What do Elton John, Metallica, The Wiggles and Billy Ray Cyrus have in common? They have all played the former Kansas Coliseum.
For more than 30 years, the Kansas Coliseum was the Wichita area’s premiere location for concerts, sporting events and shows. Opening in 1977 in Park City, Kansas, the Coliseum was made up of four pavilions, an RV Park and the Britt Brown Arena.
Offering a wide variety of entertainment to the area, the Kansas Coliseum was a staple in Wichita's culture for decades. Many fans fondly remember the shows they attended at the Coliseum and the memories that they made there.
About the Kansas Coliseum
The Arena was named for Harry Britton (Britt) Brown Jr., the former owner of The Wichita Eagle. Brown was a well-connected member of the community, having spent his entire career at the Eagle, starting in 1947, serving as president, publisher and as a journalist before retiring as Chairman of the Board in 1979. Brown also served as president of the Wichita Chamber of Commerce and as a board member at the Wichita Art Museum. He was also involved in numerous local charitable, civic, and educational fundraising efforts. An avid art collector, Brown was good friends with artist Blackbear Bosin who sculpted the Keeper of the Plains. Bosin's 1974 painting "Sun Eagle and Black Bear" is said to have been commemorative of his friendship with Brown.
The Britt Brown Arena had 9,686 seats. Maximum capacity varied based on the type of events hosted, however, and could be configured up to over 12,000 people.
The 36,500-square-foot facility came with a $10.3 million price tag. Two brass plaques commemorating the building's dedication hung inside. They read:
"Dedicated September 1978, for the promotion of agricultural educational and cultural benefits, on behalf of the people of the world, by the citizens of Sedgwick County, the board of the county commissioners, the Kansas state park and resources authority, the economic development administration and the Ozark regional commission of the United States Department of Commerce and the Kansas Coliseum Corporation."
Wichita's Premiere Concert Venue
Tina Turner Performs at the Kansas Coliseum Oct. 23, 1985. Via tinaturnerfanclub.eu.
In its time, the Kansas Coliseum hosted at least 220 concerts, 23 wrestling events, two Monster Jams and countless sporting events.
The Coliseum’s most frequently visiting concert artists were Van Halen, performing a total of eight shows between 1981 and 2004; ZZ Top and KISS, each performing six times and Aerosmith, Rush, Ozzy Osbourne, Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Def Leppard, each performing five times.
Countless others took the stage in the Britt Brown Arena, including Tina Turner, Journey, Rod Stewart, the Beach Boys, Pat Benatar, Neil Diamond, Alice Cooper, John Denver, The Monkees, Garth Brooks, Rob Zombie and many more.
Check out this video of Rob Zombie performing at the Coliseum!
Concerts at the Coliseum
Because of the Arena's size, it offered an intimate and personal concert environment where fans could enjoy a great experience.
Mindy Kremer remembers an especially personal moment during a concert she attended.
"James Taylor said 'happy birthday' to me from the stage 20 years ago," she recalled.
Karen Jesse Wilkerson had a similar encounter when John Denver played the Kansas Coliseum.
"When it got really quiet, I yelled 'I love you, John!'", she remembered. "He laughed, then said 'love you, too!'"
In addition to the size of the Arena, the overall atmosphere was a big draw for fans. Because seating was not assigned, the experience was casual and it allowed for a lot of mingling.
Lisa Hein who saw Styx, the first of many rock concerts she'd see at the Coliseum, remembers running into friends at a few shows.
"I loved the fact that they [the concerts] were all general admission. You could walk around anywhere you wanted and you usually ran into someone you knew. I really miss the Coliseum. Had some great times there," she said.
A Home for Several Wichita Teams
The Britt Brown Arena was home to several local sports teams as well, including the former Wichita Wings indoor soccer team, who played from 1979 to 2001 and to Wichita's indoor and area football teams, the Aviators, Stealth and Wild, each playing from 2001 to 2008.
The Wichita Thunder ice hockey team also called the Coliseum home from 2001 to 2008.
If this isn’t enough, the Wichita State University basketball teams played in the Britt Brown Arena during the 2002-2003 season, while Charles Koch Arena was being renovated.
Because so many teams called the Coliseum home, an even greater number of fans did, too.
Toby L. Ball has vivid memories of Wichita Wings soccer games. "The smell of nachos and popcorn as Crazy George beat his drum. Half of the Arena of 9,000 people screaming 'Wichita' while the other half screamed 'Wings' and the wave would start," he recalled.
Jason Pierce was a fan of the Wind and a regular at their games.
"I think I went to every home game the Wichita Wind hockey team played there," he said. "My cousin and I knew every inch of that place because as kids we didn't watch much of the game. We always found broken hockey sticks and pucks. I even got to go in the locker room and meet all of the players. I loved the Kansas Coliseum!"
Wichita Wings, 1988
The Kansas Coliseum Closes
Photo courtesy of Wichita State University.
By 2010, it was time to say goodbye to the beloved Coliseum. On Jan. 9, 2010, a crowd of 5,556 screaming Wichita Thunder fans watched as the team played its last game in the Britt Brown Arena. The final event to be held at the Coliseum took place on Feb. 20, and within two days, the facility closed its doors.
National Institute of Aviation Research
Fast forward two years and a county release would announce the sale of the entire Coliseum complex to Johnny Stevens, an aviation research developer, for just under $1.5 million.
Shortly thereafter, the Arena was transformed into a Wichita State University facility for its National Institute of Aviation Research. Called the Aircraft Structural Test & Evaluation Center, (ASTEC), the Arena would be used as the primary location for Aging Aircraft, Ballistic and Impact Dynamics Research Lab, Composites & Advanced Material and Full-Scale Structural Test, according to WSU.
The Pavilions and RV Park were to continue to operate through the beginning of 2016. Hosting a variety of educational, agricultural and livestock events.
Learn more about NIAR.
NIAR In the Arena
National Institute of Aviation Research sets up in the Britt Brown Arena. At the top right of the photo, the still-labeled upper bowl can be seen. Photo courtesy of Wichita State University.
The Kansas Pavilions
Now, the Kansas Pavilions and RV park still operate as the Kansas Pavilions under the Kansas Coliseum, LLC.
The Pavilions offer a variety of events including gun shows, sports shows, swap meets, livestock events, flea markets and more.
You can keep up with events at the Kansas Pavilions online
Do You Remember the Coliseum?
What shows did you see at the Coliseum? Let us know in the comments!