Von Braun Center
|Former names||Huntsville Civic Center
Von Braun Civic Center
|Location||700 Monroe Street
Huntsville, Alabama 35801
|Owner||Von Braun Center Board of Control|
|Operator||Von Braun Center Board of Control|
13,760 (concert events)
|Surface||200' x 85' (hockey)|
|Broke ground||February 23, 1973|
|Opened||March 14, 1975|
|Construction cost||$15 million
($66 million in 2016 dollars)
|Alabama-Huntsville Chargers (NCAA) (1979–present)
Huntsville Blast (ECHL) (1993–1994)
Huntsville Channel Cats (SHL/CHL/SEHL) (1995–2001, 2003–2004)
Huntsville Fire (EISL) (1997–1998)
Alabama Vipers (AFL) (2000–2010)
Huntsville Flight (NBDL) (2001–2005)
Huntsville Havoc (SPHL) (2004–present)
Alabama Hammers (SIFL/PIFL) (2011–2015)
The Von Braun Center (VBC), known as the Von Braun Civic Center (VBCC) until 1997, is a multi-purpose indoor arena, meeting, and performing arts complex, with a maximum arena seating capacity of 10,000, located in Huntsville, Alabama. The original facility debuted in 1975 and has undergone several significant expansions since opening.
The VBC, in addition to the arena, features multiple exhibit halls, a concert hall, a playhouse and many other facilities, for meetings and exhibits.
It is named in honor of Dr. Wernher von Braun, a former German rocket scientist who, after World War II, was brought to the United States Army's Redstone Arsenal and along with many of his colleagues, laid the foundation for the United States space program. Planning for the facility began in 1965. The original construction included the sports arena, an exhibit hall space now known as East Hall, a concert hall, a playhouse, and museum space for the Huntsville Museum of Art. The arena as originally built seated about 8,000 for concerts, and included scoreboards and a refrigerated floor for ice events. The concert hall included an orchestra rehearsal room, dressing space for performers, and a lounge for patrons. The facility, originally referred to as the "Von Braun Civic Center", opened on March 14, 1975.
The VBC's first expansion was a west-side addition to the exhibit hall, opened in 1980 and originally referred to as West Hall (the combined space is now called simply East Hall). Expanded kitchen facilities for catering were added in 1983. Originally this was a standalone building, but it became incorporated into the construction of North Hall in 1987. North Hall was constructed as a high-end exhibit and ballroom space, with carpeting and decorative lighting. A second-floor gallery can be opened to the main space or closed off, and it has a variety of meeting rooms and salons attached.
In 1953 the city was bidding to host a meeting of the American Bowling Congress, which would require space for bowling lanes and exhibits for six months. In order to supply the space, the city agreed to the construction of South Hall, which opened in 1997. South Hall is the VBC's largest exhibit space at 100,800 sq ft (9,365 m2); it includes a large lobby area, a partitionable ballroom, and an underground parking garage. Its construction involved eliminating a portion of Williams Avenue and re-routing part of Monroe Street. A sky walk connecting South Hall to a newly constructed adjacent hotel was added in 2006.
The oldest portions of the facility underwent renovation in 2011. The improvements included new seating for the arena, reconstruction of the arena and concert hall lobbies, and a new exterior facade.
According to The Von Braun Center website Elvis Presley appeared May 30 through June 1, 1975 for an unprecedented five performances. It was the first time Elvis had played that many consecutive performances in a venue outside of Las Vegas or Stateline, Nevada.
The VBC is the home of the UAH Chargers ice hockey team, the Huntsville Havoc of the Southern Professional Hockey League, and the Alabama Hammers of the Professional Indoor Football League. Former sports teams at the VBC include the Huntsville Flight basketball of the NBDL, the Huntsville Blast and Huntsville Channel Cats ice hockey teams, the Huntsville Fire (EISL) soccer team, and the Alabama Vipers arena football team. The arena at one time hosted public ice skating, and youth hockey and figure skating programs, but those activities have since been moved to another facility.
Entertainment and culture
The arena has hosted numerous rock, pop, and country music concerts. The VBC Concert Hall has been the home venue for the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra since the facility opened in 1975. The concert hall also hosts the productions of the Broadway Theater League. The playhouse hosts the productions of Theatre Huntsville, the Fantasy Playhouse Children's Theater, and the Jim Parker Songwriters Series, as well as numerous community events. The yearly Panoply of the Arts outdoor festival takes place in Big Spring Park adjacent to the VBC.
The VBC provided space for the Huntsville Museum of Art from its opening until 1998, when the museum moved to a nearby facility. The former museum is now used as office space for VBC staff.
On October 23, 2008, it was announced that the VBC Arena would undergo a massive $15M renovation and would be renamed the Propst Arena, after the family that donated $5M to the city for the expansion. On Friday, February 5, 2010 a groundbreaking ceremony was held marking further renovations to what is now known as the Mark C. Smith Concert Hall.
- "In Alabama". The Times Daily (Florence, AL). February 24, 1973. Retrieved September 21, 2011.
- "People in the News". Times-News (Hendersonville, NC). March 15, 1975. Retrieved September 21, 2011.
- Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Community Development Project. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved November 10, 2015.
- "VBC History". Von Braun Center Board of Control. Archived from the original on December 24, 2010. Retrieved September 21, 2011.
- "Von Braun Center History: Our First 25 Years". Von Braun Center. Retrieved March 23, 2014.
- Doyle, Steve (March 4, 2015). "From Elvis to Elton, Von Braun Center celebrates 40 years of entertaining Huntsville". The Huntsville Times (Huntsville, AL: Advance Publications). Retrieved March 4, 2015.
- McCarter, Mark (March 25, 2015). "Von Braun Center has celebrated much sports success, but also been graveyard for some franchises". The Huntsville Times (Huntsville, AL: Advance Publications). Retrieved April 3, 2015.
- "Havoc rally, win in overtime". Our Sports Central. February 10, 2007. Archived from the original on June 30, 2013. Retrieved June 30, 2013.
- Roop, Lee (October 23, 2008). "VBC Plans $15M Arena Facelift and Expansion". The Huntsville Times. Retrieved October 23, 2008.
- Steve, Doyle (February 6, 2010). "$25 Million Von Braun Center Makeover to Become Much More Visible Next Week". The Huntsville Times. Retrieved February 6, 2010.
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