Curtis Hixon Hall

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Coordinates: 27°56′57″N 82°27′43″W / 27.94917°N 82.46194°W / 27.94917; -82.46194

Brand-new Curtis Hixon Hall, 1965

Curtis Hixon Hall, located at 600 Ashley Drive, was an indoor sports arena, convention center, concert venue, and special events center which was located along the Hillsborough River in downtown Tampa, Florida. It was built in 1964, opened in 1965, and torn down in 1993. The former site of the facility is now part of the Tampa Riverwalk project and is currently occupied by Curtis Hixon Park, the Tampa Museum of Art, and the Glazer Children’s Museum.

Construction[edit]

Curtis Hixon Hall opened in 1965 during the administration of Tampa mayor Nick Nuccio, who pushed for the construction of many public works projects around town.[1] It was named for Curtis Hixon, the mayor of Tampa from 1943 until he died while still in office in 1956.[2] Architect Norman Six designed the uniquely shaped building in a modified Googie architecture style.[3]

Events[edit]

Curtis Hixon Hall held a maximum of about 6000-7000 people and could be modified to many different seating configurations as needed. The hall hosted conventions and trade shows, parties and New Year's Eve dances, and annual Gasparilla-related events. It also hosted many different special events, including political speeches - Presidential candidate Richard Nixon campaigned there in September 1968.[4]

Sports[edit]

Curtis Hixon Hall could also be set up to host various sporting events. It was the first home of the University of South Florida's basketball teams and the ABA's Floridians.

Many boxing and wrestling cards were also held at the hall. One of the most important boxing matches there was on April 24, 1971 when Bob Foster defended his Light Heavyweight Championship with a fifteen round unanimous decision over challenger Ray Anderson in a nationally televised fight.[5] Other notable fighters appearing at Curtis Hixon Hall have included Earnie Shavers, Emile Griffith, José "King" Roman, Vicente Rondón, and Maurice Watkins.[6]

Music[edit]

Curtis Hixon Hall served as the site for many concerts, as it was the primary Tampa venue for touring performers through the 1960s and 1970s, with only a handful of the biggest draws playing at much larger Tampa Stadium. Many of the top bands and musical performers played Curtis Hixon Hall during the era, including Bob Dylan (both solo and as part of the Rolling Thunder Revue[7]), David Bowie, The Who, The Eagles, Led Zeppelin, KISS, Grateful Dead, The Wailers, Ozzy Osbourne, Rush and Cat Stevens, among many others.

Jimi Hendrix played Curtis Hixon Hall twice in 1968, on August 16 and November 23.[8] In between those dates, The Jimi Hendrix Experience released their #1 charting album Electric Ladyland.

Janis Joplin was arrested by the Tampa Police for "obscenity" while playing a show with B.B. King and others in the hall on November 16, 1969.[9]

Duane Allman made one of only two public performances with Derek and the Dominos in the hall on December 1, 1970.

Elvis Presley played Curtis Hixon Hall in 1977, just months before his death.[10]

In 1982, the J. Geils Band headlined a show at the Hall. The opening act was a little-known band from Ireland called U2 on their first American tour.

Decline and demolition[edit]

Curtis Hixon Hall was outdated by the mid-1980s, and was relegated to hosting smaller events such as high school graduations while most major concerts shifted to places like the USF Sun Dome (which opened in 1980) and the nearby restored Tampa Theater.

When the much larger Tampa Convention Center opened in 1990 and Tampa began making plans to build a new downtown sports arena (the Tampa Bay Times Forum, which opened in 1996), city leaders agreed Curtis Hixon Hall had outlived its usefulness. Mayor Sandy Freedman's administration decided to tear down the building and replace it with Curtis Hixon Park. Demolition of the facility began in 1993 and the park was dedicated in 1995. Aquamarine-colored tiles from the hall were set into each bench at the park.

The site was redeveloped again in the late 2000s to integrate the area into the city's Riverwalk project. A new Tampa Museum of Art and the Glazer Children's Museum opened in 2010 on the footprint of Curtis Hixon Hall, while the open space immediately to the south became a redesigned Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.

References[edit]

External links[edit]