Sheboygan Playdium once had great pool skills Willie Mosconi

SHEBOYGAN — Until a devastating fire in 1977, the city had a downtown recreation mecca called Playdium at 713 New York Ave.

The Playdium, according to information from Beth Dippel of the Sheboygan County Historical Research Center, began life as the Eagle Auditorium when it was built in 1927. It became known as the Playdium after the Eagles ceased to use the building as a playground in 1943. .

In the early years it was a sports auditorium and housed the Sheboygan professional basketball team.

In 1938, the professional team was formed with over 100 shareholders to join the new National Basketball League, which was the precursor to today’s National Basketball Association. They played their home games at the Playdium until the Armory was built in 1941.

When games were played, basketball fans blocked the sidelines with folding chairs with people watching from the Playdium’s horseshoe-shaped balcony.

From the 1920s through the 1940s, the Playdium housed professional boxing and wrestling in its dimly lit hall, according to a news clipping. Wrestling was most popular with TV wrestling greats arriving in Sheboygan until the 1950s.

In 1956, the Playdium was also a bowling center with its 16 lanes, with only Kenosha claiming to have a larger facility.

During the 1950s, the Playdium would boast a 2,500-capacity dance floor, four full bars, and accommodations to serve up to 1,200 people at a single banquet.

The weekend dances at the popular dance center saw one-night stands performed by Xavier Cugat, Sammy Kaye, Eddy Howard, Stan Kenton, Jimmy Dorsey, Vaughn Monroe, Lawrence Welk, Wayne King and Carmen Cavelerro.

Music styles changed from Big Band sound to rock ‘n roll. The Playdium was visited by the Chieftones, a Canadian rock band, and the Fabulous Fables, a group from Nashville, among others.

Billiards became a major draw in the 1960s at the Blue Cushion Billiard Hall, which included a visit from world champion pocket billiards Willie Mosconi, who came to show off his skills and give a clinic.

A fire broke out in the 1970s when lighter liquid on a charcoal fire caused damage worth $75,000, which included smoke and water damage in the basement living room of the establishment.

In 1972, the Playdium was taken over by Earl E. Hintz, manager of the Ripon bowling alley, and Leo Kramer, Frank Hilber and attorney Albert J. Hauer, all of Fond du Lac.

Tragedy struck the building on February 22, 1977, when a fire engulfed the facility, ending its tenure on New York Avenue. What eventually replaced the Playdium is today known as Lakeshore Lanes on South Business Drive.

The remains of the building were demolished and today a parking lot is where the city once had an entertainment complex.

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