Since its grand opening for a “Holiday on Ice” show on October 29, 1959, the Greensboro Coliseum Complex has evolved into one of the most unique sports, entertainment and convention facilities in the country.
Over the past five and a half decades, the Complex has hosted an incredible variety of events and famous celebrities as well as more than 65 million patrons.
In its 60-year history, the Complex has had only four managing directors – Bob Kent (1958 – 1969), James Oshust (1970 – 1985), James Evans (1986 – 1994) and Matt Brown (1994 – present).
Today, the Greensboro Coliseum Complex is one of the most actively booked facilities in the country hosting more than 1,100 events on an annual basis. With its incredible versatility, the Complex has gained worldwide acclaim from promoters, producers, event planners and patrons.
History & Expansion
The idea of creating a community war memorial was first proposed by former Mayor William Sullivan in 1944, but it would not be until 1956 that voters approved a bond for the project. A groundbreaking ceremony was held in January of 1958, and later that year the inaugural advisory board (entitled the War Memorial Commission) was formed and Charles T. Hagan, Jr was appointed chairman.
Completed in 1959 at a cost of $4.5 million, the original Complex consisted of Greensboro Coliseum, War Memorial Auditorium, Town Hall Auditorium and the Blue Room. The Coliseum had a seating capacity of 9,000 seats, making it one of the largest arenas on the East Coast.
In 1968, a bond issue passed to fund an improvement package adding 7,000 seats and air conditioning to the Coliseum. Two years later (1970), the exhibition building (Special Events Center) and 7,000 seats for the Coliseum is added at a cost of $5.5 million, bringing the Colisuem's capacity to more than 16,000.
The next major expansion came in the early 1990s when Greensboro voters approved a bond issue that included $42 million in projects for the Coliseum Complex that expanded the capacity of the arena from 16,000 to 23,000 seats and doubled the size of the exhibition facility. Those improvements were completed in 1993.
In 2012, Phase I of construction began on $24 million in Coliseum Complex improvements funded from hotel/motel tax revenues. The improvements were identified by Coliseum management as critical to helping the Coliseum remain competitive with newer, more modern venues in the increasingly competitive arena industry.
Working around the existing Coliseum event schedule, Phase I improvements included the installation of approximately 9,000 new, cushioned lower level arena seats, a new center hung Daktronics scoreboard, new state-of-the-art arena sports light shutter system, new viewing platform in south end of Coliseum, four new Coliseum luxury suites, new Natty Greene’s concourse hospitality area overlooking the Coliseum lower seating level, new Ovations Lounge area with private restrooms, newly remodeled player/media entrance at the southeast corner of Coliseum, new in-arena studio broadcast platform and a new, interactive ACC Network Video Vault exhibit at the ACC Hall of Champions.
All of the Phase I improvements were completed by the beginning of the ACC Women’s and Men’s Basketball Tournaments in March, 2013. Following the Tournaments, Phase II of the $24M in capital improvement projects were immediately begun. The focus of Phase II improvements centered on major upper concourse infrastructure modifications creating a wider, more patron-friendly concourse. The newly expanded concourse (17,750 square feet larger) included new restrooms located closer to the Coliseum Arena seating area that improved convenience and enhanced ADA accessibility. Eight newly created spaces to accommodate upper level concessions stands were also added to increase food and beverage options for patrons.
Phase II improvements – which also included numerous upgrades to the Special Events Center and Greensboro Aquatic Center – were completed prior to the Coliseum Complex’s hosting of the 2014 ACC Women’s and Men’s Basketball Tournaments.
The Coliseum’s rich history of hosting sporting events is highlighted by its long and distinguished list of ACC and NCAA basketball action. The Coliseum has hosted 28 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) men’s basketball tournaments, more than any other venue, and 21 ACC women’s basketball tournament since, also the most of any venue. The Coliseum has also hosted 13 NCAA men’s tournament competitions, including the memorable 1974 Final Four, and four NCAA women’s tournaments. Looking beyond college basketball, the Coliseum has served as the home for professional basketball (the Carolina Cougars of the American Basketball Association), several professional ice hockey franchises (including the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes for two seasons), two indoor football teams and has hosted a multitude of tennis, boxing, track and field, amateur and professional wrestling and gymnastics events.
Family events have been a staple of the Coliseum calendar since its inception in 1959. “The Greatest Show on Earth,” (Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus), Disney ice and stage shows and live productions featuring Sesame Street characters make annual stops at the Coliseum Complex to the delight of thousands of youngsters each year.
The Coliseum Complex has also played host to a multitude of politicians, world leaders and religious figures including recent visits from Pres. Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former president of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Joel Osteen.
Concerts featuring the top names in the music industry have spanned generations and all genres of music. Millions of concert goers have been enjoyed the sounds of an incredibly diverse lineup of performers, including, to name just a few: Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, James Brown, The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, The Beach Boys, Led Zeppelin, Diana Ross, George Strait, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Beyonce, Jay-Z and Taylor Swift.
The Coliseum’s all-time concert attendance record was set March 1, 2003 when 23,642 “Phish-heads” packed the arena to see the legendary touring band Phish. In 2014, hosted legendary musical artist Paul McCartney in concert for the first time ever, drawing fans from across the nation. The sold-out show of more than 15,500 finished as the highest grossing concert in Greensboro Coliseum history with over $2.3 million in ticket sales. One month later, the Coliseum hosted legendary country music star Garth Brooks for a record-setting run of five consecutive concerts (Nov. 19-23, 2014). The five shows combined to sell over 70,000 tickets and gross over $4 million in ticket sales. The final performance was highlighted by a live national television performance in conjunction with the American Music Awards.
In 2019, the Coliseum Complex is celebrating its 60th anniversary with a series of events and promotions in addition to the unveiling of a list of 60 historic dates in Coliseum Complex history.