Former Coliseum Property

A large, square building surrounded by a parking lot full of 1970s-era cars and buses.
The 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 2000s, 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.


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. Below hear former and current Richfield residents talk about life before the Coliseum.

Black and white photo of ten elephants walking along a road, two by two.
A parade of elephants marching up SR 303 to the Richfield Coliseum.

Courtesy Peninsula Library & Historical Society

The Coliseum's Heyday

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.

Three people stand in a field wearing rain jackets; one points off to the left and another looks through upheld binoculars.
Birding is now a popular activity at the former Richfield Coliseum property.

© Sara Guren

From Basketballs to Bobolinks

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 and swung the wrecking balls that demolished the arena. Afterward they added topsoil and spread 5,000 pounds of seed to stabilize the soil with grasses.

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.


Learn about other farms in the valley

Last updated: December 7, 2023

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