Charleston Civic Center
|Address||200 Civic Center Drive|
|Location||Charleston, West Virginia|
|Type||Indoor arena, convention center, and theater|
|Owner||City of Charleston|
|Seating type||Reserved seating|
|Capacity||11,519 (end stage concert, expandable to 13,247)
13,600 (In The Round concert)
750 (little theater)
The Charleston Civic Center is a municipal complex located in the downtown area of Charleston, West Virginia. Originally completed in 1959 at the cost of $2.5 million, the Charleston Civic Center has undergone numerous renovations and expansions. The Charleston Civic Center currently consists of three main components: the Civic Center Coliseum, the Little Theater, and the Charleston Convention Center, also referred to as the Grand Hall.
In 1953, the first in a series of general obligation bonds was approved by city voters for the construction of a civic center in the downtown area of Charleston, West Virginia between Lee Street and Quarrier Street on the banks of the Elk River just before the Elk River empties into the Kanawha River. When the original Civic Center opened in January 1959 at the cost of $2.5 million, it consisted of a 6,000-seat arena and the 750-seat "Little Theater."
The Civic Center underwent its first renovation and expansion in 1964 when 2,400 additional seats were added to the arena and a paved parking lot and an ice rink were added to the facilities. The $1.5 million project was financed through the sale of revenue bonds.
The most significant renovation and expansion began when city voters approved a $10 million general obligation bond sale in 1976 to erect a 13,000-seat coliseum, a two story lobby that connected the new coliseum with the original arena and theater, and remodel the original arena into a convention center. The project also received an additional $10 million in federal matching grants and was completed in 1980.
Two parking garages were added in 1983, accommodating up to 1,300 cars. In 1994, the 36,000-square-foot (3,300 m2) Grand Hall of the convention center received a new ceiling, paint and lighting and the ice rink was also converted into an exhibit hall in the same year. The last renovations took place between 2004 and 2006 when about $250,000 was spent to renovate the Little Theater.
The Charleston Civic Center is a venue for a number of annual events and fairs throughout the year. Among the events includes Annual West Virginia Hunting and Fishing Show, West Virginia Association of Fairs & Festivals Conference, West Virginia International Auto Show, West Virginia Sports Show, the Taste of Charleston, and the Capital City Arts & Crafts Fair. Several local high schools hold their proms and graduation ceremonies at the Civic Center. The Civic Center has also hosted local show choir festivals, including the state competition.
Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, KISS, Bruce Springsteen, George Strait, Billy Joel, and Garth Brooks have all performed at the arena. The Civic Center Coliseum also hosts the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals of the annual West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference postseason tournament, West Virginia State High School Boys and Girls Basketball Tournaments, music concerts, professional wrestling, and basketball games between in-state rivals West Virginia University and Marshall University. The West Virginia State University also holds its commencement ceremonies in the Coliseum.
In 1997 history was made at the Charleston Civic Center when entertainer Garth Brooks sold out four shows, Feb. 13-16. "Over 8,600 fans braved temperatures that hovered at 4 F purchase over 49,000 tickets for the four shows. This broke the venue's existing attendance record which Brooks set in 1992 (one show -- 12,876 tickets). Brooks also broke the venue's record for fastest sellout, with the first show selling out in 31 minutes. Brooks himself established the record in 1992, when his show sold out in 49 minutes."  At the February 15th show Garth invited a couple backstage and presented them with a new car and a Caribbean vacation for purchasing the two millionth ticket of the tour. Brooks later stated ""The thing I love about this one here in Charleston is that this was the coldest on-sale so far. The people waited in temperatures that were around 3 below, so it's poetic justice that the two millionth customer comes out of here."  This record, however, was broken by country pop superstar Taylor Swift who's July 18, 2009 show sold out in less than 15 minutes, selling all 13,455 available tickets, making her the fastest and youngest sell out show. Swift returned to the Civic Center twice more—in 2011 (for the Speak Now World Tour, and again in 2013 for the Red Tour, for which this arena was the only West Virginia stop.
During early 2007, Jay DeWispelaere, CEO of Pride Youth Programs, commented on what he felt were the inadequacies of the Charleston Civic Center. DeWispelaere originally came to Charleston to scout the city as a possible location to host Pride Youth Programs' annual anti-drug convention.
Among DeWispelaere's comments were that there was an insufficient number of meeting rooms and that the Grand Hall was not large enough for the conference's exhibit area, which includes a helicopter, a rock-climbing wall and other large features. In a stage area set up in the Grand Hall, loudspeakers had to be placed on the floor as they could not be suspended from the ceiling as with most other convention centers. The Grand Hall's low ceiling inhibited spotlight tracking on some portions of the stage area and blocked the view of the stage from the back of the Grand Hall.
As a result of DeWispelaere's comments, Charleston Mayor Danny Jones made the upgrade and expansion of the Civic Center a platform of his successful May 15, 2007 mayoral reelection campaign. On June 11, 2007, the Charleston City Council authorized a feasibility study on the expansion or replacement of the existing structure. Conventions, Sports & Leisure Int'l, a facilities planning firm in Minneapolis, Minnesota and Dallas, Texas, and the DLR Group, an architectural firm in Portland, Oregon, were hired to conducted the study.
As part of the expansion plans, the City of Charleston inquired about purchasing a 2-acre (8,100 m2) tract near the existing Civic Center and owned by the Beni Kedem Temple, a chapter of the Shriners fraternal organization. However, the Beni Kedem members voted to table the mission to sell the property to the city.
As part of a 10-year sponsorship deal with the organization, the Charleston Civic Center's new basketball court (which debuted in the 2011-12 season) is branded with a large logo for Friends of Coal, a locally-based political advocacy group. The move was criticized by local author Denise Giardina (who is an opponent of mountaintop removal mining), who believed that Friends of Coal's sponsorship was too political in nature for sporting events.
- Thompson, Matthew (May 2, 2007). "Charleston Civic Center: Time for Expansion?". Charleston Daily Mail. p. 1A.
- "Get to Know West Virginia Tourism and Hospitality Careers: Charleston Civic Center & Coliseum". West Virginia Office of Hospitality Education and Training. August 5, 2003. Retrieved 2007-05-15.
- Rivard, Ry. "Critics call foul on Civic Center's coal-sponsored basketball court logo". Charleston Daily Mail. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
- "Charleston Civic Center Event Calendar". Retrieved 2007-05-16.
- Press Release (January 19, 1997) "Garth Brooks sells out four shows in Charleston, W.V." http://www.planetgarth.com/news/article.php?cid=00037 Retrieved 05/06/13
- Press Release (February 16, 1997) "Garth Brooks surprises two millionth ticket buyers in Charleston" http://www.planetgarth.com/news/article.php?cid=43 Retrieved 05/06/13
- Steelhammer, Rick (April 14, 2007). "'This facility won't work' City Leaders Hear About Civic Center Problems". The Charleston Gazette. p. 1A. Retrieved 2007-05-16.
- Balow, Jim (May 16, 2007). "Jones Sweeps to 2nd Term as Mayor". The Charleston Gazette. p. 1A. Retrieved 2007-05-16.
- Balow, Jim (June 15, 2007). "Civic Center Upgrade on City Agenda". The Charleston Gazette. p. 1A. Retrieved 2007-08-28.
- Hohmann, George (October 22, 2007). "City weighs options for temple property, Civic Center expansion". Charleston Daily Mail. Retrieved 2007-10-31.
- Balow, Jim (October 19, 2007). "Beni Kedem stalemate stalls Civic Center expansion study". The Charleston Gazette. Retrieved 2007-10-31.