There is a venerable structure standing in Hershey, Pennsylvania known as the Old Barn. It never was designed to shelter cows or horses and it was never intended to store hay. It is not even made of wood but of concrete instead. It has witnessed championships and sports history as well as some of the most famous performers and acts in the world. It is the Hersheypark Arena.
When built in 1936, the 7,225 seat arena was the first arena built in the United States primarily for hockey. It was built as part of Milton Hershey’s Great Building Campaign designed to provide jobs for local workers during the Great Depression and to build Hershey into a tourist destination. For 66 years it was the home of the most successful and arguably most famous minor league hockey team in North America. The Hershey Bears won seven Calder Cups while calling the Old Barn home before moving to the more modern Giant Center in 2002. Typically old hockey arenas get the moniker of The Old Barn and for Bears fans their old arena was no different. No seat had an obstructed view and when it was built it was the largest monolithic structure in the United States.
While the Old Barn made its mark as a hockey arena it is perhaps better known for a unique event that took place in the sport of basketball. Numerous PIAA basketball championships were played under its roof including numerous buzzer-beaters and for many kids it was the pinnacle of their basketball careers. Those kids got to play on the same court as some early NBA stars who were trying to grow and expand the game outside of their home market. On March 2, 1962 one such game occurred between the New York Knicks and the Philadelphia Warriors with the Warriors star player Wilt Chamberlain doing something that had never been done and never equaled since in the NBA; he scored 100 points in a game. Millions claim to have been there but only 4,124 spectators were actually there.
The Old Barn has hosted many other events like Disney on Ice, the Ringling Brothers Circus and the WWF (now WWE). An Indoor Soccer team called it home for three years. In 1953 President Dwight Eisenhower had his birthday celebration at the arena. Today it is home for PIAA wrestling when the Giant Center is in use and it is the home of the Lebanon Valley College hockey program. It is also open for public skating. Despite a fire on the roof in 2012 the Old Barn is still going strong so if you find yourself in Hershey take a drive by the Old Barn!