Historic Boardwalk Hall has played host to a sparkling list of dazzling entertainers and knockout sporting events throughout its 81 year history. A premier entertainment spot for visitors and residents alike, this unique seaside arena has helped to solidify Atlantic City’s reputation as the “Always Turned On” entertainment destination of the Northeast.
Built in 1929 to host the city’s growing convention industry, the historic Hall was touted an architectural marvel at that time. With its large 137 foot-high barrel vault ceiling, the Atlantic City Convention Hall as it was formerly known, laid claim to the world’s largest clear span space during that period.
Boardwalk Hall takes pride in a number of firsts. In 1930, it hosted the nation’s first indoor college football game; from July 1942 until November 16, 1945 the Army Air Forces used Convention Hall as a headquarters and training facility during World War II; the country’s first indoor helicopter flight was made here in 1970, and Boardwalk Hall was listed on the United State Register of Historic Places as a National Historic Landmark in 1987. In the early years, a number of celebrated artists have performed at Boardwalk Hall including The Beatles, Frank Sinatra, the big band orchestras of Louis Armstrong, Count Basie and Woody Herman, Luciano Pavarotti, The Police, the Rolling Stones and many more.
In December 1998 the facility began an extensive three year, $90 million renovation and restoration that would transform the building into a modern special events arena capable of variable seating for up to 14,770 people. In 2001, the new, more modern Hall was unveiled with much fanfare. Renamed “Boardwalk Hall,” the building was officially re-opened with a moving patriotic ceremony held on October 11, 2001 to honor those who serve and protect our country, state and communities.
The innovative renovation received nine architectural and engineering awards, including the 2003 National Preservation Award and Design and Construction magazine’s 2002 Renovation Project of the Year.
Since reopening, a host of world-class entertainers and national touring productions have taken the legendary stage, such as icons Lady Gaga, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Barbara Streisand, Madonna, The Rolling Stones, Jimmy Buffett, and Andrea Bocelli, among others. Boardwalk Hall has also showcased some of the most exciting professional boxing matches carded in recent history, including 2010’s Sergio “Maravilla” Martinez’s devastating knockout over Paul “The Punisher” Williams and Ring magazine’s 2003 Fight Of The Year, Gatti vs. Ward III. Other popular sports and family entertainment have included the annual Atlantic 10 Men’s Basketball Championship, Professional Bull Riders, New Jersey’s State High School Wrestling Championships, Walking With Dinosaurs, Disney On Ice, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and WWE. From 2011 through 2013, Boardwalk Hall will play host to the ECAC Hockey Men’s Championship.
Quality entertainment has garnered high honors for Boardwalk Hall’s box office in recent years. In 2003, 2004, 2007, and 2010 leading trade publications Billboard magazine and Venues Today have ranked Boardwalk Hall as the top grossing mid-sized arena in North America. In 2005, 2006 and 2008 those same publications listed Boardwalk Hall as the highest grossing mid-sized arena in the world. At the conclusion of 2009 Boardwalk Hall was recognized at the top grossing mid-sized arena in the world for the decade.
The Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority (ACCVA) manages Boardwalk Hall and serves as the destination’s principal marketing arm, stimulating economic growth through convention, business and leisure tourism development. The Authority is the first destination marketing organization in New Jersey to achieve prestigious Destination Marketing Accreditation by the Destination Marketing Association International. SMG operates Boardwalk Hall on behalf the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority.
Visit us at www.boardwalkhall.com for more information. For complete Atlantic City information, visit www.atlanticcitynj.com.
BOARDWALK HALL FAST FACTS
Atlantic City has been a favorite destination for tourists ever since it’s founding in 1854. By the early 1920’s, it also became a popular convention destination.
The post-World War I building boom provided the city with the luxury hotels that it needed to attract thousands of convention goers. The venue to host them was the newly built, state-of-the-art Atlantic City Convention Hall.
The new Convention Hall was dedicated on May 31, 1929, replacing a temporary exhibit hall located on the beach next to Million Dollar Pier. The final cost of the project was $15 million. Constructed on seven acres of concrete, the building was a modern adaptation of the Romanesque period. It was also the largest auditorium in the world built without roof posts or pillars and, as such, was heralded for its architectural and engineering achievements.
Carved in the Indiana limestone above the building’s Boardwalk facade was the testimonial that summarized its purpose:
“A permanent monument, conceived as a tribute to the ideals of Atlantic City, built by its citizens and dedicated to recreation, social progress and industrial achievements.”
Flanking this statement on the front of the two towers is the following: “Festivities, Music, Pageantry, Drama, Athletics, Education, Science, Conventions, Art, Industry” and the Latin phrase “Consilio Et Prudentia,” or Counsel and Prudence.
The Ballroom at Boardwalk Hall, overlooking the Boardwalk and the Atlantic Ocean, is a more intimate entertainment venue capable of seating 3,300.
The arched roof was modeled after the clear-span train sheds of Europe and closer to home, Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal. It maintained its structural integrity without supporting beams, through 10 pairs of three-hinged steel trusses, each spanning 350 feet and weighing 220 tons per pair. The trusses were tied to the frame columns to allow the building to flex with wind and ground pressure. Between the monumental arches was an inner ceiling clad in acoustic tiles made from compressed sugar cane fiber. The tiles were detailed to suggest the clay tile ceilings of a Roman public bath. It was truly a work of art, as well as a functional building.
