Tucson Historic Sports Venues and Artifacts: The Canvas Castle/Tucson Sports Arena on West Congress

The dirt lot at 700 West Congress was almost always a dirt lot – except for a brief moment in time. The lot is now a parking lot of sorts for Sentinel Plaza to the east and Mercado San Agustin to the west but it was once a “tent” and a “sports center” that hosted boxing and professional wrestling.

Herman Ray owned almost all the land from the western banks of the Santa Cruz River to Sentinel Peak and he leased it for boat rides, circus tents and a roller skating rink with nothing more than a few small tents and one large tent people called the “Canvas Castle Arena.”

A monsoon destroyed the tent in 1948 so a structure was built that December and the lot became the Tucson Sports Center. Joe Louis boxed there in 1955 but it was mostly known for “professional wrestling” with names such as Gorilla Macias, Don “Bulldog” Kent, Gypsie Biviano, The Mad Mongol, Chief White Eagle, Brenda Scott, Ann Casey, Judy Grable, Olga Martinez, Tucson Terror, The Masked Cowboy, Chief Little Wolf and Chocolate Ice Cube wreaking havoc in the ring.


The Sports Center lasted until April of 1972, done in by the Tucson Convention Center and plans for the Banco de las Americas (the first bank with Mexican-American ownership in Tucson) on the spot, it was gone forever. In fact, ‘El Banco” operated out of a trailer where the main ring stood.


Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014, he was awarded the Ray McNally Award in 2017, a 2019 AZ Education News award winner and he has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. He was the first in Arizona to write about high school beach volleyball and high school girls wrestling. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here and on AZPreps365.com. Andy is the Southern Arizona voting member of the Ed Doherty Award, recognizing the top football player in Arizona, and he was named a Local Hero by the Tucson Weekly for 2016. Andy was named an Honorary Flowing Wells Caballero in 2019, became a member of the Sunnyside Los Mezquites Cross Country Hall of Fame in 2021 and he was a member of the Amphi COVID-19 Blue Ribbon Committee and he earned a Distinguished Service Award from Amphitheater. Contact Andy Morales at amoralesmytucson@yahoo.com

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