Top Ten Venues in SoCal History – #9 Ocean Park Arena

Ocean Park Arena

#9 – Ocean Park Arena

Ocean Park Arena – Santa Monica History Museum

In the 1930s, the place to find pro-wrestling on a Friday night was the Ocean Park Arena in Santa Monica. Located at 140 Pico Boulevard, the 2,400 seat arena opened in the late 1920s and would feature a who’s who of the wrestling world during its three decades of use.

The arena was owned by Mike Hirsch, who also doubled as promoter (later followed by his son Harry starting in 1954). Wrestlers such as Ed “Strangler” Lewis, Sandor Szabo, Bobo Brazil, Gorgeous George, Gory Guerrero, and Lou Thesz were all regulars at different times; Nick Bockwinkel wrestled there early in his career; and Santa Monica’s Baron Michele Leone infuriated audiences there. The arena would regularly sellouts despite Hollywood Legion Stadium holding shows every Monday and The Grand Olympic running every Wednesday, 20 and 14 miles away respectively. Despite the arena having only 2,400 seats, often the attendance would be listed as being as high as 3000. Pictures from the era show fans right up against the ring, much like a Pro Wrestling Guerrilla show now.

Tragedy struck the Ocean Park Arena in March of 1952 when Terrible Terry McGinnis (Max Eldridge Martin) died at the Arena after a public workout with Paul Matty that drew a crowd of 2000 fans. After McGinnis returned to the locker room, witnesses stated that he had taken a shower, then complained of a pain in his chest and dropped to the floor. During the fall McGinnis hit his head on the concrete. Doctors ruled that McGinnis had suffered a heart attack, but the blow to his head is what actually killed him.

Ocean Park Arena also featured boxing for most of its run, though by 1951 attendance had fallen off enough that regular boxing bouts had ended. Boxing made a brief comeback from 1954 to 1955, but held their last boxing program on August 23, 1955. Wrestling would continue at the arena until August of 1958. In October 1958 Mike Hirsch announced that he was turning the Ocean Park Arena into a bowling alley. Today an office building sits at the Arena’s old location.

The List

10. The EWF Arena
9. Ocean Park Arena
8. The Bakersfield Dome
7. American Legion Post #308
6. The San Bernardino Arena
5. San Diego Coliseum
4. Hollywood Legion Stadium
3. Staples Center
2. ???
1. ???

About the Author

Steve Bryant
Fan of Godzilla.