More Than A Basketball Arena, Memorial Coliseum Was Also Major Music Destination

J. Bank

The biggest names all played there, and we're not talking about basketball. 

Sure, Coleman Coliseum has served as host to some amazing athletes over the years, plating for and against Alabama. Since 1968, the arena has served as the home court of the Crimson Tide basketball team and more than 500 Alabama wins under the distinctive arched roof.

But the building's history extends far beyond the sports world. 

Originally known as Memorial Coliseum, it was initially considered ahead of its time when originally constructed at a cost of $4.2 million. 

The structure occupies two acres of land, with the roof reaching 90 feet above the playing surface and almost 100,000 square feet of space in the main seating bowl. At its inception, the Coliseum's capacity of 15,032 was easily the biggest in the Southeastern Conference and the fifth-largest in the nation.

Memorial Coliseum
Courtesy of Jimmy Bank

In 1988, the arena was re-dedicated as Coleman Coliseum in honor of Jeff Coleman, a longtime Crimson Tide historian, business manager and alumni director, who served on the committee that oversaw the Coliseum's planning and construction.

Although due to be reconfigured as part of the massive Crimson Standard initiative, Coleman Coliseum saw its greatest transformation prior to the 2005-06 season, when the entire facility was updated. The interior lobbies and concourses were expanded and upgraded along with offices, locker rooms and support facilities. 

In the main seating area, 15,316 new seats, all theater style and many of them padded, were installed, with new club area along the east side of the court.

But did you know that the Coliseum used to also be known for touring plays and concerts?

From the 1960s up to the 1990s, the university was considered one of the top college concert sites in the country.  

scan (4)

Some of the greats played in Memorial Coliseum, and we mean greats: Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Janis Joplin, Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin, The Band, Jimmy Buffett, The Beach Boys, Johnny Cash, Liza Minnelli, Roger Miller, Andy Williams, Reba McEntire, Ray Charles, The Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder and many, many more stars graced the stage at Memorial/Jefferson Coliseum.  

Elvis Presley played his first college date at the Coliseum and had repeat performances years later.

scan (6)
Image courtesy of Jimmy Bank
Image courtesy of Jimmy Bank

Actor/comedian Bob Hope also performed at the Coliseum. 

Two of his guests on stage, who had a lot of trouble keeping a straight face, were Joe Namath and Coach Paul W. "Bear" Bryant. The show was filmed for a television special.

Bob Hope, Joe Namath and Paul W. "Bear" Bryant
Special to BamaCentral
Joe Namath, Bob Hope and Paul W. "Bear" Bryant
Special to BamaCentral

For several years, a big-name concert at the Coliseum was a homecoming staple. The artist was usually someone who both alumni and current students would enjoy.

scan (5)
Image courtesy of Jimmy Bank
scan (2)
Image courtesy of Jimmy Bank
scan (1)
Image courtesy of Jimmy Bank