Veterans Memorial Coliseum
The Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum is a 14,870-seat multi-purpose indoor arena in Phoenix, Arizona, located on the grounds of the Arizona State Fair. It is commonly referred to as simply the Coliseum.
Newspaper reports state that The Arizona State Fair Commission began planning for an "Arizona State Fairgrounds Exposition Center" as early as the fall of 1962. The Commission envisioned an indoor facility which could be used during the State Fair as well as year-round. In 1964, Phoenix architect Leslie Mahoney presented the commission with the final plans, and construction began that summer. Tucson architect Lew Place was also involved in the design, and the structural engineering firm was T. Y. Lin International.
The unique saddle-shaped, tension-cable roof, supporting over 1000 precast concrete panels, was considered innovative architectural engineering at the time. The building also contains a series of murals by Phoenix artist Paul Coze.
In April 1965, the name was officially changed to honor Arizona’s war veterans.
There was an early controversy over whether alcohol would be served at the new facility, but legislation was signed in April 1965 by Governor Sam Goddard providing for limited liquor sales.
The Coliseum opened November 3, 1965, with a production of Ice Follies. The final cost was estimated at $7 million.
This distinctive arena with its saddle-shaped roof, which sat 13,730 for ice hockey, was the home of the Phoenix Roadrunners of the WHA from 1974–1977 and of the now-defunct International Hockey League from 1989 to 1996, the Phoenix Suns of the NBA from 1968–1992, the Arizona Thunder of the World Indoor Soccer League from 1998-2000,and the Phoenix Mustangs of the now-defunct WCHL from 1999-2000. In 2006, it was announced that the Coliseum would once again be home to pro sports, as the IBL’s Phoenix Flame would play home games there. The Coliseum was affectionately referred to as "The Mad House on McDowell (named for McDowell Road, the street in Phoenix where it is located) during the Suns tenure there, by both fans and the local media.
The Coliseum will host the Arizona Derby Dames flat-track roller derby league starting with their 2009 season.
The arena hosted truck pulling sanctioned by USHRA in the late 1980’s. It was frequently featured on USHRA’s truck pulling series on ESPN.
The Coliseum also housed the Phoenix Inferno (also known as the Phoenix Pride) of the MISL from 1980 to 1983.
It hosted the 1975 NBA All-Star Game and WCW WrestleWar 1991. The Coliseum was also host to the Phoenix Mustangs hockey team as part of the West Coast Hockey League and the Phoenix Eclipse ABA basketball team. The ABA will return to the Coliseum, as the Phoenix Phantoms have selected that arena as one of their three venues.
The arena remains open for some events, even though the Suns left in 1992 for the America West Arena (now US Airways Center). The Arizona State Fair schedules concerts, comedy shows and other events in the Coliseum during the Fair’s annual season (which begins each October). Until recently it hosted portions of Arizona’s high school basketball championships, but those have been moved to the newer Jobing.com Arena.
In the fall of 2005, the Coliseum sheltered up to 2,500 evacuees from New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The evacuees were relocated to other housing in time for the opening of the Fair that October.
On January 28, 2008, presidential candidate Barack Obama held a rally at the Coliseum. Arizona governor Janet Napolitano and Caroline Kennedy were both part of the rally.