Greenville Memorial Auditorium
Greenville Memorial Auditorium was a large brown brick structure seating 7,500, located in downtown Greenville, South Carolina, at East North Street at Church Street, that served as a venue for concerts, beauty pageants, sporting matches and other events for 39 years, 1959 through 1997. It was imploded at ~ 8 a.m. on September 29, 1997 to be replaced by the BI-LO Center.
The City of Greenville had desired a new municipal auditorium prior to the onset of World War II (Textile Hall at 322 W. Washington Street, opened in 1915, only accommodated 5,000), but the war delayed any such plans. A site was purchased on East North Street in July 1946, but a series of delays postponed construction and it was not until May 1959 that the new Memorial Auditorium was dedicated. The multi-purpose facility was designed by Joseph G. Cunningham and Lewis J. "Dutch" Walker.
The dedication plaque read:
- Greenville Memorial Auditorium
- This building was erected by the citizens of the Greenville community as a tribute to that glorious heritage which inspired the development and formation of the American government and the freedoms to which it aspires, and is dedicated to the men and women of this community who in time of war gave freely of service and even life itself in order that this government and those freedoms might be perpetuated.
- Board of Trustees
- Ed B. Smith, Chairman
- L. M. Glenn, Secretary
- L. E. Brookshire
- Leon Campbell
- John E. Drake
- E. Roy Stone, Junior
- Susan L. Tillinghast
- T. H. Turner
- C. Douglas Wilson
The facility hosted many sporting events including the Southern Conference men's basketball tournaments in 1972, 1975, and 1976, and was long a popular venue for wrestling, especially in the 1970s and 1980s when Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Jim Crockett Promotions hosted card matches every Monday night. The Harlem Globetrotters played/performed there. The Long Horn Rodeo was hosted.
With the rise of rock and roll as well as country, Memorial Auditorium hosted a veritable who's who of musical acts. A partial list of bands that appeared there include AC/DC, Alabama, Alice In Chains, Allman Brothers Band, Anthrax, the Beach Boys, Blue Öyster Cult, Boston, Jimmy Buffet, Bush, David Cassidy, Dave Matthews Band, Def Leppard, Dio, Bob Dylan, Foghat, Gaither Trio, Rory Gallagher, Grand Funk Railroad, Horselips, the Jackson 5, Rick James, bitch, Kiss, Led Zeppelin, Ronnie McDowell, Megadeth, Molly Hatchet, Mr. Big, Nantucket, No Doubt, George Clinton & Parliament/Funkadelic, Phish, Poco, Prince, Riot, Mick Ronson, Rush, Savatage, Slayer, Rick Springfield, Starcastle, Statler Brothers, Stryper, The Time, Conway Twitty, Vanity 6, and ZZ Top. Without a doubt, the most famous show turned out to be the October 19, 1977 performance by Lynyrd Skynyrd, their fifth show of the "Street Survivors" tour, just two days after the release of the album of the same name. The following day, the band boarded their chartered Convair 240 twin-prop airliner, departed from Greenville Downtown Airport, and crashed near Gillsburg, Mississippi, from fuel starvation, just 50 miles short of their destination of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, killing three members of the band, their road manager, both pilots, and seriously injuring other members.
It has been stated that the video for Billy Ray Cyrus' sole Top 10 hit on the Hot 100, "Achey Breaky Heart", was filmed at Greenville Memorial Auditorium, but the Paramount Arts Center in Ashland, Kentucky, seems to have a stronger claim on this.
Religious revivals were also held, including appearances by Dr. Martin Luther King, and Jimmy Swaggart. The South Carolina Baptist Convention was held here, as well as functions of the Jehovah's Witnesses.
The Hejaz Shrine used the facility, as did the Hill Skills Craft Fair.
By 1997, however, the outmoded and under-maintained facility had outlived its day, and early on September 29, the structure was imploded with 165 pounds of dynamite. Hundreds gathered to watch its demolition and WFBC-4 broadcast the blast live.