VBC History

In 2000 The Von Braun Center celebrated it’s 25th anniversary. As the Von Braun Center begins a new century we look forward many more anniversaries serving Huntsville and the surrounding area.

History of our first 25 years.

Huntsville has long been blessed with citizens of great talent and industry. Time and time again these citizens have stepped forward to share their expertise in leadership roles of great responsibility. They served for no personal gain but were motivated by a sense of community service and the desire to enhance the quality of life in our community. Many of Huntsville’s finest amenities are the direct result of the prodigious effort of these selfless individuals. The airport, public library, Huntsville Hospital and the botanical gardens are results of this kind of leadership. The Von Braun Center is no exception.

In the early 1960’s certain members of the community felt that Huntsville could do better than the meager arts facilities then available. Martha Rambo affiliated with the Symphony, Elvira Glover of the Art League, Martha Hamm with Community Chorus, Dexter Nilsson of Little Theatre and others began to voice the need for housing and performance space for the arts. City Attorney Charles Younger and Councilman Joe Peters embraced the cause. Charles Younger got the idea to fund the arts by way of a liquor tax. Contact was made with the Hanes family of Winston-Salem where a successful Arts Council had been created. Huntsvillians traveled to Winston-Salem to observe, and Art Hanes was invited to Huntsville to advise. As a result the Arts Council was born. The Public Building Authority made the old West Huntsville School available for an Arts Center. Arts Council members were careful to refer to it as the “temporary” Arts Center lest opposition to the project consider that building permanent.

Imagine the City of Huntsville without the VBC. Local theatre productions were presented in the auditorium of the old West Clinton School at the corner of Church and Clinton Street. Broadway Theatre League and the Huntsville Symphony played at the Huntsville High School Auditorium. For rock and country music, one could enjoy the ambiance of the Madison County Coliseum which could seat approximately 2,000 people. For elegant banquets the Russell Erskine Hotel and the Dunnavant’s Mall (now Medical Mall) were the premier choices.

The collective desire for a cultural center gathered momentum. In 1965 the first step from dream to concrete took place. The Public Building Authority under the direction of Nathan Porter contracted with Booz-Allen-Hamilton to make plans for a civic arts center. The original concept was for a large and small theatre, exhibition space and an art museum. Three prominent recommendations of this study were that a civic advisory board be established, the site should be downtown and most importantly that a large arena style auditorium would be essential for the long term success of the facility.

In 1969 the Civic Center Advisory Board (CCAB) was chartered by the Huntsville City Council. Their mission was to advise the council on all aspects concerning the design, financing, construction and operation of a new facility to be called the Huntsville Civic Center. They were further charged with developing a master plan that included an auditorium that would seat 10,000. The council confirmed the belief that a large arena would be necessary to support the other facilities. The CCAB was chaired by David Newby. Other members were Dwight Daniell, Ted Hedden, Jim Keat, Martha Rambo, Ernst Stuhlinger and Tom Thrasher. One of the final recommendations of the CCAB was that a permanent Civic Center Board be established to oversee all aspects of the new facility.

The first meeting of the Von Braun Civic Center Board of Control was October 1, 1970 at the Russell Erskine Hotel. The original board members were Bob Stagg, Gordon Dykes, Dwight Daniell, Jim Keat, Mario Bottesini, Martha Rambo and Tom Thrasher. The Board of control appointed Howard E. Radford as Director on Sept. 8, 1971.

Original plans allowed for the building to be built in five increments. The Board insisted on all or none, as they deemed any negotiation for incremental development would jeopardize the overall project. Board Chairman Gordon Dykes of the U.S. Corps of Engineers proved invaluable as an expert on the various problems that arise during the construction of any large project. As the building neared completion, famous Huntsville artist Ed Monroe offered to donate a portrait of Wernher Von Braun to the center. Dr. and Mrs. Von Braun were visibly moved at his stunning work.

