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Rochester Mayo Civic Auditorium

The Old Mayo Civic Auditorium was erected and equipped within Mayo Park in Rochester, MN in 1938 as a gift by the late Drs. William and Charles H. Mayo of the Mayo Clinic Hospital, for the people and surrounding communities of Rochester.  The Mayo brothers whom put up the money to build the auditorium, would be surprised at the myriad of sporting events that have been held within the arena since it wasn't particularly built for sports (see highlights below).  The arena was not originally erected to house hockey within this 16,000 square-foot building- in it original size- but rather was built with four halls, exhibition area, arena, five committee rooms with ample dressing and service rooms to be used for "professional and amateur theatrical productions, educational motion pictures and other presentations."  The Auditorium opened in 1938, but the formal dedication came on March 8, 1939 and opened with a total seating capacity in the auditoriums original form with 4,000 seats in the main arena, and 1,480 seats in the theater of what is now called Presentation Hall.  At the time of its opening it was described by city fathers as "the finest auditorium ensemble of its size in the world."  Artificial ice was installed in the arena portion of the building, as an afterthought, with a smaller than normal ice sheet measuring at 88' x 145' where the history laden Rochester Mustangs hockey team initially called this rink home.  Although a short rink- where the blue lines were said to "almost overlap one another"- this building and rink proved to be a big boost for the game of hockey in the southern part of the state.  The Mayo Civic Auditorium was the only operating artificial ice arena within the "southern communities" of Minnesota until 1968, when Graham Arena was built - which continues to ice local high school teams today.  The Auditorium has since been renamed the Mayo Civic Center and has undergone major renovations throughout the years including an $18.5 million Civic Center addition in 1996 to the existing Mayo Civic Auditorium, including Taylor Arena, was dedicated.  The Exhibition Hall and North Lobby were added in 2001, and the Rochester Art Center was added in 2003.  The entire complex is managed by the Rochester Park and Recreation Department and today no longer serves as an indoor ice hockey facility within southern Minnesota today.  At the legendary players, and teams that once took to this historic buildings ice that layed the foundation for hockey in southern Minnesota will never be forgotten! 

Auditorium Highlights

* In the 1950's was the scene of an exhibition game involving the Minneapolis Lakers, who featured George Mikan. 

* The arena was the site of an NBA exhibition game between the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Charlotte Hornets during the Wolves' inaugural season of (1989-1990). 

* The Minnesota Gophers men's basketball team has also scrimmaged at the arena. 

* The Harlem Globetrotters' basketball team have made several appearances at Mayo Civic Center, dating back to the 1950's.  

* In the 1970's- Wimbeldon tennis champion Borg from Sweden appeared in a World Team tennis match

* In the 1980's the arena was the scene of the Rochester Youth Basketball tournament, one of the largest of its kind in the country

* In 1990 a crowd of an estimated 8,000 was on hand for the Minnesota Star of the North Games when the opening ceromonies were held at the arena.

* Mayo Civic has also been the scene of some of the largest pool tournaments in the U.S., High School and youth wrestling tournaments have been held there, professional wrestling has been broadcast over national television at the arena, and numerous "ice shows" including the Ice Crystals of 1949 which put on six shows within in the auditorium.

* The Rochester Figure Skating Club's annual show was held in the auditorium every year until it moved to the Rochester Olmsted Recreation Center.

* In 1997, the U.S. women's gymnastics team, fresh off of a gold-medal-winning performance in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, took part in a competition at Mayo Civic Arena.  Among the gymnasts whom competed were Shannon Miller, Dominique Dawes and Dominique Moceanu.  This event was televised nationally from the Mayo Civic Arena.

Extremely RARE footage (no sound) of Rochester Mustangs vs. Minneapolis Bungalows game action within Civic Auditorium. (Footage digitized from reel-to-reel from Walter Bush Jr. personal archives).  Walter is seen at the end of the game awarding an unknown trophy.