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The St. Louis Arena, 1999 implode

The sagging roof of the St. Louis Arena falls into billowing dust clouds at 5:45 p.m. on Feb. 27, 1999, only seconds after Spirtas workers ran 600 volts through its detonators. The 70 charges exploded in machine-gun staccato, bringing the building down. The thousands who gathered to watch burst into cheers as the grey dust rose above them. Photo by Jason Redmond of the Post-Dispatch

Fourteen years ago today, 133 pounds of TNT transformed the beloved Arena, aka the Checkerdome, into a pile of rubble. Erected in 1929 as a livestock hall, the Arena was home to the St. Louis Blues and the St. Louis Steamers and hosted countless circuses, figure skaters and monster trucks. 

But for us concerts lovers, the Arena was the place to see the world's biggest stars. Frank Sinatra, Prince and the Rolling Stones all played the old barn. So did Led Zeppelin, KISS and Billy Joel, who famously said you could change the Checkerdome's name but not its terrible acoustics. 

The week before the implosion, I interviewed fans of the venue who gathered in the Arena's Oakland Avenue parking lot to trade memories and ticket stubs. 

Irv Zuckerman, then co-president of Contemporary Productions, told me the the Arena hosted some 500 concerts between 1967 and 1994. He booked many of those shows himself.

"To see 20,000 packed in here feeling that anticipation is one of the most remarkable things I've been part of," said Zuckerman.

Veteran KSHE jock John Ulett estimated that he had attended about 100 concerts at the Arena. His favorite shows are listed below.

Myself, I saw dozens of shows at the Arena. My favorites include U2  (Oct. 25, 1987; Bono offered the crowd his condolences after the Minnesota Twins beat the Cardinals in Game 7 of the World Series), the Police (July 24, 1983; my first show at the Arena. I went with my mom.) and Sammy Hagar (Sept. 28, 1984; I wore a red Forenza sweater — backwards. We all did.). 

Other Go! staffers also loved the Checkerdome. TV Critic Gail Pennington watched a man vomit into his seat at Bruce Springsteen, book editor Jane Henderson saw Queen and Heart on back-to-back nights and assistant managing editor/features Jody Mitori rocked to Olivia Newton-John.  


John Ulett's top 10 Arena concerts

1. Bruce Springsteen, June 15, 1984.

2. Yes, June 6, 1979.

3. Pink Floyd, Nov. 15, 1987.

4. The Who, Dec. 6, 1982.

5. The Police, July 24, 1983.

6. Led Zeppelin, April 15, 1977.

7. Electric Light Orchestra, Oct. 29, 1981.

8. Sammy Hagar, Boston, Rick Derringer, March 9, 1979.

9. Van Halen, April 28, 1979.

10. Emerson, Lake and Palmer, March 1, 1978.