Duluth Arena photos, Part 3

Here’s the third and final installment of Duluth / DECC Arena photos from the News Tribune archives. This one covers the years from about 1975 to the present. Click on the photos for a larger view and for caption information:

Today’s News Tribune print edition includes a 16-page special section all about the new Amsoil Arena, which debuts tonight with a UMD men’s hockey game.

The section also includes a timeline of DECC Arena history, but we couldn’t fit the entire timeline in the allotted space. So, here is the extended version…

Duluth Arena timeline


Efforts begin in earnest to build an arena-auditorium complex in Duluth. The city was lacking in venues for large concerts and sports events, especially after the collapse of the Amphitheater in 1939; among the few facilities were the Armory, the Duluth Curling Club and the Denfeld auditorium.

Among the early proponents was businessman Jeno Paulucci, who at the time headed the Northeast Minnesota Organization for Economic Education. In September 1961, that group launched a campaign to build a convention, cultural, entertainment and sports center in Duluth.

In December 1961, Duluth Mayor E. Clifford Mork kicked off a drive to build the complex and appointed an arena-auditorium advisory committee.

January 1963

The $6.1 million project receives a $3 million federal grant. In February 1963, Duluth voters approved a $3.1 million bond issue to build and a tax levy to operate the complex.

The harborfront location was selected by the committee over other candidates, including Leif Erikson Park; the area between the Depot and the Civic Center; and land west of the College of St. Scholastica. To prepare the site, previously home to a scrapyard, sand was dredged from the harbor and used to fill and level the land.

December 19, 1963

On a frigid day, ground is broken for the Duluth Arena-Auditorium. Work continues for 2 ½ years.

August 1966

The Arena-Auditorium opens with a celebration more than a week long in conjunction with Portorama festivities. The theme of the opening is “Hello World.”

On Friday night, Aug. 5, there is a ribbon-cutting ceremony and gala celebration in the Arena, with guests including comedian Buddy Hackett, Lorne Greene, star of TV’s “Bonanza,” and Vice President Hubert Humphrey. “All of know too well that the news has not always been good in Duluth and the Head of the Lakes region,” Humphrey told the crowd. “But there is a new day — of good news and hope and confidence. And it is well worth some celebration.”

The opening celebration also includes a performance by Metropolitan Opera baritone Robert Merrill to open the Auditorium; a packed Arena concert by the Beach Boys and fireworks displays.

“Not for many decades, perhaps never in Duluth’s history, has there been such genuine widespread enthusiasm over a civic achievement shared by so many people,” the News Tribune said in an editorial. “There are hardly enough superlatives to describe the mood one can sense all over town. … The Arena-Auditorium not only extends a ‘Hello World’ greeting, but it signifies even more poignantly that this region has done something daring and magnificent to make itself a part of the broader world that pulsates around us.”

Late August 1966

The Ice Capades hold their first show at the Arena, starting a years-long tradition of rehearsing in Duluth for several weeks and opening their tours at the Arena.

Nov. 19, 1966

First UMD men’s hockey game at the Arena, an 8-1 win over Minnesota in front of a capacity crowd. Keith “Huffer” Christiansen has six assists in the game, still a UMD record.

December 1966

The Harlem Globetrotters play at the Arena for the first time. The removable Arena basketball court hosts many games over the years until being sold to St. James School in West Duluth for use in their gym.

Sept. 15, 1967

Jack Benny headlines the Arena’s first anniversary party, joined by singers Bobby Vinton and Mary Lou Collins, former “Tonight Show” bandleader Skitch Henderson and the Rudenko Brothers, a juggling act.

Benny, then very much an A-list Hollywood star, said organizers told him performing in Duluth could open doors. “(They) said I probably could get two days in Hibbing, and a full week in Twig,” he quipped, joining a long line of comedians to poke fun at that Northland locale. “All my life, there have been three cities in the world I wanted to see — London, Paris and Twig.”

Late 1960s

The Arena hosts the NCAA men’s hockey finals, an appearance by Bob Hope and the Republican state convention in 1968, and its first appearance by Lawrence Welk in 1969; Welk would return several more times over the next decade, always drawing a good crowd.

Early 1970s

Notable concerts at the Arena include Johnny Cash, Three Dog Night, Sonny & Cher and Deep Purple.