Tickets for opening weekend attractions went on sale February 24, 1975. Opening day was highlighted by the Beaux Arts Ball sponsored by the Arts Council on March 14. March 15 saw the premier performance of “Galileo Galilei” which had been commissioned by the Huntsville Symphony Assn for the grand opening of the Concert Hall. Dr. Marx Pales conducted. Notable Huntsvillians performing that night were Ken Turvey, Albert Lane, Lady Shivers Tucker and Mike Sheehy.

Rounding out the first month of operation were Holiday on Ice, Huntsville Little Theatre’s “Barefoot in the Park” and Johnny Cash. Also appearing the first year of operation were Truman Capote, Linda Ronstad, Merle Haggard and Van Cliburn. Elvis Presley appeared May 30 through June 1 for an unprecedented five performances. It was the first time Elvis had played that many consecutive performances in a venue outside of Las Vegas.

The Arena’s first rock show featured the Electric Light Orchestra with Sugarloaf and Jo Jo Gunne. Other rock groups appearing that year were the Doobie Brothers, the Jackson Five, Jimmy Buffett, the Allman Brothers and Jethro Tull. In its first six months of operation, the Civic Center drew over a half million attendees.

Country fans also enjoyed such acts as Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Charlie Pride and Chet Atkins.

Other events at the center were the Longhorn World Championship Rodeo, the Harlem Globetrotters and Lawrence Welk. Huntsville hosted the Alabama League of Municipalities Convention as well as other symposiums and conferences such as the Jaycee Convention and the International Hydrogeology Conference. Huntsville was chosen for the first American meeting of the IHC because of the advanced research in the hydrogeology of limestone areas here.

Fantasy Playhouse began its 1975-76 season with a production of “Puss ‘N Boots” in the new VBCC Playhouse. Community Chorus opened with “Brigadoon.” Broadway Theatre League’s first performance was “Gene Kelly’s Salute to Broadway ,” starring Ken Berry and Mimi Hines.

The founders’ vision of a facility for the enhancement of civic life was proven correct. The demand for space in the Civic Center quickly overwhelmed supply. To meet the demand in late 1980 additional exhibition and meeting room space was added with the addition of the West Exhibit Hall. Under the direction of Chef Tommy Armstrong, the Civic Center became “the” place to hold banquets. A much larger and more modern kitchen was added shortly thereafter. During the Tupperware Convention the Civic Center catering staff fed one thousand people a splendid prime rib dinner.

Once again the community influenced its Civic Center. The ever increasing popularity of the Center for banquets, conferences and receptions necessitated yet another expansion. The new North Hall was to be a stylish, well-appointed place of public assembly. Highlighted by oak trim and 18 chandeliers, the North Hall opened with fanfare in 1987. Due to budgetary constraints, the landscaping of the North Hall was done by the Civic Center staff. The final touches were completed only moments before guests arrived. All hands were laying sod including Operations Manager, Mike Finnegan and Board grounds chairman, Loretta Spencer.

The demand for space escalated, and larger exhibitions and tradeshows gradually outgrew the available space. For instance to accommodate the Intergraph Graphic Users Group, meals were first served in a large tent which quickly became inadequate. Food service then moved to a makeshift dining hall created in the Monroe Street parking garage. During the typical five-day conference, over twelve thousand lunches alone were served. The logistics of food service in the City parking garage brought home the need for larger convention space. The National Children’s Advocacy Symposium was also bursting at the seams for more space. With the opening the South Hall, the Center could now accommodate these conventions as well as draw others of national significance. The new South Hall opened in January 1997. The project was completed ahead of schedule and under budget. To establish the center as a regional site for convention trade, the name was changed from Von Braun Civic Center to Von Braun Center.

The South Hall was to have been inaugurated by the American Bowling Congress, a six-month event drawing bowlers from all across America. However, the early completion date enabled the Boat show to open first.

Another example of the Von Braun Center’s new national status was the Gold Wing Convention. Wing Ding XX brought 13,000 Honda Gold Wing motorcycle riders from the United States, Canada and Mexico to Huntsville for a weeklong stay.

