Harringay Arena was a sporting and events venue on Green Lanes in Harringay, North London, England. Built in 1936, it lasted as a venue until 1958.
Harringay Arena was built and owned by Brigadier-General Alfred Critchley under the auspices of his private company, the Greyhound Racing Association Trust Ltd (GRA). A new company, Harringay Arena Limited, whose directors were also directors of the GRA, was incorporated in 1929 to build and manage the venue. The company raised funds for the venture via a stock and share issue in January 1936.
Designed by Dr. Oscar Faber, the arena was a stark modernist octagonal-shaped building which borrowed heavily from the Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. It was erected adjacent to the Harringay Stadium in just eight months between February and October 1936. Its vast steel roof was constructed by Dorman Long & Co, who had recently been responsible for the Sydney Harbour Bridge and completed the new Wembley Stadium in 2007.
It had a seating capacity of almost 10,000 for ice hockey and slightly more for boxing. The actual arena was 198 feet (60 m) long by 88 feet (27 m) wide. A removable maple floor could be laid over the ice for non-sporting events. This arrangement clearly proved troublesome. At an event shortly after its opening the Daily Herald reported that "claims that Harringay had solved its cold-feet problem were not quite substantiated. Cold air from the ice below the boards filtered through.
Specifically designed as an ice hockey venue, it quickly became famous as a venue for both ice hockey and boxing.
Up to the Second World War, ice hockey enjoyed its most popular era in the UK until a revival in the 1990s. Two local teams were formed for the Arena's opening, Harringay Racers and Harringay Greyhounds. On October 26, 1938, the first ice hockey game to be televised anywhere in the world was played at Harringay between the Racers and Streatham. A year later, WWII started and ice hockey matches were suspended. This interruption proved very damaging to the sport's popularity and post-war audiences remained thin for the remainder of the Arena's life.
Boxing became firmly established at the Arena prior to the war. On April 7, 1938 Harringay was the venue for the first boxing match to be televised live when the full 15 rounds between Len Harvey v Jock McAvoy were broadcast. Following the war Harringay was a very successful boxing venue. During its 22 year life, it was home to five world title fights, a record for any British venue by the time the Arena ceased operating as a venue in 1958.
Despite running an impressive and broad ranging calendar of events from 1947 to 1958, the change in the fortunes of ice hockey in the UK and the straitened post-war circumstances meant limited commercial success for the Arena after the Second World War. The arena hosted its final event on Tuesday, 28 October 1958. It was a sentimental occasion and promoter Jack Solomons headlined with a world-class lightweight fight between Dave Charnley and Carlos Ortiz (who was to go on to become world champion). This is how The Times reported it:
After 22 years Harringay Arena is closing. This evening we shall hear this great hall echo to cheers and see cigarette smoke swirl around the ring for the last time. The most important chapter in the history of British professional boxing is over.
Behind the scenes moves for the Arena's disposal had been going on for some time. International food retailer and manufacturer, Home & Colonial Stores Ltd were offered the site in 1957. They took possession of the building and the adjacent market hall in 1958. Works to convert the Arena to its new use were complete by February 1960. It was henceforth put to use as a food storage facility for the next 20 years until its demolition in 1978.
Through the early 1980s an open air Sunday market was held on the site up until the site was developed for shopping. The initial development included principally warehouse style shopping including DIY, bathroom and food wholesale outlets. A Royal Mail sorting facility was also built which survived the later redevelopment.
Early in the 21st century the whole site was redeveloped for retail shopping as the Arena Shopping Park, hosting mid-market brands such as Next, Carphone Warehouse, Homebase and a Fitness First gym.
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