Dallas Sportatorium
The Sportatorium, located in downtown Dallas, Texas
Dallas, Texas
Dallas is the third-largest city in Texas and the ninth-largest in the United States. The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex is the largest metropolitan area in the South and fourth-largest metropolitan area in the United States...

 (not to be confused with the Hollywood Sportatorium
Hollywood Sportatorium
The Hollywood Sportatorium was an indoor arena in Pembroke Pines, Florida, located at 17171 Pines Boulevard . The Sportatorium was from downtown Miami and from downtown Fort Lauderdale...

 in Hollywood, Florida
Hollywood, Florida
-Demographics:As of 2000, there were 59,673 households out of which 24.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.5% were married couples living together, 11.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 42.2% were non-families. 34.4% of all households were made up of...

 or the Tampa Sportatorium in Tampa, Florida
Tampa, Florida
Tampa is a city in the U.S. state of Florida. It serves as the county seat for Hillsborough County. Tampa is located on the west coast of Florida. The population of Tampa in 2010 was 335,709....

), was a barn-like arena
An arena is an enclosed area, often circular or oval-shaped, designed to showcase theater, musical performances, or sporting events. It is composed of a large open space surrounded on most or all sides by tiered seating for spectators. The key feature of an arena is that the event space is the...

 used primarily for professional wrestling
Professional wrestling
Professional wrestling is a mode of spectacle, combining athletics and theatrical performance.Roland Barthes, "The World of Wrestling", Mythologies, 1957 It takes the form of events, held by touring companies, which mimic a title match combat sport...

 events. The building, which stood at 1000 S Industrial Blvd, or the intersection of Industrial Boulevard and Cadiz Street (near the I-30/I-35E Interchange), had a seating capacity
Seating capacity
Seating capacity refers to the number of people who can be seated in a specific space, both in terms of the physical space available, and in terms of limitations set by law. Seating capacity can be used in the description of anything ranging from an automobile that seats two to a stadium that seats...

 of approximately 4,500.

Early history

Built in 1934 by the Cox Fence Company, the original Dallas Sportatorium was constructed in the shape of an octagon, and seated approximately 10,000. Its inaugural wrestling event, promoted by Burt Willoughby, took place on December 9, 1935. Willoughby promoted wrestling at the Sportatorium until 1940, when the company was bought out by its former concessions manager, Ed McLemore.

From 1948 until 1966, the Sportatorium was also the site of the Big D Jamboree
Big D Jamboree
Big D Jamboree was an American radio program broadcast by KRLD-AM in Dallas, Texas. The show consisted of appearances by famous country musicians as well as sketch comedy and jokes. It was also carried by KRLD-TV during the 1950s.-History:...

, a weekly country music showcase similar in format to the Grand Ole Opry
Grand Ole Opry
The Grand Ole Opry is a weekly country music stage concert in Nashville, Tennessee, that has presented the biggest stars of that genre since 1925. It is also among the longest-running broadcasts in history since its beginnings as a one-hour radio "barn dance" on WSM-AM...

 and Louisiana Hayride
Louisiana Hayride
Louisiana Hayride was a radio and later television country music show broadcast from the Shreveport Municipal Memorial Auditorium in Shreveport, Louisiana, that during its heyday from 1948 to 1960 helped to launch the careers of some of the greatest names in American music...

; portions of the Jamboree were broadcast nationally on the CBS Radio Network
CBS Broadcasting Inc. is a major US commercial broadcasting television network, which started as a radio network. The name is derived from the initials of the network's former name, Columbia Broadcasting System. The network is sometimes referred to as the "Eye Network" in reference to the shape of...