The arts in Huntsville has come a long way from the lone voice in the wilderness of Alvin Dreger and the Music Study Club. The arts in Huntsville has never faced easy times. Its success in Huntsville is due primarily to the efforts of individuals who have inspired, challenged and motivated all of us to contribute our time and devotion to this great endeavor. The arts have not flourished because of the Von Braun Center; rather the VBC has succeeded because of all those who firmly believed in the importance of the arts. For that, we at the Von Braun Center say “thank you.”

A Few Selections From Past Performances at the Von Braun Center

1999

11/08/99 Tap Dogs

10/08/99 Annie

10/01/99 World Famous Lipizzan Stallions

08/22/99 Hootie & the Blowfish

08/13/99 Hank Williams, Jr.

07/12/99 98 Degrees

04/17/99 Wide Spread Panic

03/19/99 Elton John

02/13/99 Ice Skating Competition

01/28/99 Royal Winnepeg Ballet

01/17/99 Spirit of the Dance

01/13/99 Alan Jackson

1998

11/12/98 Animal Band

11/05/98 Shania Twain

10/10/98 R&B Hip Hop Concert

09/29/98 Carl Hurley

09/22/98 Trinity Irish Dance Co.

09/14/98 Charlie Daniels

07/06/98 Gold Wing Motorcycles

05/13/98 Huntsville Fire

05/08/98 Prince

03/15/98 Stomp

02/15/98 A Chorus Line

01/11/98 Cats

1997

12/07/97 Ringling Bros. Circus

10/23/97 Phantom of the Opera

09/07/97 Mark Chestnut / Andy Childs

07/08/97 Wally Byam

07/02/97 Grease

03/21/97 Pink Floyd Laser Light Show

03/06/97 Clay Walker

03/03/97 Longhorn Rodeo

02/16/97 Night of Enchantment

01/17/97 Alabama Music Hall of Fame

1996

12/01/98 Sound of Music

11/13/96 Southern Living Cooking School

10/18/96 Tracy Lawrence / Tracy Byrd

10/17/96 Just Chilin’

09/30/96 Riger Whittaker

09/12/96 Zig Zeigler

09/10/96 Star Trek

08/27/96 AC/DC

05/16/96 Lynyrd Skynyrd / Dobbie Brothers

04/25/96 Hank Williams Jr. / Charlie Daniels / Marshall Tucker

03/24/96 WCW

1995

11/30/95 Grease

10/21/95 Jesus Christ Superstar

08/09/95 Ringo Star

07/09/95 Faith Hill / Clint Black

07/03/95 Patty LaBelle

04/26/95 Mighty Morphic Power Rangers

04/05/95 Tour of World Figure Skating Champions

03/23/95 Boys to Men

03/18/95 Diamond Rio

01/11/95 An Evening with Charles Kuralt

1994

12/16/94 Gallagher

12/02/94 Tim McGraw / Little Texas

11/17/94 Brooks & Dunn

11/08/94 Allman Brothers

09/94 Big Spring Jam Begins

07/13/94 Moody Blues

05/13/94 Billy Ray Cyrus

05/06/94 Jeff Foxworthy

04/06/94 Royal Winnepeg Ballet

03/02/94 Young People’s Concert

02/04/94 Reba McIntyre

01/12/94 Evita

1993

12/12/93 Nutcracker-Community Ballet

11/22/93 Duran Duran

10/03/93 Les Miserables

08/11/93 Lynyrd Skynyrd

04/24/93 Hank Williams, Jr.

