Inside the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Coliseum, fierce roller derby women throw elbows at competitors, charismatic pro wrestlers drop elbows on bulked-up opponents, and businesspeople rub elbows. The Coliseum events bring a wide-ranging clientele, and this May, the auditorium with a Grecian portico facade turns 93, a seemingly insignificant year were it not the oldest currently operating entertainment venue Downtown. Here’s a look back at its history.
Finished for nearly $250,000, the Coliseum honored veterans of the Spanish-American War (1898) and the Civil War (1861-1865). Two meeting rooms accommodated gatherings of each war’s vets, but the facility also housed trade shows and sporting events, creating a multi-functional building.
In the 1960s-1980s, Johnny Cash performed. The Steve Miller Band and Molly Hatchet also played. Comedians such as the late Sam Kinison and Steven Wright followed.
The city gave money for restoration and upkeep, but interest in events steadily declined.
Today, Rotary Club of Evansville holds its weekly meetings at the Coliseum when grapplers of Coliseum Championship Wrestling aren’t pounding the mats or the Demolition City Roller Derby women aren’t spinning in circles.