The Sportatorium was partially destroyed by fire on May 1, 1953, in what was rumored to be an act of arson
Arson is the crime of intentionally or maliciously setting fire to structures or wildland areas. It may be distinguished from other causes such as spontaneous combustion and natural wildfires...

 by a rival wrestling promoter. It was quickly rebuilt at the same location as a rectangular venue (with a modified octagonal seating configuration similar to the original), and reopened on September 22 of that year, billed at the time as The Million-Dollar Sportatorium. The arena also held boxing events and concerts featuring up-and-coming rock stars over the years, very much in the same manner as its Los Angeles counterpart, the Grand Olympic Auditorium
Grand Olympic Auditorium
The Grand Olympic Auditorium is the former name of a sports venue in Los Angeles, California, United States. Located at 1801 S. Grand Avenue, the venue was built in 1924 specifically for the 1932 Summer Olympics, which saw the boxing, weightlifting, and wrestling events held there. At the time it...

, did during this time frame.

In late 1966, McLemore formed a partnership with wrestler Jack Adkisson
Fritz Von Erich
Jack Barton Adkisson was an American professional wrestler under the ring name Fritz Von Erich, better known today as a wrestling promoter and the patriarch of the Von Erich family...

, who was known in the ring as Fritz Von Erich and bought the Dallas/Fort Worth Wrestling Office, breaking away from Paul Boesch
Paul Boesch
Paul Max Boesch was a professional wrestling promoter most famous for his work as an announcer and promoter for Houston Wrestling. He also spent several stints working with the Universal Wrestling Federation, World Class Championship Wrestling, and the World Wrestling Federation.-Biography:Paul...

 and the Houston Wrestling Office. In January 1968, McLemore started suffering a series of heart attacks and was no longer able to attend to the company's day-to-day business; he died on January 9, 1969, leaving Adkisson in charge. Adkisson's promotion, which became known in the early 1980s as World Class Championship Wrestling
World Class Championship Wrestling
World Class Championship Wrestling ' was a regional professional wrestling promotion headquartered in Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas. Originally owned by promoter Ed McLemore, by 1966 it was run by Southwest Sports, Inc., whose president, Jack Adkisson, was better known as wrestler Fritz Von Erich...

 and featured his sons as its top stars, was the most famous and successful wrestling federation to run regularly at the Dallas Sportatorium.

The arena was configured with several ring aisles with the majority of the seats (mostly bleachers) set up on the east, south and west portions of the building. The north side of the building, best known as "Section D", was used mostly for a small stage and media area for cameras and reporters, but at least 10 rows of seats were also set up between the main stage/ring and the wall. A United States flag was displayed on the wall of section D for most of the arena's existence, and was changed once when the 48-star U.S. flag was replaced with a 50-star U.S. flag in 1960. The flag was moved to the section C area in 1987, then later above section I in the 1990s when the arena was refurbished for the Global Wrestling Federation.

During wrestling matches, the heel wrestlers came out of the northwest aisle, between sections B & C, while the babyfaces came out of the aisle on the southwest corner, or sections J & A. A broadcast studio was set up adjacent to the heel's locker room area; and an overhead section was later added for wrestling announcers to call the match.

On the Industrial Blvd side of the arena was the offices of Big Time Wrestling/World Class Championship Wrestling. Jack Adkisson and his sons each shared office space in the arena. Others like David Manning, Gary Hart
Gary Hart (wrestler)
Gary Richard Williams, was a former professional wrestling manager, as well as a professional wrestler in his early career, best known by his ring name Gary Hart...

, Ken Mantell, Percy Pringle
Percy Pringle
William Alvin "Bill" Moody , better known by his ring name Paul Bearer, is a professional wrestling manager and former wrestler best known for his time in World Class Championship Wrestling and World Wrestling Federation, later known as the WWE.-Early career:He entered the wrestling business in...

, Skandor Akbar and Chris Adams would also occupy the front offices of the arena.

It has also been said that Eric Embry
Eric Embry
Douglas Eric Embry is a retired professional wrestler, best known for his appearances with World Class Championship Wrestling and the United States Wrestling Association as The Flamboyant Eric Embry...

, who was the Sportatorium's lead booker, lived inside the arena for a time in 1989.


