It was a crisp, clear late-winter’s day as I pulled off I-75 and onto the campus of Bowling Green State University.
I hadn’t been there for awhile, but it didn’t take long for me to get my bearings. I pulled the car into the main drive, getting a good look at the brand-new Stroh Center. The new athletic facility was still under construction, but would be ready to open in time for the 2011 volleyball season.
That, however, was not the reason for my visit.
I was there to see, for one last time, the building that Stroh Center would replace.
It had been years since I last watched a game in Anderson Arena, the home of Falcons basketball since it was built in 1960. I was writing for the Morning Journal back then, and I was covering a Division I high school regional matchup between Sandusky and Celina.
The place was packed, and the place was loud. It was a great atmosphere, and I loved every minute of it even though I was there as an objective observer.
That night, it was easy to appreciate Anderson Arena’s nickname:
“The House That Roars.”
In my college days, I had taken road trips to BG to watch Kent State take on the Falcons. It was never an easy game for the Golden Flashes, especially back in those days when the program was a mere shadow of what it is today. But no matter what team stepped out onto the floor at Anderson Arena, its players knew they were in for a rough time.
The place only sat around 5,000, but it seemed like 50,000 because the fans were so close to the court. Even when you’d watch one of the games there on television, it still seemed loud as the announcers cranked up the volume to be heard over the crowd noise.
When you were there, it didn’t matter where you sat. Whether you were up in the press box or down near the floor, the roar of the crowd would be deafening. You could almost imagine the legendary Nate Thurmond pulling down yet another rebound for the Falcons, or the excitement when BG knocked-off No. 1 Loyola before a packed house in 1963.
Over the years, Anderson Arena has seen more than its fair share of exciting athletic events. But time waits for no man, and the same can be said for its treatment of old arenas.
You feel like you’re traveling back in time when you walk through the doors. It’s almost like walking into a high school facility. The concourse is small, so you get to experience that “close-knit” feeling from the get go.
The arena itself has all sorts of little quirks, from the low ceiling to the unique two rows of seats at the far end. If the scoreboard seems like a relic, well…it is. It’s the scoreboard from the old Cleveland Arena, donated to the school by one of its famous alums, Nick Mileti.
Yes, that Nick Mileti, the man who brought pro basketball to Cleveland with the creation of the Cavaliers in 1970.
The building has undergone minor changes throughout the years, with the addition of chairback seats in 1983 that reduced capacity to 4,700. An improved speaker system was installed, and the arena has received numberous paint jobs throughout the years. But cosmetic changes only go so far, especially in today’s fast-paced world.
So with the the recent conclusion of the boys Division II regional tournament, Anderson Arena has seen its final competitive basketball game.
This was supposed to be my last visit to Anderson Arena. The Falcons were taking on Kent State in their second-to-last game there, so I thought it would be a good time to go. The crowd, though, was on the small side, and Kent State pulled out the tough road win. That combination, despite the valiant efforts of the BG pep band, kept things pretty quiet most of the night.
I got two more bonus visits a week or so later, though, when Rocky River’s boys team advanced to the regional tournament. There were moments during River’s last-minute 54-52 win over Van Wert and the 78-68 loss to Toledo Rogers that reminded me of the good old days when that house really did roar.
As I left Anderson Arena that Saturday afternoon, I took one last look around.
One last look at the house that would roar no more.