A look back: Carolina Coliseum's biggest moments

From Staff ReportsJuly 16, 2014 

— News Monday that the Carolina Coliseum was being renovated and would no longer be used for public events can make you sigh. It’s a place where you watched your loved ones graduate from high school, saw basketball greats, and experienced your best concerts. As an era of the Carolina Coliseum winds down, we’re looking back at the arena’s biggest moments in Columbia.

Five classic concerts

1. Jackson Five, August 1971: It was the second national tour for the Motown brothers. Michael Jackson was aging out at 13 years old.

2. The Eagles, Aug. 3, 1975: The superstars of the ’70s stopped here during the two-year One of These Nights tour. Jimmy Buffet was the opening act.

3. Aerosmith, Dec. 19, 1976: The band was at the height of its career, with “Toys in the Attic” and “Rocks” released in the previous 12 months.

4. Elvis Presley, Feb. 18. 1977: One of the fans in the audience was the late U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond, then 75 years old. A reporter for the Columbia Record tried to chase down Presley when he arrived at Columbia Metropolitan Airport. The $10 tickets were sold out, but were scalped for as high as $100.

5. Bruce Springsteen, Jan. 13, 1985: Springsteen brought the first leg of his “Born in the U.S.A.” tour here.

Five classic moments

1. The secret concert preps at the coliseum over the years, including the Dave Matthews Band, John Mayer and Lil Wayne, Elton John and Billy Joel. Mayer treated 500 fans to a surprise concert while practicing there in February 2010.

2. Hurricane Hugo benefit concerts. November-December 1989. As Charleston and other parts of South Carolina were picking up from Hurricane Hugo, benefit concerts featuring Bill Cosby, Barry Manilow and Alabama were raising money for relief efforts.

3. The first Ringling Bros. circus came to town in February, 1969, initiating the tradition of the elephant walk from the railroad tracks to the oversized back door to the Coliseum’s basement staging area, which thus became the Elephant Room.

4. Presidents who visited the Coliseum included Ronald Reagan in 1986 and George H.W. Bush, who spoke to USC graduates in May 1990.

5. One of the more unusual moments came much later, on Aug. 5, 2011, when health care organizations staged Mission 2011, the first of what grew into annual free health care clinics now held at the State Fairgrounds. The demand overwhelmed the capacity. And the Coliseum didn’t prove to be an ideal venue. Thousands of people ended up waiting in the heat outside the Coliseum for hours, with some finally giving up and going home without getting help.

Five classic basketball games

1. Nov. 30, 1968: The first game, to many longtime USC fans, remains one of the best. The Gamecocks beat Auburn 51-49 with a last-second shot by John Roche.

2. Dec. 22, 1972: The Gamecocks beat ninth-ranked Indiana 88-85, rallying from a 16-point deficit behind 41 points by Kevin Joyce.

3. Dec. 16, 1970: This one isn’t remembered for the score – South Carolina 96, Maryland 70 – but for the bench-clearing brawl in which it appeared Gamecock player John Ribock decked Maryland coach Lefty Driesell with a punch.

4. Feb. 4, 1997: The Gamecocks beat third-ranked Kentucky 84-79 in overtime behind BJ McKie to stretch their winning streak to 11 games.

5. Jan 23, 1980: The eighth-ranked USC women pulled off one of their most impressive wins, 56-52 over fourth-ranked Tennessee.

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