Oct. 16, 1976

Thousands flock to the Arena to see Elvis Presley perform in Duluth for the first time.

The News Tribune’s Jim Heffernan provided this account: “Women screamed, flashbulbs — thousands of them — popped, fans tried to climb on stage and were repelled by police, and Elvis sang. The more he sang, the more they loved him. They loved him most when he began passing perspiration-soaked silk scarves from around his neck to the few adoring fans who made it to the edge of the stage. He performed for exactly one hour, then he was gone. … As the audience filed from its seats, a voice on the public address system said ‘Elvis has left the Arena.’”

Elvis returned for a second, packed concert at the Arena on April 29, 1977. Less than four months later, he was dead.

Late 1970s

Other big concerts at the Arena include Kiss, the Doobie Brothers, Styx with Eddie Money and Cheap Trick.

Early 1980s

The Arena hosts the NCAA men’s hockey finals in 1981. Other notable events include the Loverboy concert (crowd of more than 8,000) and the Airstream convention, which brought thousands of the silver travel trailers to the DECC.

Feb. 17, 1984

The UMD men’s hockey team wins its first WCHA championship with a 4-2 win over Wisconsin at the Arena.

The next day’s News Tribune included this account from reporter Kevin Pates: “There was great tension as the final minutes ticked down, but that tension was then released. As the clock showed 0:00, UMD’s 20 players spilled onto the ice and mobbed goalie Rick Kosti near the goal and then toppled on to one another. An air raid-type siren blared and the song “Celebration” cascaded over the Arena sound system. … (Bulldog coach Mike) Sertich joined his team carrying a maroon-and-gold sign bearing the inscription No. 1. He was quickly hoisted on the shoulders of his players and given a victory skate around the rink.”

UMD advanced to the national title game that season, falling to Bowling Green 5-4 in four overtimes. The Bulldogs also reached the NCAA tournament in 1983 and 1985.

April 1984

The Arena hosts curlers and curling fans from around the world for the Silver Broom world curling championships. It’s the second time the event is held in Duluth; the first time was in 1976.

April 22, 1984

Heavy metal rocker Ozzy Osbourne plays an Arena show on Easter Sunday, to the consternation of some in the community. There are few protesters on the day of the concert. “Osbourne made his appearance to a crescendo of Wagnerian orchestral music,” the News Tribune’s Bob Ashenmacher reported. “Pyrotechnics ignited, a dark scrim dropped, and there he was in a cape. He was flanked by two statues of bats with lit eyes and five-foot wingspans, over which poured fog vapor.”

July 22, 1984

Huey Lewis and the News draw 8,176 concert-goers, one of the largest — if not the largest — concert crowds ever at the Arena. “The sound mix was excellent throughout the hall. The lights were splashy and punctual,” the News Tribune reported the next day. “(Lewis) is athletic on stage, grabbing his floor-stand microphone at full run and leaping, with splits, off platforms.”

Mid-1980s to mid-1990s

Big concerts at the Arena include shows by Bryan Adams, Loverboy, David Lee Roth, Poison, Motley Crue, Metallica and Def Leppard. The Minnesota North Stars, Minnesota Timberwolves and Milwaukee Bucks play exhibition games at the Arena.

March 15, 1998

After trailing Minnesota 4-0 in the third period of a WCHA playoff game, the UMD men score four times to force overtime, then score in the extra session to win 5-4 and advance to the WCHA Final Five — one of the most memorable comebacks and games in Bulldog hockey history.

Oct. 22, 1998

Bob Dylan performs in Duluth, his birthplace, for the first time to a sellout crowd of nearly 8,000 in the Arena. “Backed by a four-man band, Dylan appeared restrained and even a little nervous at first, but he soon relaxed with inspired guitar gesturing and reflexive boot-scooting,” the News Tribune reported the next day. “It was an unusually animated Dylan. He bobbed, shook and smiled with the audience. In the end he took a deep bow to the crowd. … While Dylan said little to the crowd and nothing at all about returning to the Northland, nobody seemed to care.”

Early 2000s

The UMD women’s hockey team achieves success from the start, winning the first NCAA Division I title in 2001, repeating in 2002 and making it a three-peat at the Arena in 2003, with a double-overtime win over Harvard.