03/26/93 Steven Curtis Chapman

03/24/93 Secret Garden

03/07/93 Stars of Moscow Ballet

02/11/93 Vienna Chior Boys

01/29/93 Alabama Music Hall of Fame

01/20/93 Oh Calcutta

01/01/93 Peter Pan

1992

12/11/92 Dep Leppard

12/06/92 Phantom of the Opera

11/07/92 Air Force Band

11/08/92 Kiss

10/18/92 Gold Gymnastic Tour

08/05/92 Clint Black / Little texas / Aaron Tippin

06/02/92 Zeppelen’s Laser Show

05/09/92 Intergraph

04/26/92 Randy Travis

04/10/92 World Cup Champions of Ice

03/28/92 Charlie Daniels Band

02/15/92 Van Halen

1991

12/20/91 Oak Ridge Boys 3,736

10/29/91 Sesame Street 4,540

10/18/91 Conway Twitty & George Jones 5,725

10/15/91 WCW Wrestling 2,997

09/19/91 ZZ Top 9,290

09/05/91 The Judds 7,621

08/07/91 Michael Bolton 4,736

08/25/91 Huntsville Kennel Club 2,000

07/28/91 Rickey Van Shelton 3,698

06/18/91 Ringling Bros. Circus 13,146

06/07/91 WWF Wrestling 4,942

03/26/91 Teenage Ninja Turtles 5,178

02/08/91 Randy Travis 7,812

01/19/91 Boat Show 2,447

1990

11/11/90 Poison 8,739

11/10/90 Reba McEntire 7,181

08/16/90 Kiss 7,122

06/12/90 MC Hammer 8,777

06/12/90 Ringling Bros Circus 11,521

06/01/90 Bill Cosby 6,094

05/21/90 Aerosmith 8,093

05/07/90 Intergraph 8,000

04/21/90 Disney on Ice 4,370

03/30/90 Tractor & Truck Pull 2,124

03/25/90 Ronnie Milsap 2,243

03/09/90 Longhorn Rodeo 4,133

03/06/90 Whitesnake 5,731

02/07/90 Muppet Babies 3,227

02/17/90 UAH Hockey 3,363

1989

12/13/89 WWF Wrestling 6,584

11/24/89 Sesame Street 3,978

11/21/89 Jethro Tull 2,692

11/13/89 Barry Manilow 3,695

11/11/89 UAH Hockey 2,788

10/21/89 Reba McEntire 5,293

09/19/89 Bon Jovi 10,106

08/25/89 Doobie Brothers 4,332

07/19/89 Tiffany / New Kids 7,779

07/13/89 Frankie Valli 2,697

06/02/89 Dolly Parton 5,305

03/24/89 Jay Leno 2,055

03/04/89 World of Wheels Auto Show 4,876

02/26/89 Alabama 7,043

01/03/89 WWF Wrestling 8,395

1988

09/24/88 Lynyrd Skynyrd 7,028

08/22/88 AC/DC 10,106

07/22/88 David Lee Roth 9,356

07/01/88 Wally Byum Caravan 6,200

06/22/88 Ringling Bros. Circus 14,301

06/01/88 Beach Boys 5,201

05/27/88 Reba McEntire 3,030

04/29/88 George Strait 4,274

04/11/88 Aerosmith 8,929

04/01/88 Hank Williams, Jr. 9,395

03/9/88 Whitesnake 10,106

02/25/88 Kenny Rogers 5,245

02/12/88 Longhorn Rodeo 4,135

02/06/88 Def Leppard 10,106

01/06/88 Ice Capades 2,082

01/05/88 WWF Wrestling 8,404

1987

11/18/87 Tina Turner 6,084

11/10/87 Motley Crue 8,480

10/31/87 Oak Ridge Boys 3,414

06/11/87 Willie Nelson 4,246

06/05/87 Beach Boys 6,166

05/12/87 Bon Jovi 10,106

04/09/87 The Judds 3,655

03/13/87 TNT Truck Pull 4,230

03/08/87 Harlem Globetrotters 4,477

03/07/87 Superstars of Wrestling 8,396

03/06/87 Merle Haggard 4,163

02/18/87 Huey Lewis & News 8,187

02/07/87 Hank Williams, Jr. 8,450

01/09/87 Wrestling 8,749

1986

11/14/86 Conway Twitty 7,268

11/04/86 Chicago 5,026

10/31/86 Sesame Street 2,152

10/19/86 Oak Ridge Boys 5,931

09/06/86 Lee Greenwood 3,472

08/25/86 David Lee Roth 6,544

08/16/86 H-Bar-H Rodeo 1,998

05/24/86 Bob Hope 4,293

04/18/86 Barbara Mandrell 4,624

04/01/86 Van Halen 6,524

03/15/86 TNT Truck Pull 6,967

03/09/86 Harlem Globetrotters 5,894

03/21/86 Alabama 7,557

03/04/86 Heart 5,606

01/11/86 Ice Capades 4,242

1985

