HERSHEY, Pa. (WHTM) — One of Hershey’s signature buildings has plenty of history, In fact, it has almost 86 years of it!
The Hersheypark Arena, affectionally known as the Old Barn, started when residents in the early days of the town of Hershey needed more space for hockey games. By 1936, Milton Hershey realized that a new structure was needed to accommodate the demand for hockey.
According to the Hershey Archives, Hershey had D. Paul Witmer, who was a manager of the Hershey Lumber Company, come up with plans to build a new and larger building. Witmer was put in touch with German engineer Anton Tedesko, who presented his plan to Witmer, who then presented it to Hershey.
Hershey was skeptical of such a large structure, but he was excited enough to give the green light on the project. The groundbreaking of the arena on March 11, 1936.
The arena is made of concrete and is composed of a barrel vault roof. The concrete shell is only 3.5 inches thick at the uppermost part. It is stiffed at 39-foot intervals by large two-hinged arch ribs. The top of the roof is 100 feet above the ground.
The arena opened on Dec. 19, 1936, as the Hershey Sports Arena.
The arena hosted a variety of entertainment, but more notably, it was the home ice for the Hershey Bears until 2002. The arena also enabled Hershey Park to extend the entertainment season in Hershey. It allowed the park an enclosed space for many sporting and performance events.
In 1972, the arena was renamed to Hersheypark Arena.
The arena hosted a basketball game in 1962 when the Philadelphia Warriors played the New York Knickerbockers. During the game, Wilt Chamberland scored 100 points, which is a record that stands to this day. The arena was also used as an evacuation site when the area was threatened by the Three Mile Island partial meltdown in 1979.
Today, the arena is still a very important part of the Hershey community. It hosts college hockey, youth hockey, and Hershey Bears hockey practices. The newer Giant Center opened in 2002 and became the home ice for the Hershey Bears the same year.
Even 86 years after it opened, the arena still holds a special place in many people’s hearts who have lived in the region.