Knoxville Civic Auditorium and Coliseum

The Knoxville Civic Auditorium and Coliseum is the perfect blend of the city’s scenery and economic practically. With a beautiful exterior and a practical and efficient interior, the Civic Auditorium provides the fullest experience for any event-goer that enters its domain. Its multi-faceted design can handle any kind of performance, from ballet-dancing Celtic singers to platinum record selling musicians to hot-blooded hockey players — everyone can find an event they will enjoy.

Just for clarification: The building is called the Knoxville Civic Auditorium and Coliseum because it is a building that contains both an auditorium and a coliseum, but they are referred to as separate entities. For example, a Knoxville Ice Bears game would be located in the coliseum part of the Knoxville Civic Auditorium and Coliseum.

Location:

The Knoxville Civic Auditorium is located in northeast Knoxville on the outskirts of the city, directly off of U.S. Route 158. It sits in between James White Parkway and Howard Baker Jr BoulevardIt sits adjacent to the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and James White Fort, placing it directly in the midst of a tourism hot spot. Parking is very easy to find since the Civic Coliseum owns three parking garages (capable of holding 2,500 cars) on its property, though you will have to pay to park there for events. The location of this enormous building is pristine — far enough away from the city to avoid the traffic, close enough to major roads for easy access.

History:

The Civic Auditorium and Coliseum was originally planned in the 1950s and was supposed to be finished by 1960, but eventually was completed on August 20th, 1961. The building was originally called the James White Civic Coliseum, but as time went on, it slowly became the Knoxville Civic Auditorium and Coliseum.

When the building was first planned, Knoxville was going through an economic decline, so there were many budgetary cuts enforced. With all of those cuts adding up, the coliseum and auditorium were eventually forced to reside in the same building. There was also not enough space in Knoxville to build the Knoxville Civic Auditorium and Coliseum, so the planners had to buy out and destroy a local neighborhood to make room. There is not too much knowledge as to what effect this had on the community since the only information on it is kept through old newspapers, but there did not seem to be much unrest caused by the construction.

Once it was fully constructed, the only press coverage the Knoxville Civic Auditorium and Coliseum got was articles concerning if it was making a profit or not. The entire Knoxville community was dependent on this building to draw in people from all over the east coast, so if it did not bring in enough revenue, Knoxville had a reason to be concerned. Over the years, the Civic Coliseum definitely had revenue booms and deficits, but, overall, it has managed to stay afloat and make a hefty profit. However, the Civic Coliseum has become a little outdated (having been built in 1961), and now buildings such as the Thompson-Boling Arena and Tennessee Theater have been built (or renovated) to be newer, better versions of the Civic Coliseum and Auditorium, respectively. Still, the Knoxville Civic Auditorium and Coliseum has managed to stay profitable throughout its fifty years of operation, and will continue onward into the future.

Inside the Building:

Most Knoxvillians are confused when it comes to this building, since it is the Knoxville Civic Auditorium and Coliseum, not just the Auditorium nor the Coliseum. The building is actually organized into 4 different venue areas: The Coliseum, the Auditorium, the Ballroom, and the Private Party Room.

Inside the Coliseum

The Coliseum is the main event area that most people will identify the building with. It usually has events such as rock concerts, ice hockey, conventions, graduations — basically the Coliseum can stage any event that thousands of people would enjoy going to. It has 2 floors worth of stadium seating and a ground floor where the events take place. The Coliseum itself can hold a maximum of 7,141 people, which means that when there is an event there, it is going to be huge.

The Auditorium is a more quaint, and simple area. It is a typical stage in front of a seated audience, holding up to 2,500 people. Events within its walls are usually plays, choruses, ballets — mostly things deemed “upper class entertainment” by society. The auditorium includes one of the largest indoor stages around, and it even boasts balcony seating!

The Ballroom is basically just an enormous, multi-purpose room, rented out to the public for business presentations, test-taking, and, of course, dances. The main perk of this space is its ability to be customized, since it is just a large, white room — anyone can decorate it to their likings.

The Private Party Room does not actually have an official name, but it is just an offshoot area of the coliseum that can be rented out to the public for special occasions such as children’s birthday parties or business meetings.

