Closing The Smellon Arena

Kevin Kelly




Closing the “Smellon” Arena–Pittsburgh Memories

I was lucky enough to work at the Sportatorium in Tampa once in 1994. I’ll never forget it. I made sure to memorize as much about that famous building, absorbing the spirits who swirled around me that night. I sat at the same broadcast position as my idol, Gordon Solie and dreamed of going back in time to work with him. Now, it’s a trinket store and I wonder if the new owners realize the history of that famous address.

I never got to work in the Eddie Graham Sports Arena in Orlando but the day they knocked the building down, I took a ride out to see the bulldozers at work. I thought about the history… the consecutive sellouts every Sunday night. I felt the same spirits guiding me.

*****

On June 28, 1998, Terry Funk said to me “Kevin, if he does this, he’ll be the biggest hardcore legend of all time.” I said, “What if he doesn’t?” Terry patted me on the arm and slowly walked from the Mellon Arena floor. A sick feeling overcame me as I worried about the destiny of self-destruction that our mutual friend was going to walk with.

Later that night, Mick Foley flew from the top of the steel cell structure and crashed through the Spanish Announce table, landing on the cement floor. Soon, the Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh will come down but memories of Mick Foley and countless others will remain forever in the Steel City.

*****

Progress is important to American society. It’s important to us that we move on… build it newer, bigger and better. We take from the earth and give back to it. Renewable resources and “green” initiatives… more parking and luxury boxes. Whatever the reasoning, the “old” is coming down and “new” is going up. But in the case of the Mellon Arena, change will be a good thing.

From the minute you’d walk into the Mellon Arena, the smell of deodorized garbage would smack you right in the mouth and it didn’t leave until you left. Like Madison Square Garden…the Mellon Arena wreaks and neither building has a winning NBA team in it. Newer arenas look nice, smell nice… have nice locker rooms. Pittsburgh had a phone that we would make prank calls to. It was named for a regional bank but the Pittsburgh building was always the “Smellon Arena” to me.

*****

Tony Garea had better things to do than monkey around with us. The man was a tag team champion who had defended his titles in Pittsburgh many times throughout his career. He deserved better but we couldn’t help ourselves. You see, someone got the number to the oddly-placed phone, staring right at us, on the wall backstage of the Mellon Arena.

Once is ok, twice is odd but why is this phone still ringing? Were these the questions that Tony asked himself? I don’t know but I could tell he was getting frustrated when the ringing would miraculously stop just as Garea was about to answer it. I would have loved to have heard what Tony said to the young security guard holding up the wall but I was too busy giggling with my goofy conspirators, who shall remain nameless to protect them from persecution…

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