Over the past century, as professional sports staked a prominent role in American culture, so too did the arenas, ballparks and domes that our favorite teams played in. In recent decades, with the rise of luxury boxes, artisanal sushi stands and half-time entertainment, a number of iconic stadiums have been demolished and replaced.
The original Yankee Stadium is a hole in the ground a few blocks away from the current Yankee Stadium. The Boston Garden gave way to the rebuilt TD Garden. The Miami Orange Bowl is now the site of Marlins Park. The old Chicago Stadium grounds is a parking lot for the United Center.
The Mad House on Madison will forever be remembered as the early stomping grounds of Michael Jordan, just as Yankee Stadium lives on with timeless stories of Babe Ruth…and DiMaggio…and Mantle… and so on.
But what about the demolished, forgotten arenas that don’t have the same iconic histories? Places such as the Market Square Arena, from right here in Indiana.
At first glance, Market Square isn’t much to write home about – it was never the most famous sporting grounds in the state, or even the Indianapolis metro area – that would be the Speedway – and the most notable inhabitants were the NBA’s Pacers, who haven’t won a championship (yet).
Still, looking past some forgettable Pacers teams of the 70’s and 80’s, some much better Reggie Miller led teams in the 90’s, a number of concerts, rodeos, circus and more, Market Square Arena was not without it’s iconic moments.
Most famously, as we’ve written about previously, the arena played host to the final concert of Elvis Presley in 1977, just weeks before his death. The following year, greatness touched down at the arena again, as a 17-year-old Wayne Gretzky played his first professional hockey game for the Indianapolis Racers of the WHA. The Racers and the WHA both ceased operations shortly afterward, and Gretzky’s stay in Indiana was short, as he played for the team for only 8 games, but it was fun while it lasted.
Michael Jordan also has a connection to Market Square. In 1995, when the basketball legend ended his brief foray into minor league baseball and stepped out of retirement, the court he stepped onto was in Indianapolis. Air Jordan scored 19 points, the game set regular season television records and the Pacers won in OT.
Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) the obscure trivia associated with Market Square Arena was not enough to save it from the wrecking ball. The Pacers moved out in 99 and the arena was demolished in 2001. Those looking to connect with Market Square can still do so at the National Institute for Fitness and Sport in White River State Park, as that is where the old basketball floorboards now reside.