End of An Era
New $10 Million Facility Likely to Replace St. John Arena
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — This week, above all others, always seems instill a sense of nostalgia amongst Ohio State fans.
As the countdown to ‘The Game’ clicks down, visions of great teams, heroic performances and legendary coaches always dance around in the heads in the heads of every good little Buckeye boy and girl, but some Ohio State memories could be in jeopardy.
The University announced Wednesday it has received a $10 million gift from Sam Covelli, CEO and owner of Covelli Enterprises, for the construction of a new 4,000-seat arena, which will become the new home for as many seven of Ohio State’s varsity sports.
The arena, which will be called Covelli Arena after Sam and Caryn Covelli, will effectively replace St. John Arena as the home for Ohio State volleyball, gymnastics, fencing and wrestling.
“It is truly an honor for Caryn and me to make this gift to the University,” said Sam Covelli.
“With a son who recently graduated from Ohio State, and businesses in Columbus, we realize how special Ohio State is both academically under the leadership of Dr. Gee and athletically under the direction of Gene Smith.”
The new building won’t actually be built in the same spot – it is part of a long-range plan to expand the current athletic district located north of Lane Avenue – but the creation of this new arena will allow Ohio State to move forward with its plans to demolish the school’s historic basketball arena.
Built in 1956, St. John Arena has hosted some impressive events throughout its history. It was the home of Buckeye basketball until the school opened Value City Arena in 1998, and the old venue saw Ohio State win the 1960 National Championship and five straight Big Ten titles from 1960 to 1964 under coach Fred Taylor.
It has held occasional OSU men’s basketball games from time to time – the most notable being the 2008 Postseason NIT game against Cal – but it’s primary use since 1998 has been the home for Ohio State’s non-revenue sports like volleyball and wrestling.
The most popular event still held at the arena is the Skull Session, the pep rally before football games. Two hours prior to kickoff The Ohio State University Marching Band performs Buckeye favorites, and the players and coaches speak to the crowd before making the walk over to Ohio Stadium.
The Skull Session certainly won’t go away, especially not while Urban Meyer is the head coach in Columbus, but the location may have to change. St. John Arena is bleeding money now that it no longer hosts basketball games and is starting to fall apart.
There was an outcry a few years ago to play at least one home basketball game in the old venue each season, but even the athletics department has moved its offices from 410 Woody Hayes Dr. over the Fawcett Center across from the new basketball arena.
The new Covelli Arena will also house administrative offices, a ticket office, concession area and catering space. It will serve as the meeting place for nearly 13,000 campers who participate in Department of Athletics programs each year.
“The university is grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Covelli for their investment in our students,” said Michael Eicher, senior vice president for advancement and president of the Ohio State University Foundation.
“This gift supports the university’s commitment to the students, staff and campus community.”
Covelli, the largest franchisee of Panera Bread in the United States and Canada, and his wife Caryn, will present a ceremonial check to Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee on Saturday, Nov. 24, during halftime of the Ohio State vs. Michigan football game.
About Covelli Enterprises
Headquartered in Warren, Ohio, Covelli Enterprises supports hundreds of charitable and community organizations across the country, donating over $13 million a year to food banks, hunger relief agencies, and other non-profit organizations through Operation Dough-Nation, a charitable arm of Covelli Enterprises.
About Sam Covelli
Covelli has earned numerous awards including 2009 Ohio Entrepreneur of the Year, 2005 Entrepreneur of the Year for Northeast Ohio by Ernst & Young; and has been honored as one of the top 10 business people in northeast Ohio.
He has served on the boards of multiple organizations, was the founder of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Mahoning Valley and Western PA, was a founding sponsor of the Giant Eagle LPGA Tournament Classic and has received numerous proclamations from U.S. House and Senate members as well as from mayors in communities where he does business.
Sam and his wife, Caryn, have three children: Candace; Danielle; and Albert, who is a 2012 graduate of The Ohio State University.
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