Fact Friday #45 - Charlotte's First Coliseum and Auditorium


Happy Friday everyone!

 

The Hornets are down 0-2 in their playoff series against the Heat, but there's still time to turn things around, so let's stay optimistic! They'll be at home tomorrow night, so hopefully Buzz City can give them an extra boost! Given the playoffs, I thought I'd continue with a bit of history surrounding the Hornets and the city's coliseum that existed before they did.  

Charlotte did not have a coliseum or a proper municipal auditorium even in the 1950s, and had not ben able to attract high-quality entertainment to the city as a result. Voters approved public bonds for the construction of both such venues in 1951, and the 11,000-seat Charlotte Coliseum opened on the eastern section of Independence Boulevard in May 1955. Both the Modernist-style coliseum and the neighboring Ovens Auditorium were designed by influential local architect, A.G. Odell. At the time it opened, the coliseum was the largest unsupported steel dome in the world, and its distinctive aluminum crown spanned 332 feet. The coliseum hosted home games for the Carolina Cougars of the American Basketball Association (ABA) from 1969 to 1974, and hosted Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) men's college basketball tournament from 1968 to 1970. The dome also attracted various entertainers like Elvis Presley and the Rolling Stones during the 1970s. This picture of the structures is from 1976. 

Charlotte's first coliseum and auditorium is a remnant of the 1960s Modernist style.

This postcard view of the Coliseum's neighbor, the Ovens Auditorium, dates from 1961.

A postcard of the Charlotte Coliseum with a photo taken soon after its opening. The architecture is Modernist, but the automobiles are vintage.


The coliseum became a popular venue for professional wrestling in the 1980s and 1990s, and was home to Charlotte's minor league hockey team for various years between 1956 and 2005. It was extremely renovated in 1988 and reopened as Independence Arena in 1992, after the new stadium for the Charlotte Hornets NBA expansion team appropriated the name of the Charlotte Coliseum. The name changed again in 2001 to Cricket Arena.


Old coliseum and Ovens Auditorium grounds. 


After the Hornets moved to New Orleans in 2002, the area was threatened by the opening of the uptown arena for the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats in 2005 and the loss of the hockey team that was its major tenant, but it remained open for medium-size concerts and stage shows that would not be suitable for uptown. The old coliseum, renamed Bojangles' Coliseum in 2008, is on the local historic register and is viewed fondly by Charlotteans. For the foreseeable future, A. G. Odell's dome and the Oven's Auditorium will remain untouched and will continue to host sporting and entertainment events. 


Until next week!

 

Chris.

 

Email me at chris@704Shop.com if you have interesting Charlotte facts you’d like to share or just to provide feedback!

 

Information taken from:

 

Charlotte Then & Now, 2013, Brandon D. Lunsford

 

 

Some content reworded or updated. Additional commentary added.

 

“We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.” – Frederick Douglass