• Photo of the Beaver Marsh by Jeffrey Gibson.

    Cuyahoga Valley

    National Park Ohio

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  • NPS Seeks Comment on Proposed Regulation for Off-Road Bicycle Trails

    NPShas proposed a special regulation to designate and authorize off-road bicycle use on new trails constructed outside of developed areas in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The public is invited to provide comment until Monday, December 15, 2014. More »

  • Other Closures

    Valley Bridle Trail south of SR 303, across from golf course, is collapsed by river. Hard closure. Plateau Trail Bridge, north of Valley Picnic Area is closed. No detours. Plateau & Oak Hill trails are open. More »

Former Coliseum Property

Richfield Coliseum.
Richfield Coliseum
NPS Collection
 

The section of SR 303 just west of I-271 has experienced dramatic changes during the past century. What began as a row of farms, transformed into sharp angles of concrete and a field of pavement as the Richfield Coliseum rose above the treetops. Those who stayed on their land had a close up view of the huge arena's rise and eventual fall. By the early 21st century, Congress adjusted the boundaries of Cuyahoga Valley National Park to include the vacant Coliseum property. Following a dramatic demolition, the site was restored to nature, home to swaying grasses and singing birds.

Farming
Before the Richfield Coliseum, several farms occupied the over 327-acre site. The Bigelow, Roller, and Emmett families owned the largest farms on SR 303. These farmers raised vegetables, pigs, sheep, chickens, and Herford cattle. By the late 1960s, most families, including the Bigelows and Rollers, had sold the last of their farms to Nick Mileti, the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Click below to hear former and current Richfield residents talk about life before the Coliseum.

 
Oral history audio.

In Their Own Words
Click the topics to hear stories about Cuyahoga Valley life.
Click here to read the text file.

Amazing Views (45 seconds)
Richard Bigelow remembers great views from his family's farm over the Cuyahoga Valley.

Neighborhood of Farmers (31 seconds)
Keeping the Land (14 seconds)
Daniel Emmett remembers how Richfield used to look, why neighbors sold their land, and why his family refused.

Deciding to Sell (35 seconds)
Warren Roller, who grew up on his parents' farm in Richfield, recalls why his father sold the family farm for the Coliseum development.


 
Elephants marching up SR 303.

A parade of elephants marching up SR 303 to the Richfield Coliseum.

Courtesy/Peninsula Library & Historical Society

The Coliseum is Built
From 1974 to 1994, the Richfield Coliseum served as the leading entertainment center for residents of the Cleveland-Akron area. Built for the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team, the Coliseum also hosted concerts and other memorable events. Surrounding residents heard the rumble of rock bands, battled heavy traffic, and even witnessed circus elephants walking up SR 303.

 
Oral history audio.

In Their Own Words
Click the topics to hear stories about Cuyahoga Valley life.
Click here to read the text file.

Walking through the Construction (31 seconds)
Richard Bigelow describes walking through the area while the Coliseum was being built.

Plans Not Realized (24 seconds)
Warren Roller describes additional plans for the Coliseum complex.

The Circus (28 seconds)
Richard Bigelow remembers the parades of animals when the circus came to the Coliseum.

Going Up and Coming Down (12 seconds)
Daniel Emmett recalls watching the Coliseum's construction and demolition.


 
Bird watching.

Bird watching on the former Richfield Coliseum property.

©Sara Guren

From Basketballs to Bobolink
Once the Cavaliers moved to downtown Cleveland, the Coliseum stood vacant for several years as its owners, the Gund family, decided what to do with the property. To protect the neighboring national park and small communities from a major commercial development on their doorstep, they worked with the Trust for Public Land which acquired the property and oversaw the site's transformation. Workers tore up 80 acres of asphalt parking lots, swung the wrecking balls that demolished the arena, and added 5,000 pounds of topsoil.

As originally planned, The Trust for Public Land soon transferred ownership to Cuyahoga Valley National Park, which restored the property as natural habitat. Sixty acres of grassland now attract several species of rare birds, including the bobolink, Savannah sparrow, and eastern meadowlark.

Did You Know?

Aerial view of the winding Cuyahoga River.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park's namesake river flows north and south. The Cuyahoga River begins its 100 mile journey in Geauga County, flows south to Cuyahoga Falls where it turns sharply north and flows through CVNP. American Indians referred to the U-shaped river as Cuyahoga or "crooked river."