The Cleveland Centurions may not be the CHL’s best team, but they do have one dubious distinction: they play in the league’s oldest arena. Cleveland Arena was built in 1949, and although it has been renovated since then, the facility shows its age in many ways. Centurions players have long since grown accustomed to the arena’s quirks, such as the cramped locker rooms and the inconsistent supply of hot water in the showers.
This week, however, Cleveland Arena’s age – along with some rogue pigeons – caused a game to be postponed, after the lights went out during a game.
On Sunday, the Centurions were hosting their season opener against the Oshawa Drive. With about seven minutes remaining in the third period and Cleveland leading 3-0, the arena suddenly went dark. Parts of the arena have experienced outages previously, but this was the first time that the entire building had gone out.
When it occurred, the fans let out a brief whoop, while the players sighed and rolled their eyes. “I think our first reaction was ‘Here we go again,’” said Centurions RW Cleo Rodgers. “I was thinking someone needed to go up to the attic and put the hamster back on his wheel so we could have power again.”
Team officials quickly verified that the outage with confined to the arena, as nearby buildings were operating just fine. While arena staff scrambled to fix the problem, the crowd clapped and chanted “We want the lights! We want the lights!” In order to try to keep the situation from spiraling out of control, Rodgers and some of the other Cleveland players gathered at center ice and led the crowd in singing along to “Cleveland Rocks,” the team’s entrance music. Meanwhile, vendors distributed food and Centurions team pictures to the crowd by way of apology.
After 25 minutes passed and there were no signs of the power being restored, the team announced that the game was postponed and ordered fans to evacuate the arena.
Electricians and arena maintenance workers worked frantically over the next several hours to diagnose the issue. Eventually, they located the culprit: a flock of pigeons that roosted in the upper reaches of the arena. They had apparently taken up residence during the offseason, picking away pieces of insulation to build their nests. Apparently, a combination of the nests and the pigeon droppings had caused a short circuit which knocked out power throughout the building. Once the area was thoroughly cleaned and the pigeons evicted, crews were able to restore power by the following morning. The game resumed the next day, and Cleveland closed out the win without further incident.
Centurions owner Brad Pelwicki said that the outage underscored the shortcomings of Cleveland Arena.
“Look, we all know that this building isn’t exactly state of the art,” said Pelwicki. “We knew that when we moved in. But there’s a difference between a charming old barn and a deathtrap. If the city’s not going to sink the money into keeping this place up, we’re going to have to look at our options.” Pelwicki said that these options included relocation. “I’m a Cleveland boy through and through, and I don’t want to leave and disappoint our fans. But we can’t have things like this happening.”
CHL Commissioner Denny McNerny echoed Pelwicki’s concerns. “We have to think about the health and safety of our players and fans,” McNerny said in a statement. “If the Centurions are going to keep playing in this arena, we need to make sure that incidents like this don’t happen again.” McNerny added that he will work with the owner and city officials to explore possible options.
The fans, meanwhile didn’t seem to mind. “I thought it was kind of cool,” said 27-year-old Samuel Glenn of Rocky River. “A lot of fun things happen in the dark.”