The News Tribune’s Christa Lawler reported on the epic 2003 final: “Perhaps the greatest game in the history of women’s college hockey came on the Bulldogs’ home ice at the DECC in front of 5,167 fans — the largest attendance in three years of the NCAA-sanctioned event. The game hung tied at 3-3 through one 20-minute overtime period. The ice was resurfaced and (Nora) Tallus fired the game-winner at 4:19 of the second overtime to bring an end to the longest game in the history of the women’s Frozen Four.”

In 2004, the UMD men make a run back to the Frozen Four.

July 13, 2004

President George W. Bush speaks at the Arena to a crowd of about 8,000 while campaigning for re-election. “Bush spoke on national and international issues and offered little local color, except during a slip-up when he referred to being welcome in Duluth, northern Wisconsin and the ‘Iron Ridge,’ instead of the Iron Range,” the News Tribune reported.

Bush also spoke to a capacity crown at the Arena on Nov. 1, 2000, just days before the election in which the then-governor of Texas defeated Vice President Al Gore.

Mid- to late 2000s

Some highlights of more recent years include concerts by Nickelback and Rob Zombie and Alice Cooper (who also played the Arena back in 1975); the UMD women’s hockey team’s continued success, including a national title won in Duluth in 2008; several strong seasons by the UMD men’s hockey team; and the 2010 DFL state convention.

December 2010

The UMD men’s and women’s hockey teams close out their time in the DECC Arena; banners are lowered and all-DECC teams are recognized, among other special events.

Other events held at the Arena over the years include high school graduations, circus performances, wrestling matches, rodeos and countless other spectacles. And with the DECC Arena set to continue as a performance venue, the opening of Amsoil Arena is not so much the end of the line, but the turning of a new chapter in the venerable venue’s story.


Share your Arena stories and memories by posting a comment.

Duluth Arena photos, Part 2

Here is the second of three galleries of Duluth Arena photos from the News Tribune archives. This batch goes from late 1966 through 1975. Click on each image for a larger version and to read the caption information:

The final gallery of photos will be posted Thursday, along with an extended version of a Duluth Arena timeline that appears in the DNT’s special section about the new Amsoil Arena. That 16-page special section will be included with Thursday’s paper.

Duluth Arena photos, Part 1

Continuing the News Tribune Attic’s look back at the history of the Duluth Arena, here’s the first of three batches of News Tribune archive photos I’m going post. This gallery covers the period from planning for the Arena-Auditorium complex in the early 1960s through the grand opening in August 1966. Click on the photos for a larger view and for caption information:

More Arena photos will be posted tomorrow and Thursday. If you missed it, I posted a complete 1966 grand opening brochure on Monday.

Plan to pick up a print copy of the News Tribune on Thursday for a 16-page special section all about the new Amsoil Arena.

And, as always, share your Arena and DECC memories by posting a comment.

Arena-Auditorium opening program, 1966

It’s grand opening week for Duluth’s Amsoil Arena.

While the News Tribune is going to have lots of coverage of the new arena (look for an awesome 16-page special section included with Thursday’s paper), the News Tribune Attic is going to spend this week looking back at the history of the DECC Arena, opened as the part of the Duluth Arena-Auditorium complex in the summer of 1966.

Our first item is courtesy of News Tribune artist Ted Heinonen, who just in the past couple weeks unearthed a mint-condition program from the 1966 grand opening celebration of the Arena-Auditorium. Apparently it had been hiding in a file cabinet at the DNT for the past 44 years; the colors are pristine.

The program includes the full schedule of events for the long grand opening celebration, including all the celebrities who came to town. I’ve scanned in the program in its entirety; all 18 pages are included in the gallery below. Click on each page to see the full image:

Much more about the DECC Arena to come this week. Share your DECC Arena memories by posting a comment.

West Duluth, early 1980s

October 28, 1982

Looking north over West Duluth on October 28, 1982. Interstate 35 cuts across the lower half of the photo, with Central Avenue at right. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

It’s been close to three years since I started digging through the News Tribune Attic to find photos for this blog, and I still manage to turn up unexpected discoveries. Today it was a bunch of photos of West Duluth from the years right before the large Kmart shopping center was built.

