Charleston Civic Center - Celebrating 50 years

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The original portion of Charleston Civic Center opened on Reynolds Street in 1959. The $3 million facility included a Main Arena which had 6,000 seats, the Little Theater seating 750 and three meeting rooms plus kitchen and administrative offices.

In 1960 the Civic Center was an important stop on President John F. Kennedy’s campaign visit to West Virginia.

In 1966 Wilt Chamberlain of the then Philadelphia Warriors broke the NBA’s all time scoring record at the Civic Center in February.

A $1.8 million expansion in 1968 added 2,400 seats to the west balcony of the Grand Arena and included installation of air conditioning, construction of a recreational ice skating rink and other improvements.

In the mid-1970’s city officials realized if Charleston was to take its place as a regional entertainment and convention center, expanded public assembly facilities were necessary. The decision was made to construct a new coliseum and two-story lobby connecting it to the existing Civic Center. The existing Civic Center would then be renovated into a first-class convention center featuring meeting rooms, exhibit halls and major banquet facilities.

In 1975-1976 Elvis Presley performed five sellout shows during his Charleston Civic Center appearance.

Ground was broken on July 24, 1978, for the coliseum and lobby. The $19 million project was financed by federal funding (from the Economic Development Block Grant funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development), a $10 million general obligation bond issue overwhelmingly approved by the citizens of Charleston and revenues from the city’s hotel/’motel room tax.

In October of 1982 the original grand arena was closed and work began on a major $5 million dollar renovation project which transformed the grand arena into a first-class convention hall. The renovation project was completed in one year and the convention hall was officially dedicated on October 23, 1983.

The coliseum which seats 13,500 is connected to the Convention Hall by an expansive two-level entrance lobby which spans 32,000 square feet. The convention hall contains an additional 12 meeting rooms, 52,000 sq ft exhibit/banquet facility with a complete line of services to meet the requirements of meetings and trade shows.

Additionally, two parking structures capable of handling 1,300 vehicles were constructed adjacent to the facility at a cost of $9 million dollars. The parking structures opened on March 1, 1983 and brought the number of parking spaces available for the Charleston Civic Center events to over 2,000.

In 2000 a $9 million dollar expansion / renovation program resulted in the expansion of the Grand Hall by 10,000 sq ft. This unobstructed area is devisable into four separate sections and is the region’s largest exhibit / banquet facility.