11/19/85 Chipmonks 3,972

11/13/85 Barry Manilow 4,899

09/27/85 Motley Crue 7,137

07/09/85 Rick Springfield 8,625

06/26/85 Amy Grant 2,677

05/18/85 World on Ice 4,799

04/15/85 Hagler vs. Hearns 647

03/31/85 Wrestlemania 1,441

03/20/85 Foreigner 6,914

03/16/85 Truck & Tractor Pull 6,963

03/06/85 Alabama 8,602

03/03/85 National Hockey Tournment Games 3,175

01/25/85 UAH Hockey 3,868

01/17/85 Kiss 6,458

1984

12/11/84 Kenny Rogers 6,924

10/26/84 Sesame Street 5,061

10/14/84 Oak Ridge Boys 8,777

10/10/84 Industrial Show 6,000

09/30/84 Rod Stewart 7,636

08/03/84 George Jones 3,909

06/22/84 Ringling Bros. Circus 6,910

05/24/84 Missile Command Procurement 3,250

05/22/84 38 Special 5,042

04/08/84 Wayne Newton 3,882

03/17/84 Truck & Tractor 6,662

03/02/84 Alabama 8,654

02/24/84 Loverboy 10,315

01/13/84 Ice Capades 6,020

1983

12/27/83 Quiet Riot 7,714

11/20/83 Kansas & Heart 4,435

11/09/83 Jimmy Buffet 2,131

11/02/83 Charlie Daniels 5,019

10/25/83 Lionel Ritchie 7,755

09/01/83 BB King 7,755

08/13/83 Waylon Jennings 4,189

08/02/83 Rick Springfield 7,874

06/21/83 Hall & Oates 6,742

06/10/83 Styx 8,793

05/20/83 Holmes vs. Witherspoon 289

05/19/83 Kenny Rogers 7,918

04/22/83 Oak Ridge Boys 8,376

04/08/83 Dan Fogleberg 6,140

03/02/83 US National Club Hockey Tournment 1,654

01/27/83 Kiss 5,025

1982

11/29/82 Van Halen 7,035

11/20/82 Loretta Lynn 4,062

11/12/82 UAH Hockey 5,147

11/01/82 Heart & John Cougar 7,548

10/08/82 Alabama 8,722

08/20/82 Barbara Mandrell 7,485

08/15/82 Loverboy 10,106

07/10/82 Kansas 9,349

06/22/82 Beach Boys 5,972

05/21/82 Hank Williams, Jr. 5,937

05/13/82 Tom Jones 4,542

02/11/82 Space Shuttle Visit 4,500

02/06/82 Oak Ridge Boys 8,642

02/05/82 UAH Hockey 6,620

01/09/82 Professional Gymnastic Classic 2,273

1981

12/30/81 Atlanta Rhythm Section 5,192

12/10/81 Willie Nelson 6,938

11/08/81 Barry Manilow 8,049

11/01/81 Sesame Street Live 4,284

10/14/81 Industrial Show 5,600

09/27/81 Foreigner 9,283

09/03/81 Van Halen 6,243

07/18/81 Ted Nugent 7,263

06/23/81 Ringling Bros. Circus 8,419

04/16/81 James Robinson Crusade 3,900

03/20/81 Mel Tillis 2,432

03/14/81 Molly Hatchett 9,500

02/06/81 Ronnie Milsap 6,124

01/17/81 Royal Lipizzan Stallions 1,285

1980

10/25/80 Kansas 9,686

10/11/80 Marshall Tucker 5,402

09/24/80 ZZ Top 7,171

08/16/80 Chic / Manhattans / Cameo / Curtis Blow 7,116

07/02/80 Charlie Daniels 9,679

06/20/80 Ringling Bros. Circus 6,640

05/05/80 Heart 6,883 03/15/80 Rufus & Chaka Kahn 5,178

04/30/80 John Denver 8,710

04/19/80 Rick James 4,256

04/17/80 Willie Nelson 7,095

03/29/80 Oak Ridge Boys 8,399

03/28/80 Rock Marathon 5,993

03/08/80 Waylon Jennings 5,456

1979

12/14/79 Kiss 9,113

12/04/79 Foreigner 7,719

11/21/79 Honor America Day 6,000

10/12/79 Kenny Rogers / Dottie West / Oak Ridge Boys 9,164

10/06/79 Jackson’s 10,345

07/16/79 Ted Nugent 6,197

06/29/79 Marty Robbins 4,226

06/28/79 Kansas 10,501

05/10/79 Bad Company 9,442

04/04/79 Holiday on Ice 5,096

03/03/79 Lawrence Welk 8,137

01/27/79 Rush 6,850

1978

12/30/78 Charlie Daniels Band 6,723

12/14/78 Doobie Brothers 7,280

11/21/78 Tony Orlando 1,873

11/17/78 Statler Brothers / Barbara Mandrell 8,708

11/11/78 Gospel Singing 418

10/30/78 Ernest Angley 2,500