The photo above also clearly shows the old rail viaduct that used to cut across West Duluth. Here’s a zoomed-in view (click on any of these photos for larger versions):


And here’s one more zoomed-in view of the area now occupied by Kmart and other stores:


Here’s another view taken the same day from a slightly different angle, looking northeast up Grand Avenue:

You can see more of the viaduct, as well as the former Shopper’s City, at that time occupied by Kmart and the Country Store (clarification from earlier, thanks to comments on this post):


I assume these photos were taken because, at the time, there were discussions about the West Duluth Mall retail development in the triangle of land between Central, Grand and I-35 – the development that became Kmart and the adjoining strip mall.

Here are a couple of photos from the groundbreaking for that project on October 26, 1983:

Speakers on a flatbed truck face the crowd at groundbreaking ceremonies for the West Duluth Mall on Oct. 26, 1983. (Jack Rendulich / News-Tribune)


Members of the Spirit Valley Citizens’ Neighborhood Development Association listen to speakers at the groundbreaking ceremony. (Jack Rendulich / News-Tribune)


Here’s one final zoomed-in view from that first groundbreaking photo, of storefronts along Grand Avenue:

Share your West Duluth memories by posting a comment.

Polliwog Records, 1981

July 2, 1981

The interior of Polliwog Records and Tapes on London Road in Duluth, July 2, 1981. (Charles Curtis / Duluth Herald)


By Bob Ashenmacher, Duluth Herald staff writer

Don Manseau has a unique method of making sure his new Duluth record store, Polliwog Records and Tapes, 1501 London Road, has all the latest new wave releases.

“I have this 18-year-old kid just out of high school who knows so much about that punk stuff,” Manseau said. “He gets like five obscure periodicals a month, which helps us.”

Manseau keeps current on other areas of music by employing two disc jockeys part time. And his store manager, Rich Alto, has been listening to and buying records since the first time the Ventures were popular.

“Among our staff we have a pretty broad knowledge of music, and they all have an input in what we stock,” Manseau said. “That’s real important to us, to have the new stuff there when people want it.”

Manseau also owns Manseau’s Range Music Center in Virginia, which he said outsells all the other record stores on the Iron Range combined. Aside from an “experimental” record store in Ely that folded after two summers, this is his first entrepreneurial try elsewhere.

“At the first store we actually had people from Duluth come to Virginia to order things they would otherwise have had to go to Minneapolis for. Duluth never had an independent record store where they could get the new stuff, or order if we don’t have it. I could tell you the names of 30 people who are glad we’re here already for just that one service,” he said.

The exterior of Polliwog Record and Tapes on London Road in Duluth on July 2, 1981. The building now is home to Marine General. (Charles Curtis / Duluth Herald)


The name Polliwog comes from the idea of being a little store in a big town, “or the little fish in the big stream. Also, it’s outrageous enough, right?”

The store’s been open about a month, on the former site of one of three Budget Tapes and Records outlets. All of them folded over the winter.

“It wasn’t the fault of the site; it was managerial,” Manseau said. “They overextended themselves and didn’t pay enough attention to business.”

Polliwog manager Alto said the store’s strong emphasis on special tastes such as reggae, jazz, blues and new wave, has already developed a small but loyal clientele. “But heavy metal is real popular in town, so we keep ourselves completely cataloged in that. Led Zeppelin’s still a strong seller. In fact, their older stuff sells strongest of all.”

Rich Alto, manager of Polliwog Records and Tapes in Duluth, July 2, 1981. (Charles Curtis / Duluth Herald)


Polliwog has weak points. There are no used albums or 45s “because they’re too much work for two little reward,” Manseau said.

But the deficiencies are made up for by the generally reasonable prices of the unusual selection, and strong regional representation. Just about every act that ever cut an album in the Twin Cities is on the racks, from old warhorses like Lamont Cranston to the latest spurts of the moment, like Hypstrz and Crackers.

“Well, the place is paying for itself already, it’s holding its own,” Manseau said. “And you wouldn’t believe my overhead. I’m happy.”


Here are a few zoomed-in views of the photos above:

Some posters from the front windows, advertising, from the top… the band Whiskey River; something perhaps related to the 1975 film “Hearts of the West” and the band Whiskey River; and something about “Inside Straight” and Rhythm & Blues at Grandma’s Big Top.


A closer look at the prints hanging above the racks.


