In its 30th year, Arena still serves as host to thousands having a good time

The Inside Stuff

November 30, 1992|By Bill Tanton

She never was a knockout. When she was born 30 years ago critics turned up their noses and sniffed:

"Who designed this place, Frank Lloyd Wrong?"

The great, gray lady of Baltimore Street -- the Arena, nee Civic Center -- observed a landmark birthday over the weekend. It was obvious to those who came calling on her that she suffers from advancing years.

She does not suffer, however, from lack of use.

Donna Patterson knows this better than anyone.

Patterson grew up in Columbia, went to college at Ohio #i University and joined Capital Centre Management, which operates the Arena. For two years, she has been general manager of the place.

"What a week we've had here," says Patterson. Then she rattles off the events that have been staged in the building over the past six days, events that have led to just about every possible configuration of the facility.

"Tuesday, we had Pam Shriver and tennis," she says. "We had 10,000 people for that. Wednesday there was wrestling. Five thousand people.

"Thursday we were off for Thanksgiving, thank goodness. But Friday night we had the Bullets and they sold out.

"Saturday we had Spirit soccer in the afternoon [3,396]. We had Skipjack hockey Saturday night [4,163] and Sunday night [1,488]."

In all, some 40,000 customers were drawn to the Arena by this smorgasbord of attractions. At times Patterson's crew had to scramble to make over the place in time for the next event.

"After the Bullets game, we had 18 workers come on at 11 p.m. It takes nine hours to put down the carpet and get the place ready for soccer. They got off at 8 o'clock Saturday morning."

Tonight there will be another crowd of about 5,000 at the Arena for a concert by Perry Como.

"He's 83 years old," Patterson says. "In the last couple weeks, we've had just about every imaginable activity. We had country music with George Jones and Conway Twitty.

"It may sound corny, but isn't that what this place is supposed to be all about? It's a publicly owned facility, and we have something here for just about every segment of the public."

Madison Square Garden it ain't, but the Arena continues to serve purpose.

* When Washington Bullets broadcaster Jim Karvellas was honored Friday night for his 30 years at NBA microphones, it brought to mind a little-known fact.

When Karvellas auditioned for the job here, another candidate was Johnny Most. Paul Hoffman was the Bullets general manager. He chose Karvellas.

That didn't keep Johnny Most from having a great career. He became a legend in three decades as the voice of the Boston Celtics.

In fact, when the new Boston Garden opens in 1995, only three things from the existing Garden, opened in 1928, will be transferred for use in the new building:

The famed parquet floor, the championship banners of the Celtics and Bruins suspended from the ceiling, and the glass-enclosed case bearing Johnny Most's microphone.

* I'm starting to get used to the scoring system at Spirit games, with goals counting for one, two and three points. When Baltimore led 10-2 at halftime Saturday, it looked like it was all over. But when Harrisburg pulled to within 12-10 in the final two minutes, the crowd was on its feet. The spectators breathed easily only when Baltimore walked off with a 14-10 victory.

* Actor Kevin Kilner, former lacrosse star at Dulaney High and Johns Hopkins, was seen on TV last night in "Murder She Wrote." Kilner was back in his hometown over the weekend. He had dinner Saturday night with some of his former teammates from coach Henry Ciccarone's NCAA championship teams at Hopkins.

* Maryland's football season ended in a blaze of glory with the 30-point win over Clemson -- and then its football banquet ended simply in a blaze.

A fire in the on-campus Adult Education Center prompted the management to tell master of ceremonies Johnny Holliday to instruct the crowd to leave the building.

For one hour, everyone stood outside while the fire was put under control.

* Longtime Loyola-Calvert Hall football watchers were so impressed by the play of Loyola running back Reggie Boyce on Thanksgiving Day that some were comparing him to greats of the past -- even though Boyce is still a 175-pound sophomore.

WJZ-TV's Chris Ely thought he was getting to be a young old-timer because he served as the Loyola-Calvert Hall public address announcer for the 20th year. Then the dean of local sportscasters, WBAL-TV's Vince Bagli, turned to Ely and said: "I saw my first Loyola-Calvert Hall game in 1934."

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