10/27/78 Waylon Jennings 3,958

10/21/78 Jethro Tull 5,471

09/26/78 Heart 5,765

09/25/78 Kris Kristofferson & Rita Coolidge 6,736

09/17/78 Isley Brothers 2,296

08/17/78 Seals & Croft 3,957

07/21/78 Ted Nugent 9,107

07/10/78 Aerosmith 9,449

07/02/78 Commodores 6,784

05/13/78 O’Jay’s 9,556

1977

12/30/77 Charlie Daniels Band 6,834

10/22/77 Kansas 10,260

10/21/77 Loretta Lynn & Conway Twitty 4,822

10/01/77 Huntsville Symphony / Dukes of Dixiland 1,126

09/16/77 Jimmy Buffett 2,390

08/20/77 World of Star Trek 5,846

08/11/77 Commodores 5,991 01/25/77

07/23/77 Doobie Brothers 10,000

06/18/77 O’Jay’s 3,953

05/03/77 Madison Co. Physical Fitness Festival 3,500

05/01/77 Exhibition of Champions 2,269

04/14/77 Olivia Newton John 6,382

04/13/77 Boston 9,353

03/16/77 Englebert Humperdinck 4,166

02/18/77 Liberace 4,524

01/25/77 Alabama Baptist Conference 4,500

01/16/77 Royal Lipizzan Stallions 2,052

01/10/77 Beach Boys 5,483

1976

10/07/76 Kiss 11,500

11/13/76 Barry Manilow 5,092

10/21/76 Jimmy Buffett 1,179

09/11/76 Glenn Campbell 3,368

09/06/76 Elvis Presley 8,714

09/06/76 Elvis Presley 8,699

08/24/76 The Osmonds 7,958

08/20/76 Tenn. Valley Rodeo 3,331

06/15/76 Foremann & Frazier 343

06/12/76 Franki Valli 4,840

06/06/76 Yes 4,878

05/19/76 Aerosmith 7,917

05/04/76 Tony Orlando 7,730

04/24/76 Jerry Reed 1,911

04/17/76 Oakwood College Alumni Mtg. 4,000

04/09/76 Electric Light Orchestra 3,177

03/26/76 Marshall Tucker Band 9,864

03/11/76 Kiss 9,559

1975

11/75 B.B. King & Bobby Blue Band 1,996

10/25/75 Edger Winter 2,515

10/25/75 New Birth 4,117

10/17/75 Black Oak Arkansas 6,227

10/12/75 Jackson Five 3,707

10/09/75 Dobbie Brothers 8,843

08/18/75 Jethro Tull 4,010

08/07/75 Eagles 10,094

08/02/75 Isley Brothers 7,277

07/31/75 Osmonds 8,339

07/17/75 Seals and Croft 8,066

06/01/75 Elvis Presley 8,738

05/31/75 Elvis Presley 8,738

05/30/75 Elvis Presley 8,738

05/28/75 Alice Cooper 4,297

05/16/75 Earth Wind and Fire 4,378

04/29/75 O’Jay’s 8,429

04/25/75 Guess Who 6,522

03/31/75 Sugarloaf 3,725

A Community Reflects on the Von Braun Center

“I am so happy to be a part of our Anniversary Celebration. Over the past ten years of our “Cotton Ball” of which I am chairman, we have had about 35,000 people involved. The Guy Lombardo Orchestra led by Al Pierson has played for our Ball. One year he had just returned from England playing for the Queen. One year he refused an occasion to play at the White House. He said our Ball was the most elegant he had ever played for.

We have not had any complaints and have always been most pleased with the Civic Center and their hospitality.”

Sincerely,
Thelma Daughterty


March 5, 1983 – UAH wins the U.S. National Club Hockey Championship at the VBC defeating Penn State University 5-4. Attendance 4,334.

March 5, 1984 – UAH wins the U.S. National Club Hockey Championship at the VBC defeating Miami University 3-1. Attendance 3,648.

March 9, 1996 – UAH wins the NCAA Division II Ice Hockey Championship at the VBC defeating Bemdji State University on March 8 (7-1) and March 9 (3-0). Attendance 6,126 and 6,291.

March 14, 1998 – UAH wins the NCAA Division II Ice Hockey Championship at the VBC defeating Bemdji State University on March 13 (6-2) and March 14 (5-2). Attendance 4,103 and 5,884.

