Remembering the Palestra Ice Arena

Today is an important date in Upper Peninsula sports history. The Palestra Ice Arena opened its doors to a hockey game for the first time on today’s date in 1904.

It was originally built in Laurium, and it may have been the first purpose-built hockey arena constructed anywhere in the world. The Palestra opened with a game between Calumet and Portage Lake of the International Professional Hockey League. New owners moved the building to Marquette in 1921, and it would remain open in Marquette for more than half a century.

“Not only hockey was there,” Marquette native John Vasseau said. “They had professional boxing there, wrestling and circuses and all kinds of events there during the summer. There were some famous boxers and wrestlers that had participated there.”

Vasseau played with the Marquette Sentinels in the Palestra throughout the 1950s. He was on the team when the Detroit Red Wings came to Marquette nearly 60 years ago.

“In 1954, we played the Red Wings here,” he said. “The building only held about 2,500, and there were over 4,000 for the exhibition game with the Red Wings that night.”

The Palestra closed in February 1974 and was torn down later that year. It used to stand where NMU’s Berry Events Center is now. Lakeview Arena, which replaced the Palestra, is located next door.