Spokane History Timeline

The Spokane Coliseum - 1954

Before the Coliseum was built, all large events in Spokane, were held in school gyms and the Armory, which could seat anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 people. Spokane started to realize it needed a stadium, something that could have a real crowd. To gather the finances to build the Spokane Coliseum, it had to go for voter’s approval, and the first time Spokane voted “no”. A second attempt succeeded because two men named Joseph O’Larey and Joseph Drumheller persuaded Spokane to vote for the Coliseum by going to offices, schools, etc. and talking to the people.

Spokane Coliseum, 1954
L83-152.15 - The Spokane Coliseum, ca. 1955.

The Spokane Coliseum’s location at Howard and Boone Streets, also had to go for voter’s approval. Since the Coliseum was located on Boone Street, it came to have the nickname, “Boone Street Barn”.

The Coliseum construction began in September of 1953 and had a planned 8,000 capacity for conventions. Arthur R. Meehan, Mayor of Spokane proclaimed that the opening of the Coliseum would be on December 3, 1954. He also scheduled a dedication event to be held from December 3 to 15, 1954. During the event the Coliseum was packed full of people. The headline entertainment was Patrice Munsel from the Metropolitan Opera, who was born and raised in Spokane.

The construction of the Coliseum took 35 companies and all where local companies. Most of these companies are still in business like Central pre-mix, Seattle Bronze Co., John W. Graham Co., and many more. Using all local companies facilitated the Coliseum to be built in under a year and made possible extras to be added on.

Spokane Coliseum construction
L87-1.77804-54 - Spokane Coliseum Construction; Interior lloking toward the west end stage, 1954.

The Coliseum used 245 tons of concrete, which is equivalent weight of 540 horses, or 74,092 gallons of milk. A building as big as the Spokane Coliseum would cost about 3 to 4 million dollars but there were significant savings by having local companies build it. The Coliseum actually cost 2.5 million dollars. The Coliseum was 423 feet wide and 230 feet deep with two floors. The Coliseum held banquets, concerts, sports, spectacles, exhibition rooms, and even meeting rooms.

The Spokane Coliseum hosted many concerts and events such as the NCAA Division I tournament on March 11, 1958. Jimi Hendrix performed on December 3, 1968 and Elvis preformed April 27, 1976 then two years later on July 26, 1978. AC DC came to the Coliseum, and Steppenwolf on June 12, 1980. There were many more famous bands and events that performed at the Coliseum. The Coliseum was the Spokane Chiefs hockey team’s home until 1995 when it was demolished.

The left over space of the demolished Coliseum was used for the new arena’s parking lot. Before it was demolished and the wrecking ball hit, the seats were being sold for a dollar and eighty cents. The Coliseum will now live on in our memories.



Spokesman review Dec 4,1954 and Dec 5, 1954
Spokane Coliseum dedication program by Spokane Junior Chamber of Commerce
Spokane History Heritage by Spokane Falls, Washington Territory, 1881

Photos used with permission from Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture/ Eastern Washington State Historical Society.

L83-152.15 - The Spokane Coliseum, ca. 1955.
L87-1.77804-54 - Spokane Coliseum Construction; Interior looking toward the west end stage, 1954. Libby Studio

copyright (c) 2011, Discovery School.
All rights reserved.
Report created May, 2011.
Last Modified on January 4, 2012; April 2016