Thanks!
UAH Hockey


“First of all, I would like to offer my congratulations on the 25th Anniversary of the Von Braun Center. Wow, it sure does not seem like 25 years ago that the center opened for business. The year 1975 was a year that Huntsville started to become a center for arts and entertainment with the opening of the center.

Being a native of Huntsville, I remember a time when we had to travel to Atlanta, Birmingham, or Nashville for concerts unless it was an event that was held in the old coliseum at what later became the fairgrounds. Boy, was it ever hot in the coliseum the first week of September each year.

After several tornadoes went through Huntsville the evening of April 3, 1974, the memory of that evening was still fresh on the minds of all of us when on a night in April 1976 I had a show featuring Jerry Reed in the arena. While Reed was on stage, we had learned that the weather service at the airport had sighted a tornado on the ground headed for downtown Huntsville.

With the arena almost full, we decided that the patrons needed at least to be informed that the possibility existed that the tornado could come at or near the center. With that in mind, we had the MC interrupt the show to inform the audience what was happening, and within moments, Jerry Reed had left the stage and was wanting to leave the building, but his manager convinced him to stay and finish the show.

There are too many fond memories and experiences to address in one letter, but one thought that has and will continue to linger in my mind is the assistance and support that I always received from the management and staff which always made me look good to the various artists that I booked, resulting in some of them recommending me for the position I have held for the last sixteen years with Lee Greenwood. I owe a debt of gratitude to the past and current management for believing in me.

Good luck and best wishes during your celebration.”

Sincerely,
Jerry Bentley


“Congratulations to the Von Braun Center for twenty-five years as the city’s cultural and entertainment center.

I am please to be associated in many capacities with the VBC and have always felt how fortunate and progressive Huntsville has been in getting such a great center.”

Steven J. Greil
President & Ceo, Tennessee Performing Arts Center


“Several years ago T.L.S., Inc. was hired to provide lighting for an event in the arena for Bob Hope. Right as Bob came on stage a storm knocked out the power to all of downtown Huntsville. The arena went dark except for the emergency lights. I (David Milly) was running the console that night and my wife Janet was sitting next to me. Janet works for T.L.S. but doesn’t run or know lighting; she is the comptroller and head of the accounting department.

When the power went out I ran back stage to see what we could do. Ron Evans, a VBC engineer and I worked out a way to rig some power to at least get sound and a couple of lights worrying on generator. I ran back to the T.L.S. shop to get some cabling breakout cables and hurried back. I ran in the back door of the arena and the house lights were on and the crowd was laughing to Bob’s jokes. But no stage lights were on.

