Winston-Salem Entertainment Sports Complex
The need for a new coliseum in Winston-Salem had been discussed for 15 years. However, bond referendums in 1976 and 1979 failed to generate enough support for a new building. With big arenas on the horizon in Chapel Hill and Charlotte, officials received enough support to put in motion the events that brought about the Winston-Salem Entertainment Sports Complex.
Here are some important dates in the life of the facility:
November 1984 – Dr. Thomas Hearn, the president of Wake Forest University, pledges $2.5 million from the school toward construction of a new coliseum by the City of Winston-Salem.
March 1985 – The 56-member Citizens’ Coliseum Committee, appointed by Mayor Wayne Corpening, endorses a plan to build a 14,000-seat arena, with a 3,500-seat annex for ice hockey, public ice-skating and the Dixie Classic Fair for a total of $24 million.
June 1985 – A bond referendum to raise $20 million for construction of a coliseum and annex is passed by Winston-Salem voters by a margin of between 4 to 1 and 5 to 1.
October 1985 – The city chooses Ellerbe Associates of Minneapolis as chief architect for the coliseum project Ellerbe’s portfolio includes the University of Kentucky’s Rupp Arena and Notre Dame’s Athletic and Convocation Center. Ellerbe announces that a Winston-Salem architectural firm, Hines-Northup-Ersoy, will serve as associate architect on the project.
November 1985 – The Triad Vietnam Veterans Association proposes that the new coliseum be named for Lawrence Joel, a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient from Winston-Salem who died in February 1984.
February 1986 – The Board of Aldermen votes to name the new coliseum the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in honor of Lawrence Joel and all Forsyth County veterans who lost their lives in armed conflict.
March 1986 – Ellerbe Associates releases its design for the coliseum and estimates total construction costs for the building at $26 million.
November 1986 – The city asks for construction bids.
March 1987 – The city awards building contracts. P.J. Dick Contracting of Pittsburgh, Pa., which submitted a bid of $14.1 million, is named the general contractor. Another $6 million in contracts is awarded to firms from Charlotte, Greensboro, Wilson and Burwick, Me.
April 23, 1987 – Ground is broken and construction begins on the coliseum, which will sit just north and east of the old Memorial Coliseum, in an area that is part of the parking lot and the Dixie Classic Fairgrounds.
December 1987 – City officials announce that the proposed annex building will cost $8.35 million, twice as high as the city’s first estimate. It will contain 80,000-plus square feet, instead of the 55,000 square feet originally planned.
March 1988 – The city hires Ronald R. Morgan, a Charlotte architect, to study plans for the annex and to determine if it would be feasible to renovate Memorial Coliseum or if part of the structure could be used as part of the new annex.
March 1988 – The city sends invitations to 5,000 artists and art galleries to submit a resume and slides of their work if they’re interested in designing the memorial at the coliseum. Work begins in studying the designs of artists.
June 1988 – The Board of Aldermen approves building the annex, which will seat 3,588 for ice hockey, and demolishing Memorial Coliseum. Completion of the new building is scheduled for the spring of 1991.
November 1988 – The Board of Aldermen accepts a memorial designed by James Ford, a New York artist. It will consist of individual markers outside the entrance and a memorial inside the lobby. A poem entitled "The Fallen" is to be engraved on the wall of the interior memorial.
March 1989 – The Board of Aldermen agrees to name the coliseum’s press room the Gene Overby Press Room, in memory of Gene Overby, the longtime WSJS announcer and "Voice of the Deacons," who died March 30, 1989, after a long battle with cancer.
June 1989 – The city approves a $168,000 marquee for the University Parkway entrance to the coliseum. The marquee will feature an electronic message board.
August 28, 1989 – The coliseum officially opens with a dedication ceremony honoring Lawrence Joel and all Forsyth County veterans who died in battle for their country.
October 10, 1997 – Elton John was largest grossing and fastest sellout in facility history.
March 25, 26, 27, 28, 1998 – Garth Brooks was largest attended and fastest sellout for multi-date show in facility history.
March 28, 2003 – An Acoustic Evening with Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds was fastest sellout in Joel Coliseum Theatre History.
1999 – Consolidation of the the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum Complex and Dixie Classic Fair was recommended by the Citizens Efficiency Review Committee.
July 1, 2005 – Operation of the Lawence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum Complex and the Dixie Classic Fairgrounds was consolidated.
May 15, 2006 – The Coliseum Complex becomes the Winston-Salem Entertainment-Sports Complex.
October 3-12 – 125th Dixie Classic Fair sets all-time attendance record of 371,219.
October 10-14, 2007 – Walking with Dinosaurs becomes the highest grossing family show in Complex history.