For most of my life I was aware of only two coliseums — the Colosseum in Rome and the Indiana State Fairgrounds Coliseum — so the first time I ran across a reference to the “Cicero Coliseum” I was a little surprised.
A coliseum? In Cicero?
Yes, there was one. It was located at Magnetic Springs Park, which has an interesting history of its own.
At the beginning of the 20th century a Millersburg native named Cassius “Cash” Scherer and his family farmed, and ran a saw mill and a sorghum mill, on land that bordered Cicero Creek, just west of the town of Cicero.
In 1904 Scherer opened a baseball park — appropriately named “Scherer Park” — on his farm. Eventually, there were also facilities for picnicking and boating, a track for horse, motorcycle and automobile racing, and the coliseum. The entire complex was known as “Magnetic Springs Park.”
The name came from the numerous springs located on the property. Some of those were described as “magnetic springs” which meant in addition to possessing all the usual healthful, curative properties attributed to spring water, the water was supposed to be capable of magnetizing any metal with which it came into contact.
The grand opening of the Magnetic Springs Park Coliseum took place February 15, 1913. Ads promised first-class moving pictures and roller skating on “the best floor in the county.”
An old photograph of the building shows a large structure with the sloping roof common to fieldhouses. At one end were twin towers, each topped by a American flag.
According to the Cicero history book, inside the coliseum at the north end there was a stage where plays were performed. Upstairs were living quarters where the Scherer family resided for a while.
In addition to roller skating, the coliseum was the site of numerous dances, dinners, political rallies, boxing matches, wrestling meets and basketball games.
There were also a couple of events of a more unusual nature.
In January of 1916 a hot tip led Hamilton County Sheriff Oscar Waddell to a cock fight on the premises. The fight itself doesn’t seemed to have been considered that big a deal. (Later newspaper stories called it a “chicken show”!)
No, what got the most press was the fact Cash Scherer’s son, Harry, failed to recognize the sheriff and made the mistake of selling him a pint of whiskey and two bottles of beer. (Remember — Hamilton County went “dry” in 1909.)
Young Scherer was tried later that year, found guilty and fined $50.
After Cash Scherer sold the park in 1926, one other odd event took place at the coliseum. On December 2, 1929 the Cicero Bears played a game of basketball against the Anderson Armory team . . . on ROLLER SKATES!
Years later, one of the Cicero players, Howard “Bud” Cook, wrote an account for the Cicero history book. He described roller skating basketball as a pretty rough game.
The players’ skates had big rubber toes to help them stop, but that didn’t prevent them from having plenty of collisions. The referee, who wasn’t on skates, called fewer fouls due to the players’ lack of control, but jump balls were still kept in the game.
Imagine having to jump for a basketball, land on skates and then immediately take off dribbling. Spectators probably got whiplash trying to keep track of the action!
(In case you’re wondering, the Bears won, 38 to 33.)
The coliseum was razed in 1933 and today what was once Magnetic Springs Park lies under the waters of Morse Reservoir.