|Former names||State Fair Arena (1952–1961)|
North Carolina State Fairgrounds|
1025 Blue Ridge Road
Raleigh, North Carolina
|Owner||State of North Carolina|
|Operator||State of North Carolina|
5,110 – Arena Football and Hockey |
7,610 – Basketball
|Surface||Ice, Concrete, Hardwood|
|Architect||Maciej Nowicki, William Henley Dietrick|
Carolina Cougars (ABA) (1969–1974)
J. S. Dorton Arena
|Location||North Carolina State Fairgrounds, W. Hillsborough St., Raleigh, North Carolina|
|Architect||Nowicki, Matthew, et al.; Muirhead, William, Construction|
|NRHP reference #|||
|Added to NRHP||April 11, 1973|
Architect Maciej Nowicki was killed in an airplane crash before the construction phase, and local architect William Henley Dietrick supervised the completion of the arena using Nowicki's innovative design. Its design features a steel cable supported saddle-shaped roof in tension, held up by parabolic concrete arches in compression. The arches cross about 20 feet above ground level and continue underground, where the ends of the arches are held together by more steel cables in tension. The outer walls of the arena support next to no weight at all. Incorporating an unusual elliptical design by Matthew Nowicki, of the North Carolina State University Department of Architecture, the arena was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on April 11, 1973. Originally named the "State Fair Arena", it was dedicated to Dr. J. S. Dorton, former North Carolina State Fair manager, in 1961.
In the past, it has hosted many sporting events, concerts, political rallies and circuses.
The Dorton Arena was the first structure in the world to use a cable-supported roof. The structure is based on two parabolic concrete arches which lean over to the point that they are closer to being parallel to the ground than they are to being vertical. The arches lean toward and beyond each other such that they cross each other 26 feet above ground. These arches, approaching horizontal in plane, thus serve as the outer edges of the structure, which when viewed from above appears almost elliptical. The arches are supported by slender columns around the building perimeter. Cables are strung between the two opposing arch structures providing support for the saddle-shaped roof. This was the first permanent cable-supported roof in the world. Constructed in 1952, the arena was the predecessor of more famous domed stadiums to follow such as the Houston Astrodome in 1965 and the Louisiana Superdome in 1975.
The longest-running tenant was the Raleigh IceCaps (ECHL) ice hockey team from 1991–1998. The American Basketball Association's Carolina Cougars also played some games in the arena from 1969–74. It was also the home of the Carolina Rollergirls (WFTDA).
The Cougars became tenants after the Houston Mavericks moved to North Carolina in 1969. The Cougars were a "regional franchise", playing "home" games in Charlotte (Bojangles' Coliseum), Greensboro (Greensboro Coliseum), Winston-Salem Memorial Coliseum and Raleigh (Dorton Arena). Hall of Fame Coach Larry Brown began his coaching career with the Cougars in 1972. Billy Cunningham was the ABA MVP for the Brown and theCougars in the 1972–73 season. Despite a strong fan base the Cougars were sold and moved to St. Louis in 1974.
Dorton Arena was a popular venue for professional wrestling in the 70s and 80s, with sometimes weekly matches. Wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper defeated “Nature Boy” Ric Flair for the National Wrestling Alliance U.S. Heavyweight championship in Dorton Arena on Jan. 27, 1981.
Beginning in 2016, it became the home of the Triangle Torch in American Indoor Football. The Torch have since played as members of Supreme Indoor Football but left Dorton Arena prior to the 2018 season in the American Arena League.
Besides hosting sporting events, the arena is also used for concerts during the North Carolina State Fair. Various conventions and fairs also use floorspace of the arena as an exhibition space, often in conjunction with the neighboring Jim Graham building.
The arena has hosted the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) regional robotics competition and was the first space to hold a regional in the state.
Both Shaw University and Meredith College use Dorton Arena as a site for graduation, and the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics use the facility as a rain site for their commencement exercises.
Concerts in Dorton (non-fair)
Dorton Arena and Reynolds Coliseum were the only concert venues in the Capital City for many decades before Walnut Creek Amphitheater and PNC Arena were built. The building was originally designed for livestock shows, not for concerts, so while there are unobstructed views of the stage, the sound tends to bounce off the glass. Fair officials have made significant changes to improve the acoustics of the building in recent years. Many of the biggest names in entertainment have played in this arena.
