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
11/08/99 Tap Dogs
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
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
02/15/98 A Chorus Line
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
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
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
05/16/96 Lynyrd Skynyrd / Dobbie Brothers
04/25/96 Hank Williams Jr. / Charlie Daniels / Marshall Tucker
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
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
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
12/11/92 Dep Leppard
12/06/92 Phantom of the Opera
11/07/92 Air Force Band
10/18/92 Gold Gymnastic Tour
08/05/92 Clint Black / Little texas / Aaron Tippin
06/02/92 Zeppelen’s Laser Show
04/26/92 Randy Travis
04/10/92 World Cup Champions of Ice
03/28/92 Charlie Daniels Band
02/15/92 Van Halen
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.”
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.
“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.”
“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.”
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.”
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.”
“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!”
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.
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.