers played for the Mohawks — Harry Howell, Buddy O'Connor and Clint Smith — and from 1952 through 1957, the team won an IHL record five consecutive Turner Cup championships.
The Cincinnati Swords played in the AHL as an affiliate of the NHL Buffalo Sabres from 1971 through 1974 and won the Calder Cup as AHL champions in 1973.
The Cincinnati Wings played the 1963-64 season at the Gardens, relocating from Indianapolis (where they were known as the Capitols) after their home arena, the Fairgrounds Coliseum, was heavily damaged in an explosion on Halloween Night, 1963.
The Cincinnati Cyclones played in the East Coast Hockey League for two seasons and the IHL for five seasons at the Cincinnati Gardens. When the Cyclones moved to U.S. Bank Arena in 1997, the AHL returned to the building for the third time with the creation of the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks, an affiliate of the NHL Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and Detroit Red Wings, who played in the building until 2005. The Cincinnati Gardens turned 60 on February 22, 2009.
Though having no pro-hockey team, the Gardens still acts as the home rink for several area high school teams.
The Gardens was home to the Cincinnati Royals of the National Basketball Association (now the Sacramento Kings) from 1957 through 1972. Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson played for the Royals from 1960 through 1970. The arena hosted the NBA All-Star Game in January 1966, and Royals' guard Adrian Smith was named the game's Most Valuable Player.
College basketball, including 42 "Crosstown Shootout" games between the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University, has been played at the Gardens since its first week in 1949. The arena has served as the home court for both schools at various times, lastly for Xavier from 1983 until their move to the on-campus Cintas Center in 2000.
From 1984 through 1987, the Cincinnati Slammers of the Continental Basketball Association played their home games at the Gardens.
High school basketball has also used the Gardens over the years, both for regular season games - such as contests matching Middletown & Hamilton highs - as well as post-season tournaments including the state tourney in 1953 & 1955.
The Gardens has hosted a number of boxing matches, particularly several featuring prominent local & international fighters. Eventual Heavyweight champion and Hall of Famer Ezzard Charles of Cincinnati defeated Joey Maxim in a heavyweight title contender fight on February 28, 1949, in the arena's first week. Cincinnatian Wallace "Bud" Smith defended his World Lightweight crown there on October 19 1955. Numerous Golden Gloves competitions have drawn as many as 10,000+ fans, and a "Super Brawl Sunday" event was held in 2002.
On August 30, 2008, Relentless Events packed over 6000 fans into the arena for former heavyweight champion Lamon Brewster's comeback fight against Danny Batchelder. Brewster won by fifth-round knockout. Local favorites Rashad Holloway and Aaron Pryor Jr. also won on the undercard.
Other sports hosted at the Gardens have included:
- Indoor soccer - Cincinnati Silverbacks (1995-1997), Cincinnati Kings 2010
- Professional wrestling - WWE Raw and SmackDown! have originated there; in 1986, Starrcade was shown on closed-circuit TV; TNA Wrestling had a live event at the Gardens on June 22, 2008. Pat O'Connor, Buddy Rogers, Lou Thesz and Ric Flair wrestled in the Gardens while holding the NWA (National Wrestling Alliance) heavyweight title.
- Roller Derby - Cincinnati Rollergirls; Cincinnati Jolters (1971)
- Monster truck jams
- Auto and motorcycle racing
- Indoor football - Cincinnati Commandos - 2010-present
On August 27, 1964, The Beatles performed at the arena.