|Ray Charles and his Augmented Orchestra||Oct. 8, 1962|
|Johnny Cash||September 8, 1963||Billboard Aug. 31, 1963|
|The Original Hootenanny starring the Journeyman, The Halifax 111, Geeezinslaw Brothers, Jo Mapes, Glenn Yarbrough||Nov. 1, 1963||Daily Tar Heel Oct. 27, 1963|
|Caravan of Record Stars, including the Shirelles, the Supremes and the Coasters||July 22, 1964|
|The Four Seasons||May 4, 1964|
|Beach Boys||July 12, 1965||http://vintageconcertposters.com/_main/Index.cfm?page=api/gallery/photo.cfm&id=40&gid=13&poster=Beach%20Boys%20Dorton%20Arena%201965|
|Warner Mack, the Wilburn Brothers, harold Morrison,||Nov. 26, 1965|
|The Supremes||Feb. 6, 1966||Daily Tar Heel|
|The Righteous Brothers||Oct. 28, 1966||Daily Tar Heel|
|Wilson Pickett Sho, Jr. Walker and the All Stars, Sam & Dave, Billy Stewart, James Carr, TV Mama, King Coleman and Al "TNT" Braggs and his great show orchestra||Nov. 14, 1966||Daily Tar Heel|
|Otis Reading, the Marvelettes, James & Bobby Purify, The Drifters||Jan. 30, 1967||Daily Tar Heel|
|The Supremes||Feb. 5, 1967||Daily Tar Heel (Jan. 12, 1967)|
|Lou Rawls||Feb. 18, 1967||Daily Tar Heel (Jan. 12, 1967)|
|The Temptations||March 12, 1967||Daily Tar Heel Mar 10, 1967|
|Beach Boys w/ Davy Jones||April 23, 1968||(rescheduled from April 6, which was cancelled due to MLK's assassination)|
|The Four Seasons||May 4, 1968||Billboard, April 27, 1968|
|Jimi Hendrix Experience||April 11, 1969||http://www.jimihendrix.com/us/encyclopedia#cat=434&tag=761,911&per_page=5&month=1969-4|
|Led Zeppelin||April 8, 1970||http://www.ledzeppelin.com/show/april-8-1970|
|Country Shindig - Jerry Lee Lewis with Linda Gail Lewis||Aug. 29, 1970||http://www.lookatstubs.com/cgi-bin/tickets_searchdb.pl?venue&J.S.%20Dorton%20Arena|
|The Grand Funk Railroad||April 23, 1971|
|Jackson 5||Aug. 1, 1971|
|Country Shinding - Jerry Lee Lewis, Dolly Parton & Porter Wagoner||May 28, 1971||http://www.lookatstubs.com/cgi-bin/tickets_searchdb.pl?venue&J.S.%20Dorton%20Arena|
|James Taylor / Carole King, Jo Mama||March 4, 1971||http://www.newspapers.com/newspage/67889414/|
|Black Sabbath||March 6, 1972|
|King Crimson||March 29, 1972|
|Jethro Tull w/ Captain Beefheart||April 20, 1972||Billboard April 22, 1972|
|The Guess Who Live at the Paramount||Aug. 10, 1972||Billboard, Aug. 12, 1972|
|Blood Sweat and Tears w/ NC Symphony||Jan. 12, 1973|
|The Sylvers||Nov. 16, 1973||Billboard Magazine Oct. 27, 1973|
|Blood Sweat and Tears w/ NC Symphony||Jan. 12, 1974||Daily Tar Heel Jan. 9, 1974|
|Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings||February 15, 1974|
|Tom Rundgren's Utopia||March 8, 1974|
|KISS Rock & Roll Over tour||Nov. 27, 1976||http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/kiss/1976/dorton-arena-raleigh-nc-53d0b795.html|
|The Outlaws, Rick Derringer, Foghat||Jan. 22, 1977||The Technician, Jan. 24, 1977|
|Rick James Fire it Up tour w/ Prince||March 15, 1980|
|Kool and the Gang, the Gap Band, Skyy and Yarbrough and Peoples||March 27, 1981||https://d.lib.ncsu.edu/collections/catalog/technician-v61n73-1981-03-27/pages/technician-v61n73-1981-03-27_0004#p|
|PKM||March 1, 1982|
|Loverboy||September 1982||The Technician Sept. 10, 1982|
|Prince (Controversy Tour)||March 12, 1982|
|Maxwell House Give 'em A Hand Concert - Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter, Jerry Reed, Lee Greenwood, Cabin Fever -[permanent dead link]||July 2, 1983|
|Heart||Aug. 31, 1985||http://www.wolfgangsvault.com/heart/concerts/dorton-arena-august-31-1985.html|
|RATT / Bon Jovi 7800 Fahrenheit Tour||November 1, 1985|
|George Thorogood||Nov. 30, 1986||Daily Tar Heel Dec. 1, 1986|
|Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble||February 11, 1987|
|Petra||Nov. 2, 1990||http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/petra/1990/dorton-arena-raleigh-nc-13d0ed91.html|
|Climax Blues Band||Nov. 27, 1976||Billboard Nov. 27, 1976|
- Tensile architecture
- Tensile and membrane structures
- Thin-shell structure
- List of thin shell structures
- List of Registered Historic Places in North Carolina
- List of historic civil engineering landmarks
- National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
- Survey and Planning Unit Staff (August 1972). "J.S. Dorton Arena" (pdf). National Register of Historic Places - Nomination and Inventory. North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office. Retrieved 2015-05-01.
- "Extended history of the J.S. Dorton Arena". North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. Retrieved June 29, 2017.
- "Dorton Arena". American Society of Civil Engineers. Retrieved June 29, 2017.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-11-27. Retrieved 2014-05-19.
- "AIF in Raleigh NC begins today as new team has been awarded to Raleigh, NC". Triangle Torch. August 12, 2015. Archived from the original on August 22, 2015. Retrieved August 12, 2015.
- Official Website via the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
- Extended history including construction photos and structural details
- Historic photos of Dorton Arena
- Matthew Nowicki Papers at NCSU Libraries, includes drawings of Dorton
- Video: JS Dorton Arena, the Fairground Pavilion That Was a Modernist Marvel by ArchDaily.com, 4 September 2014