Manseau’s Range Music Center still is in business in Virginia (at least, that appears to be the case based on Google search results), but the site of Polliwog Records and Tapes in Duluth now is occupied by Marine General. How long did it last? The News Tribune Attic files don’t say – I’ll let you fill in the rest of the story. Share any information you have by posting a comment.

Have you purchased an Attic calendar yet?

Have you purchased your News Tribune Attic calendar yet? Have you considered it as a gift for family and friends with an interest in Duluth history?

The Duluth Memories 2011 calendar, with 14 sharp, glossy, full-page reprints of some of the best of the News Tribune’s archive photos (including the one above), is available for $7 at the newspaper offices downtown. The DNT kiosk at the Miller Hill Mall has closed for the season, so calendars no longer are available there.

It’s also available for $10 by mail (that includes shipping); you can order online here.

For that price you get more than a dozen high-quality copies of photos from the newspaper’s files – it’s a great deal. Thanks to everyone who has bought a copy so far… and if you haven’t, please consider doing so. Your support of the Attic will be appreciated.

Crossroads Inn fire, 1974

Last month’s fire at the Kozy Bar and Apartments brought forth a mention in the News Tribune newsroom of another high-profile downtown fire, from decades ago – the Crossroads Inn blaze on March 21, 1974, which claimed two lives. The Crossroads Inn stood at the corner of Superior and Lake, a place now occupied by the Tech Village (more specifically, Pizza Luce).

Here’s coverage of that fire from the News Tribune archives – I don’t have the original, glossy photo prints; I have to rely on scanning in photos from old news clippings, which have marks from being folded up all these years:

Firefighters from nine fire companies attempt to extinguish flames raging through the Crossroads Inn in downtown Duluth on March 21, 1974. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

2 killed as fire hits Duluth hotel


Fire Thursday gutted the Crossroads Inn, 1 E. Superior St., killing two persons and sending eight to Duluth hospitals.

Firemen who responded to the alarm about 5:30 p.m. found the three-story building ablaze. Smoke and people were coming out the windows. One man was seen hanging from an upper window by his hands and then dropping to the Lake Avenue sidewalk where he was caught by three men. Others were removed from the upper floor windows by ladder after firemen arrived.

Dead are:

  • Olaf Johnson, 88, no known survivors.
  • Mrs. Roger Stoneburner, 27.

Both resided at the Crossroads.

Critically injured and undergoing treatment in the Miller-Dwan Hospital burn center was Walter Hill, 50.

Four of the injured were taken to St. Mary’s Hospital. They are:

  • Melvin Sandbeck, 21, in fair condition from smoke inhalation.
  • An unknown man between the ages of 25 and 35, in critical condition and unconscious from a skull fracture.
  • Two Duluth firemen, Richard Knutson, 32, and Henry Nick, 47, both of whom were released after treatment.

Three were taken to St. Luke’s Hospital. They are:

  • Bertha Jarl, 70, in satisfactory condition with a lacerated leg and smoke inhalation.
  • Roger Stoneburner, 26, who was released after treatment. He was the husband of the dead woman.
  • Leonard Kinney, 26, a member of the Duluth Fire Department rescue squad, who was released after treatment.

All the injured except the firemen were occupants of the Crossroads Inn.

One witness was Sam I. Green of the Duluth Liquor Store across Lake Avenue from the hotel.

“You wouldn’t believe how fast it went,” said Green. “It spread faster than a bullet could go. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Green said he first saw the fire through a window in a room on the Superior Street level. He said he immediately called the fire department, and by the time he hung up the telephone he could see flames through the windows of the second and third floors.

Charlie Flynn, an occupant of a first floor room, said the first he knew about the fire was when “I opened the door and it was black as coal.”

Flames were still shooting from the building more than an hour after firemen arrived on the scene. At first the fire seemed to be centered at the rear of the building, near the Gardner Hotel, but it later broke through the roof near the front.

The first firemen who entered the building with air tanks and face masks came back out almost immediately, steam coming from their heavy coats and their heads shaking as though they were driven out by the heat. …

The cause of the flash fire has not been determined and no exact estimate of damage in available, Fire Chief Del Leonard said. …

James A. Anderson, owner of the Crossroads Inn, said 20 of the 21 rooms were occupied at the time of the fire, and 15 guests had resided there for a month or more. He said the building, with remodeling, cost him $135,000 five years ago.