The architect of the Knoxville Civic Auditorium and Coliseum recently had an interview with Knoxville’s Metro Pulse as to his architectural influence on the city of Knoxville. In his interview, he managed to share his reasons for designing the building to contain so many venues in such a small space.

“It’s certainly a functional building, though the perfectionist in McCarty has some regrets. “It first started as the Coliseum, a round building,” he says, with the smaller auditorium to be a separate building. “Economic considerations made us put it all into one big rectangle. I don’t know if I can justify it, really.” He says he was at the time under the influence of Edward Durrell Stone, famous for his proposed design of what would become known as the Kennedy Center, which combines several venues in one big rectangular building, and employs lots of patternwork in precast concrete.

The Coliseum’s roof bows out in waves, in a way that some have assumed it meant to mimic circus-tent canvas. “I don’t know why we did it that way,” McCarty says. “I can’t answer that. It’s a little dated looking, I think.”

Exterior of the Building:

The Knoxville Civic Auditorium and Coliseum emits a large sense of grandeur to anyone who visits it — much like the phantasmagorian appearance of Paris, France. Even though the inside is a bit lacking on aesthetics, the outside of it would never have you believe that. It is located directly off of a major highway, so the epic size of the building catches passers-by by surprise and imposes a sense of awe. However, the building itself is practically partitioned into 4 different styles — 1 for each side.

Front of Building

The front side showcases monstrous columns, reminiscent of Roman architecture, as to emphasize that the coliseum located inside the building is of par to the one of legend in Ancient Rome. This kind of architecture that uses certain designs and building choices, such as columns and arches, to evoke memories is called mnemotectonics, and the Civic Coliseum is full of them. Columns are located all around the building, each of which span the entirety of the building. Even many of the parking garages located around the building have staircases enclosed in massive columns. Basically, if anything on this building makes you think of Ancient Rome, it is doing its job well.

West Side of the Building

Along the west side of the building is a wall made purely of glass windows, which is a heavy contrast to the rest of the granite building. This design is inspired by the epic skyscraper-type buildings located in cities like Manhattan and Chicago, and it adds a healthy contrast to the building’s otherwise monochromatic appearance.  Being that this the front entrance to the Auditorium part, the see-through wall also helps set the mood for visitors. The glass wall acts as a barrier between the outside world and the world inside the building, much like the barrier between the seated audience and the stage inside of the auditorium.

Courtyard

The back side of the Civic Coliseum and Auditorium is probably what most people will remember about this building. Located there is a very large courtyard, which is great for meeting friends before concerts and such, and an

immense fountain. This area is a stage in itself since usually there are radio hosts and vendors located there before major events. The large field was once used as a stage for outdoor concerts, but management decided to nix the idea when there were too many freeloaders standing out on the streets and not enough people buying tickets.

The east side is the least remarkable side, which is strange since it is the side directly adjacent to the major highway. It is just a plain wall with an outcropping where several air conditioners are contained. In a way, it provides a great contrast to the other side, but that is about the best part of it.

Impact:

The Knoxville Civic Auditorium and Coliseum has probably had one of the biggest impacts of any theatrical building in all of Knoxville. With its amazing versatility of venues inside and its outstanding appearance within the city, it has brought so much life into an otherwise dreary and overlooked portion of Knoxville, and even it has even helped put Knoxville on the map as an entertainment hot spot.

Walkway from Marriott Hotel

The building has definitely had an exceedingly large economic impact on the area, too. It was built during an economic recession and helped bring Knoxville the tourist revenue it so desperately needed. As the years went on, local business decided to join arms with the Civic Coliseum to make the best out of Knoxville. Eventually, a Marriott hotel was built right across the highway to the Civic Coliseum, and, years later, a concrete overpass was built directly from the hotel to the Coliseum; this provides a nifty microcosm for people visiting the area just for an event at the Knoxville Civic Auditorium and Coliseum.

Typical Event-Goers:

The Knoxville Civic Auditorium and Coliseum is possibly the most versatile building in all of Knoxville, so it is very likely that anyone within the area could find at least one event there that they would enjoy experiencing — Make sure to always be on the lookout for upcoming events!

Page Created by Daniel Wentz.

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