Nick Mileti

Induction Year : 2005

Sport: Basketball

On a quiet news day in 1968, unsuspecting Greater Clevelanders were mildly surprised to learn that a little-known local attorney had purchased the Cleveland Arena and its prime tenant, the Cleveland Barons of the American Hockey League. Little did they know they were reading the opening chapter of a local sports saga which in the next decade would see the construction of the largest sports empire in the city’s history, with surprises galore to come. The ink had barely dried on the Arena purchase papers when Nick Mileti set out to lure an NBA expansion team to his new building. In 1970 he was rewarded with a team he named the Cleveland Cavaliers and dressed in the Wine and Gold colors of his alma mater, John Adams High. Next, he turned his eyes to the Cleveland Indians, who were openly seeking greener fields. Teaming with a group of civic activists, he purchased the team on March 22, 1972 for $9 million. A month later, learning the Calgary Broncos of the newly-formed major league-conscious World Hockey Association would be shifted because of financial woes, he bought the franchise, shuffling the minor league Barons off to California. Now, with two indoor sport teams in his bulging major league stable, he turned his attention to replacing the aging Arena with a state-of-the-art big league home. Unable to work out an arrangement for a site in the City of Cleveland, he pulled off his climactic sports surprise by building the opulent 22,000-seat Coliseum midway between Cleveland and Akron on a site in Richfield literally surrounded by cornfields. He opened the building with a gala Frank Sinatra concert in 1974. The empire would slowly dissolve after that, but when he left Cleveland in 1979 for Beverly Hills to produce and finance plays and motion pictures, he left behind him Indians and Cavaliers teams whose presence would serve as the impetus for the construction of a new downtown sports complex forever altering the heart of downtown Cleveland.