The History of Cleveland's Public Auditorium (and the New Home of the Cleveland Charge)

Ralph DiMatteo Basketball History Sports

Public Auditorium in Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland may not be the biggest market media-wise for professional sports, but what we have truly been blessed with over the years is ownership across all the major sports that not only gave us excitement on the field or court, but a commitment to the community as well.

Whether it was investments in youth sports leagues, field/facility improvements, or players themselves involved with various charitable endeavors, fans have always felt a deep personal attachment to the teams and the players. It is probably why, despite the fact that athletes come and go more quickly these days in any sport, the deepest commitment for the city is through the pride stemming from the name on the front of the jersey.

Another example of this commitment to the city has just recently occurred with the announcement that the Cleveland Charge, the NBA G-League team affiliate of the Cleveland Cavaliers, would be moving their home arena for the third time in four years from the CSU Wolstein Center to the grand old lady on the corner of East 6th and Lakeside Avenue, the Public Auditorium (commonly referred to as Public Hall) in time for the 2024-25 season.

A $3 million commitment to improvements is being made by the Charge to upgrade the facility, and in turn, the city of Cleveland is deferring labor and rental costs up to a maximum amount of $1 million.

What an exciting prospect this is for the city and the Charge to also have a home in downtown Cleveland that they can truly call their own.

The History of Cleveland's Public Auditorium

Public Auditorium has a rich and diverse 102-year history, playing host to just about every event across the cultural spectrum. Several renovations and updates have occurred over the years (including 1928, 1936, 1964, 1987, the mid-2000s, and now the new ones) to keep the building active and relevant to the downtown area, even though so many new facilities have sprung up all around it. 

From the music side of things, Public Hall has hosted the Rock Hall induction ceremonies and both Public and Music Hall have seen performances by Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Doors, The Supremes, Grateful Dead, and even Old Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra. The Cleveland Orchestra has also played the hall, performing their 75th anniversary onsite in 1993.

The hall has also played host to the 1924 and 1936 Republican National Conventions. General and soon-to-be-president Dwight Eisenhower addressed over 15,000 supporters on my birthday, September 23rd, 1952 (a few years before I was born, I should note), and there have been plenty of other political addresses made there over the years.

Even boxing, at its highest level, had made its way to the building, when more than 11,000 fans saw Joe Louis defend his tile by knocking out Eddie Simms a mere 26 seconds into the bout.

Ironically, also from the sports side, the Cleveland State men’s basketball team occasionally used Public Hall between 1981 and 1989 before moving into what is their current home today, the Wolstein Center that the Charge is moving from. The Mid-American Conference women’s tournament was played there in 2000, and even the Division II Men’s National Wrestling Championships utilized Public Hall in 2014.

(Editor's note from Steve: Back in my days of writing for the Associated Press, I covered the 2014 Fed Cup tennis matches that took place at the Public Auditorium. I also got to check out a pretty cool NFL draft party there one year.)

Folks, full disclosure, I am old-school Cleveland through and through, and admittedly, not even the biggest basketball fan in the city, either. But one thing I can promise you, when my son shared with me the news last week about the Charge’s move to Public Hall, he can back me up when I tell you the first thing I said was, “Now I would definitely take in a Charge game there."

What a wonderful opportunity this is going to be to not only showcase one of Cleveland’s sometimes-forgotten gems while recruiting new fans to the Charge as the players pursue their dreams of making it to the NBA.

What’s left to say but “GO CHARGE!”

(Image source: FDR Presidential Library & Museum)

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