Nashville Municipal Auditorium

From Academic Kids

The Nashville Municipal Auditorium was the primary indoor sports venue in Nashville, Tennessee from the time of its completion in 1962 until the completion of what is now the Gaylord Entertainment Center in 1996.

The concept of a large municpal auditorium was proposed for Nashville in the early post-World War II era, but other municipal priorities took precedence until the late 1950s, when funding was finally arranged. The construction was the object of great curiosity in the Nashville area, in part because it involved the use of a tower crane; many were surprised to learn that this was to be dismantled and not serve as part of the permanent structure's roof support. The Municipal Auditorium marked the last major capital expenditure by the former City of Nashville prior to its merger with Davidson County into the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County.

After the 1962 dedication ceremony, the first event held in the auditorium was a week-long gospel meeting conducted by the Church of Christ; this was followed by a rodeo. This pattern of a multiplicity of diverse usages is characteristic of the building's history. It was also frequently used as a venue for rock concerts, especially in the late 1960s and 1970s; a rap concert in the early 1990s turned tragic when there was a mass panic in the basement resulting in a young concertgoer being trampled to death. This building was also the site of Elvis Presley's only Nashville public appearance ever (although Elvis came to Nashville many times for recording sessions).

The auditorium had many drawbacks. Chief among them was probably its round shape. This made for poor sightlines for ice hockey and especially for basketball. It was also rather poor acoustically, and lost most of its concert business when other venues were developed in the Nashville area which were better suited to host music events. It also had a relatively low seating capacity; approximately 8,900 was about the limit for hockey, with a few hundred more being accommodated for basketball due to the smaller playing surface, 11,000 or 12,000 could be accommodated for events in which part of the floor was also available for seating such as religious events and concerts.

Despite these shortcomings, over the years the auditorium hosted five minor league ice hockey teams and two in basketball. The basketball teams, the Nashville Stars of the World Basketball League and the Music City Jammers of the Global Basketball Association, were both quite short-lived. The Stars played only one season; the Jammers failed to make it even quite that long, relocating to Jackson, Tennessee prior to the end of their only season (although while in Jackson, they did win the league's only championship). Additionally, there was for a brief while in 1998 a franchise in the ill-fated women's American Basketball League, the Nashville Noise. The Noise folded when the league did, about a dozen games into their first season (the league's third).

A list of the minor league hockey teams follows:

Other events held at the auditorium through the years included high school basketball, an all-star post-season college basketball game between teams representing Tennessee and Kentucky which was contested several times, professional wrestling on many occasions, and, prior to the completion of the Nashville Convention Center in the 1980s, occasional trade shows and fairs. The Memphis Pros of the old American Basketball Association played a few "home" games there. Even indoor USAC midget car racing was held there on occasion; for this usage a 0.1 mile long track consisting of fountain soft drink syrup was laid around the perimeter of the floor. (This event was probably the only one ever to match the noise level attained by tractor pulls and indoor motocross, which have also been staged there.) Several gospel music events have been held there over the years as well. Additionally, the basketball teams of Belmont University played some home games there (in the 2001-2002 season especially) while the on-campus Curb Event Center was under construction. For many years, the Auditorium was the only indoor venue in Nashville capable of making ice (using an antiquated, ammonia-based process which was obsolescent even when the facility was new) and as such hosted many youth hockey events. (These are now conducted in the ice venue by Centennial Park, which also serves as a practice facility for the Nashville Predators.) At one point, Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams seriously considered the Municipal Auditorium as a venue for his Arena football team, but the playing floor is too small for that sport without a major renovation of the entire facility. (In fact, the ice surface was always considerably short of being a regulation hockey rink.)

Since the completion of the Gaylord Entertainment Center, the Nashville Municipal Auditorium has been completely refurbished to serve as a secondary venue for events which are not of sufficient appeal to fill the GEC, such as the annual basketball tournaments of the Ohio Valley Conference (although these have recently returned to the GEC), smaller musical shows, professional wrestling, circuses, and similar events. Some of the preliminary and junior events of the 1997 U.S. Figure Skating Championships were held there.


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