Lake Avenue, Superior Street and First Street were blocked by emergency vehicles, fire hoses and crowd-control ropes.

A northwest wind carried smoke down onto Superior Street where it blocked visibility and caused spectators to choke. Lake Avenue became a solid sheet of ice, causing Fire Chief Leonard to slip and fall as he conferred with Mayor Ben Boo.

Spray from the fire hoses froze on the helmets and coats of firemen and covered their equipment with ice.

Residents evacuated from the Crossroads Inn and the adjacent Gardner Hotel were talking on the sidewalk and in nearby business places, asking about each other’s friends.

The Gardner Hotel, adjacent to the Crossroads Inn, was evacuated when the fire was discovered.

“We were sitting drinking coffee and somebody hollered ‘fire,’ ” said Mrs. Evelyn Skoglund, a resident of the Gardner Hotel. “The smoke was just pouring up.” She said she immediately began knocking on doors to rouse occupants of the rooms. She said the people in one room were eating dinner, and she told them to forget the dinner because there was a fire.


Rescue workers carry an injured fireman from the Crossroads Inn blaze. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

Here’s one more take on the fire from the March 22, 1974, News Tribune:

‘A lot more unfortunate than us’


An elderly gentleman stood in the doorway of the Gardner Hotel, 12 Lake Ave. N. His overcoat was buttoned up to his neck, his cap was on firmly, his hands were clasped behind his back, and a packed suitcase stood at his feet.

He waited as the late afternoon sun bathed the doorway, a picture of infinite patience.

Just a few feet away, at the Crossroads Inn, Duluth firemen fought a multiple-alarm fire.

Thick, gray smoke poured from all the windows, and flames occasionally shot out. Hoses snaked in through a blackened, charred doorway just five feet from the old man. Firemen in black slickers, helmets and oxygen masks raced in and out. Spray from an aerial ladder formed a rainbow over the whole scene.

The elderly gentleman was Andrew Johnson, 81, a retired logger who has made his home at the Gardner for the past 10 years.

He stood there because the police had told Gardner residents to evacuate the hotel. But he had no place to go.

“No, I don’t have any relatives or anything like that in Duluth,” Johnson said in a calm voice with a slight Scandinavian accent. “But I think it will be all right after they get the fire out. I think we can sleep here tonight.”

He’d had time to get most of his belongings into a suitcase so he said he wasn’t too worried. But his hands did shake a little. Perhaps it was his age, perhaps it was the cold.

“You see that guy in the blue jacket across the street?” Johnson asked. “He lived there. He’s probably a lot more unfortunate than us.”

The guy in the blue jacket was Donald Parkkonen. He’d lived at the Crossroads since mid-January and was working at the desk when the fire broke out.

“I smelled smoke and went down the hall. It was coming out of this room so I opened the door and there was this guy on fire and flames everywhere,” he said.

Parkkonen pulled the man out of the room, still burning. Then he called the fire department and got the injured man out of the hotel. …

Parkkonen said he lost everything in the fire, but he was more concerned about how many were hurt and where the other uninjured residents would stay that night.

Up the street, near Lofdahl’s Corner Bar, Fritz Young was thanking his lucky stars. He’d considered moving into the Crossroads that day.

Young explained that he’d had lunch with Parkkonen at noon.

“Don said, ‘Why don’t you move in, we’ve got a lot of nice housekeeping rooms,’ ” Young related. “I was seriously thinking about it but I guess nobody is going to be living there for a while.”

Thick, gray smoke continued to roll from the burning hotel as dozens of firemen directed streams of water at windows and doorways.

Andrew Johnson had taken his suitcase inside the Gardner lobby to wait where it was warm. The neon sign for the hotel was on. Two icicles created by the spray from the hoses hung from it.

“Look!” exclaimed a woman in the crowd. “There’s a rainbow over the fire.”


I assume – though I’m not certain – that the building was torn down after the fire, because eventually that space became a wider sidewalk for Lake Avenue and a parking lot, as seen in this photo from March 1998 (like the last two, this shot is by the News Tribune’s Charles Curtis):

The Gardner Hotel (center left) remains; most of the rest of the block has been consumed by the Tech Village and the adjacent parking structure.

Share your stories and memories by posting a comment.