After WCCW folded in 1990 due to dwindling attendance, fundamental changes in the wrestling industry and tragedies involving a number of its top stars (including all but one
Kevin Von Erich
Kevin Ross Adkisson is a retired professional wrestler under the ring name Kevin Von Erich of the Von Erich Family. He is the last surviving son of wrestler Fritz Von Erich and had four brothers that wrestled, David, Kerry, Mike and Chris, as well as an older brother, Jack, Jr., who died in...

 of the Von Erichs, Gino Hernandez
Gino Hernandez
Charles Eugene Wolfe, Jr. was a professional wrestler better known by his ring name Gino Hernandez. His in-ring nickname was "The Handsome Half-Breed" -Career:...

, and Bruiser Brody
Frank Goodish
Frank Donald Goodish was an American professional wrestler who earned his greatest fame under the name Bruiser Brody. Goodish was an All-State football and basketball player at Warren High School, Michigan, and played football at West Texas A&M University...

), the Sportatorium served as home base for the Global Wrestling Federation
Global Wrestling Federation
Global Wrestling Federation was a professional wrestling promotion based in Dallas, Texas. It started in June 1991 and folded in September 1994. At one time its shows were presented on the ESPN television network. On many weeks, the promotion provided programming five days a week airing at 4 p.m...

 from 1991 to 1994 (billing itself for a time as the GlobalDome). Following the GWF's demise, a succession of smaller promotions (including the NWA between 1995 and 1996) attempted to hold shows in the building, each of them running out of money and closing their doors after only a short time.

However, it did gain one last bit of notoriety when Dallas-based Southwest Airlines
Southwest Airlines
Southwest Airlines Co. is an American low-cost airline based in Dallas, Texas. Southwest is the largest airline in the United States, based upon domestic passengers carried,...

 held an arm-wrestling match between chairman Herb Kelleher
Herb Kelleher
Herbert D. Kelleher is the co-founder, Chairman Emeritus, and former CEO of Southwest Airlines .-Life and career:...

 and Kurt Herwald, chairman of Stevens Aviation, resulting from controversy over Southwest's use of the slogan "Just Plane Smart" (Stevens claimed that it infringed on its own "Plane Smart" slogan). The match was a publicity stunt designed to raise funds for charity.

The Sportatorium fell into disuse in the late 1990s when local independent wrestling promotions, by now drawing crowds only in the low hundreds, elected to run their shows in dance halls and other smaller venues instead. In addition, the aging arena was seriously dilapidated by this time, was out of compliance with local building codes, and was often used as a shelter by homeless people who entered the building illegally.

In late December 2001 a fire started inside the building. The flames quickly spread and caused major damage to the arena's upstairs offices. The fire proved to be the coup de grâce
Coup de grâce
The expression coup de grâce means a death blow intended to end the suffering of a wounded creature. The phrase can refer to the killing of civilians or soldiers, friends or enemies, with or without the consent of the sufferer...

 for the Sportatorium, its long-rumored demolition finally taking place in the spring of 2003. Before its implosion, Kevin Von Erich
Kevin Von Erich
Kevin Ross Adkisson is a retired professional wrestler under the ring name Kevin Von Erich of the Von Erich Family. He is the last surviving son of wrestler Fritz Von Erich and had four brothers that wrestled, David, Kerry, Mike and Chris, as well as an older brother, Jack, Jr., who died in...

 took off a bench-seat and a few items from the Sportatorium as souvenirs. Kevin took one final tour of the historic arena, which was featured in its famed DVD documentary Heroes of World Class, released in 2006.

Although it had a reputation for being uncomfortable and unsanitary (having inadequate heating and cooling facilities, and rodent
Rodentia is an order of mammals also known as rodents, characterised by two continuously growing incisors in the upper and lower jaws which must be kept short by gnawing....

infestation problems), the Dallas Sportatorium is nonetheless still remembered fondly for its intimate atmosphere, and is considered one of pro wrestling's most legendary venues.

The land that occupied the now-defunct arena is slated to be a part of the new Trinity River Project, which also includes the renaming of Industrial Blvd.

External links

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