The new Hall claimed the world’s largest clear span space–456 feet long and 310 feet wide under a 137 foot-high barrel vault ceiling. The large, column-free space was ideal for exhibitions and conventions. It also boasted the latest in technical advances–lighting, acoustics, and performance design.
Novel approaches to the theatrical lighting were incorporated into the structure. The 196,000 square-foot barrel ceiling of aluminum painted tiles became the reflector for a dazzling show of lighting technology, anticipating the future of using artificial light to enhance and define exterior and interior space. The design brought an “electric sun” inside the auditorium.
For 1920-era conference goers, the building offered 268,000 square feet of exhibit space, 20 conference rooms, and two bath houses. It also housed the world’s largest switchboard and what was proclaimed to be the world’s largest stage. The stage measured 110 feet wide, 85 feet deep and 165 feet between the wings. Above it, a colorful globe bearing the initials WPG (World’s Playground) advertised the city’s first radio station, broadcast from the Hall.
By 1940, the Hall had become the home of the Miss America Pageant. It also hosted the country’s first indoor nighttime college football game and first indoor flight by helicopter. Over the years, it has been the site of national political conventions and a variety of sports events including boxing, bicycle racing, basketball, track and field, tennis, ice hockey, archery, horse and dog racing, jousting, horse shows, midget car racing, bowling and wrestling.
As with many historic buildings, time took its toll. By the early 1990s — nearly three-quarters of a century after it first opened — the Atlantic City Convention Hall had fallen into disrepair. While much of the Hall’s architectural grandeur remained intact, it still needed work. In addition, there was a new need for an arena, with plans to open a new, larger Convention Center near the Atlantic City Expressway. The larger Center opened in May of 1997 as the primary location for trade shows and conventions, while plans for the original Hall called for use as the city’s prime venue for stage shows and other entertainment events.
In 1996, the State of New Jersey committed to redevelop the Hall in phases over a three-year period, from 1998 to the fall of 2001.
The renovation was based on a vision of reinvigorating this historic structure as a permanent site for performance events, a contemporary setting for the annual Miss America Pageant and an intimate setting for sporting events. The architects were Ewing Cole Cherry Brott, an expert team of historic renovators based in nearby Philadelphia. While plans called for extensive improvements, the design team took care in preserving and enhancing important aspects of the look and character of this celebrated landmark.
The primary focus of the restoration revolved around the ceiling, the loggia (open gallery) and stage and curtain. The renovation created a modern seating bowl in the lower portion of the original empty auditorium space. The following are highlights of the renovation.
* A new seating bowl was installed below the historic arcade level to accommodate flexible modern seating in a variety of configurations. Current seating capacity is approximately 14,770 for concerts.
* The new seating system features appropriately designed sight lines. It is integrated with the original pile foundations that support the building, while at the same time, preserving the original architecture of the perimeter arcade, from which the vaulted roof springs.
* The new floor area measures approximately 119,500 sq. ft.
* The new ice rink measures 200′ x 85.’
Stage and Upper Loggia
* The permanent stage measures 148′ x 74′, and the portable stage is sized at 80′ x 60.’
* The original, renovated historic 48 state seals still decorate the loggia at the upper level of the seating tiers.
* The stage area has been restored to its original condition, including the stage curtain, and the three stained glass globes above the stage.
* The original 137-foot barrel vaulted ceiling has been restored to provide improved acoustics and high-tech lighting effects. Replacement of the historic ceiling was required to eliminate the asbestos fireproofing on the trusses. As a result, significant improvements could be made to the acoustics. Sound absorbing material is now located behind the new ceiling finishes, bringing the space into compliance with modern acoustic standards.
Lighting and Rigging
* Through the use of modern technology, the engineers recreated the original lighting. A computer-controlled network of colorized luminaries has replaced the elaborate scheme of incandescent lights, which creates the same look and feel. It is designed to efficiently light the restored ceiling with a full spectrum of colors.
* To allow more than 130,000 pounds of special theatrical equipment, production lighting and sound equipment to be hung, the existing 335-foot span trusses were strategically reinforced, with additional load capacity for other specialty rigging. A complex system of hoist motors and pulleys were coordinated and supported within the ceiling cavity to provide an operable and flexible system for the center hung scoreboard, speakers and rigging grids.
* In February 2004, the Atlantic Globe was installed in the lobby of Boardwalk Hall. Designed and created by New Jersey artist J. Kenneth Leap, the stained glass, illuminated Globe depicts fish indigenous to our waters, a mermaid and a young girl costumed in an art deco-styled bathing costume. The work was commissioned under the Public Building Arts Inclusion Act of 1978, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and the NJSEA.
* New amenities have been provided, such as larger, more comfortable seating, a spacious concourse with a variety of concession facilities and a full-service kitchen suitable for catering special events.
* The latest improvement to the facility is the open air Loggia, a restored pre-function space just outside the Ballroom that also serves as a designated smoking area.
* Five team-size dressing rooms, two star dressing rooms, a green room, a catering room and four production offices now provide comfortable and convenient back-of-house accommodations.
* New fire, mechanical and electrical systems have been installed to provide zoned cooling and heating systems within the facility.
* The restoration was designed to provide enhanced accessibility for disabled patrons.
The restorations to the Hall cost approximately $90 million. They were executed under the auspices of the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority (NJSEA). The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) provided $72 million of funding for this project.