I ran to the board and Ron and my wife Janet were trying to get the stage lights to come up. I pushed a few sliders and the lights came up and of course it gave Bob more material for his jokes.”

David Milly,
Theatrical Lighting Systems, Inc.


“The acoustics in the Concert Hall were praised by musicians of the National Symphony Orchestra.

For a city the size of Huntsville to have a performing arts facility as large as the VBC speaks volumes about the high educational and cultural values in this area.”

Lea Ellison
TAC Executive Director


“During the years Hopper Hardware was located behind (now underneath the South Hall) of the then VBCC. I can recall many fond memories of the going on’s around there. The one that always comes to me first concerns something that happened during one of the visits of the Barnum and Bailey Ringley Brothers Circus.

We at the store were always glad to see, but not smell, the arrival of the circus. The animals were always quartered on the rear parking lot of the Center, and sometimes in the street between the Civic Center and the hardware store.

During one visit of the circus in the late 70’s on a Saturday morning, a group of clowns came into the store about 11:45 (the store always closed at noon on Saturdays). Apparently they were between a morning and afternoon performance. They seemed genuinely thrilled to be in a hardware store (made me think about their life on the road and how in many locations they probably had few, if any, places to go or shop). They browsed all around the store “checking out” everything and bought all sorts of odds and ends. I specifically remember them buying different types of rope. They entertained us, with juggling and rope tricks. Not performing but just having fun.

I closed the store at noon but stayed open for them for about an hour, letting them look and shop and “horse” around until they had to go. I just enjoyed the unusual company.

Those were great days behind the Civic Center.”

Bill Hopper


“After appearing in the Von Braun Center for 20 years with our rodeo it is my feeling that we have a part ownership in the property for the following reasons:

During the first four years you had another rodeo in your facility. Our first rodeo was in 1980 and during the settlement, Cliff Wallace handed me a summary sheet with a smile on his face. He said we were up in attendance compared to last years rodeo by 152% and revenue by 203%. We also beat the best of the last four years of rodeos by 23% in attendance and 71% in revenue. And, he concluded we were the first rodeo that had one of its horses chew the backs off of four front row seats!!! So, we own four seats in the front row of Box 18.

In 1989, one of our bulls hit the fence pretty hard and because the hockey dashers were not in very good shape to begin with, Roger Newton only charged us for half of the cost for replacing four of them.

I believe it was the next year that Roger charged me $220 for reseeding a 20 foot circle of grass around a tree near the back door where cowboys had ridden around a tree to warm up their horses. I told Roger any farmer would have raked, seeded and fertilized that small space for $10 but he insisted on charging me $220.

So you see, we own four seats, one half of four section of hockey dashers and a 20′ circle of pasture in your back yard. It’s been a pleasure!”

Bruce Lehrke
Longhorn Rodeo

2010
Mark C. Smith Concert Hall

Thanks to a generous $3 million donation from the Linda and Mark Smith Family Foundation the VBC Concert Hall underwent a major renovation completed in 2010. The gift given by the family of late prominent businessman, Mark C. Smith brought the Concert Hall up to date with the 21st century.

2010
Propst Arena

Originally constructed in 1975, renovations were completed in 2010 transforming the VBC’s Arena into a dynamic modern venue. A $5 million donation from Bill Propst helped make renovations to the VBC Arena possible.

The renovation changing the facade of the Arena to a modern glass frontage overlooking Big Spring Park as and expanded the lobby adding more pre-function space and a pub. The project added over 1,000 seats to concert setups, VIP suites, and additional restrooms.

The Arena was renamed the Propst Arena in honor of this considerable donation made by Huntsville businessman Bill Propst. Propst is well known in Huntsville for the success of Propst Drugstores and his entrepreneurial ventures in the marketing and manufacturing of generic pharmaceuticals.

VON BRAUN CENTER
700 Monroe Street
Huntsville, Alabama 35801
voice 256.533.1953
fax 256.551.2203
vbcinfo@vonbrauncenter.com