Editor's note: This is the 113th in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington landmarks.
HUNTINGTON - Built in 1950 in a burst of post-World War II civic pride and optimism, Veterans Memorial Field House staggered from one fiscal crisis to another for most of its 60-plus years.
The genesis of the Field House can be traced to 1945, when the West Virginia Legislature established the Cabell County Recreation Board. Initially the board was charged with supervising various county playgrounds.
But Chairman Max Jones and his fellow board members had something far bigger in mind. Determined to give the city a first-class arena, they convinced the Cabell County Court (now Commission) to hire an architect.
Then, the following year, the county issued $830,000 in bonds to finance the building's construction. When a strike sent the price of steel soaring, the county had to issue a second bond issue of $175,000.
The arena opened Nov. 13, 1950, when "Holiday on Ice" began a four-day engagement. On Nov. 30, the arena was officially named Memorial Field House and dedicated to the war dead of Huntington and Cabell County. Thus the Field House seemed off to a great start. But there was big trouble ahead.
When it came time to start repaying the bond issues, the revenue stream from Field House events wasn't nearly enough to cover the payments, so the city and county had to come to the building's rescue.
Even after the voters approved a tax levy to pay off the bonds, the Field House still operated in the red. Over the years, it always seemed just one step ahead of bankruptcy.
The county was more than happy to turn the money-losing Field House over to the Cabell County Board of Education in 1986, and the school system was similarly relieved when it passed the troubled building along to the Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District a decade later.
In 2011, the park district, faced with shelling out more than $1 million for a new roof, eagerly turned it over to Marshall University, which demolished it to make way for a new soccer complex.