The Ringling Bros. elephants, now on their final years with the circus, will leave something behind on the University of South Carolina campus – the Elephant Room at Carolina Coliseum.
Generations of local high-school students have gathered in the Elephant Room before graduation ceremonies. USC students used to stand in long lines to register for classes in the catacomb-like basement that also serves as a loading area.
Most knew the name had some connection to the circus elephants. Here’s the official story of how the Elephant Room got its name, as passed down from former coliseum directors to current director Sid Kenyon.
“In one of the early years of the Carolina Coliseum (somewhere around 1970), the outside temperatures were near the high teens while Ringling Bros. Circus was here. It was determined that the temperatures were too cold for the elephants to remain in their tents in the parking lots behind the building, so they were brought into the storage/staging area adjacent to the arena portion of the coliseum. People began calling this area the ‘Elephant Room.’”
Ringling Bros. announced Thursday it will phase out the show’s elephants from its performances by 2018. Executives say it’s because of growing public concern about how the animals are treated. The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus returns to Columbia April 2.