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Coliseum To Live In Hearts, Homes Salvagers Leave Arena With Memories, Seats

As dignitaries bid their final goodbyes Tuesday to one of Spokane’s grand old ladies, scavengers picked her bones at bargain prices.

The Spokane Coliseum, taking on the persona of a passing matriarch in a greedy family, officially was laid to rest so demolition can begin.

While the wrecking ball is 60 days away, the venerable arena is being gutted of asbestos and anything that will sell.

Call it a garage sale at the Boone Street Barn, a palace when it opened in 1954 to sporting events, concerts, circuses and rodeos.

“There are 41 years of memories here,” said Tracy Cassel, owner of AutoSox USA Inc., a Spokane firm that markets illuminated auto signs and promotional products.

There’s also money to be made, Cassel said.

Seats - wooden and toilet - were flying out the door Tuesday in the name of nostalgia and need.

Grandmother Marlene Traynor needed a wall toilet for the basement of her Palouse Highway home. Not a pedestal toilet, but one that connects to the wall. For $20, she cut a deal. For $40 more, she picked up 10 red seats from midway up at center ice. “They’ll look good in my barn,” she said.

Jack and Betty Bonzey of Athol, Idaho, plan to open a log bed-and-breakfast inn next year. They plunked down $20 for four of the spectator seats.

The salvage sale will continue for two to four weeks, depending on the mood of Charles Gillingham, of demolition contractor Gillingham Construction Inc. of Boise.

Gillingham’s prices also fluctuate. Brothers Adam and Wade Gelhausen scored nine seats for $20.

“Shhhhhhh, we got a better deal than that man over there,” 18-yearold Adam whispered and pointed.

Cassel bought 400 seats for an undisclosed price. He will clean them, paint them and sell them.

The only rules at the salvage sale are bring your own tools, cash and pickup.

Melanie and Richard Rodd just moved here from Portland. The Coliseum has no sentimental value to them, but, hey, those 15 red and blue seats will look fine in their in-home movie theater.

Larry “I’m Supposed To Be Working Right Now So I Can’t Give You My Last Name” grabbed 15 seats. He really didn’t know why, probably out of wistfulness. There’ll never be another Coliseum, he said.

By late summer, the 41-year-old arena will be replaced by a parking lot for the $44.8 million Veterans Memorial Arena next door. It will open Sept. 15.

During an afternoon ceremony, Mayor Jack Geraghty turned over the Coliseum’s keys to Jim Ray, chairman of the Spokane Public Facilities District Board. The gesture was to officially close the cracked and leaky arena.

But the end actually came late last Thursday in the Tri-Cities, when the Spokane Chiefs hockey club lost the seventh and final game of a playoff series.

Gary Horsman, chief engineer for the city’s entertainment facilities, reported to work early the next morning to ready the building for burial.

“We call her Grandma,” Horsman said. “In 1954, she was a great building. But just like people, sooner or later you have to get replaced.

“Grandma passed away when I got here at 4:30 a.m. on April 14. Now it’s time to send Grandma out to the funeral parlor,” he said.

Bargain hunters who streamed in and out of the Coliseum all day Tuesday will ensure that her soul lingers all over the Inland Northwest: in the Rodd’s movie theater, the Bonzey’s B&B;, and the Gelhausen’s bedrooms, along with other sports memorabilia.

But not in Charlie Logue’s house. The 75-year-old Spokane man didn’t come to buy, just to stare sadly and say his own private farewell.

Logue bought his first season hockey tickets the year the Coliseum opened and continued buying them until his wife, Anne, died in 1975.

“I guess they gotta real nice one going up over there,” Logue said, pointing at the new arena.