The original portion of the Charleston Civic Center & Coliseum -- the civic center -- opened in 1959, at a cost of $3 million. At the time, it included a large arena with 6,000 seats and a 750-seat "Little Theater."
In 1968, the Civic Center expanded, with the addition of an ice arena and 2,400 seats to the arena. The expansion cost $1.8 million.
Ten years later, construction began on a $19 million expansion, to create a new coliseum and a two-story lobby, wrapped around the original arena and theater. The existing Civic Center was turned into a convention center featuring meeting rooms, exhibit halls and major banquet facilities. The project was financed by a federal grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and a $10 million bond issue approved by Charleston voters.
The new coliseum opened in 1980. It seats up to 13,500 people for in-the-round events, 12,500 for basketball games, and more than 10,000 for stage shows and circuses. The renovated grand hall boasts 36,000 square feet of floor space, which can be halved by 50-ton moveable wall that descends from the ceiling. Two parking garages were added in 1983. They accommodate up to 1,300 cars.
The Charleston Civic Center and Coliseum is an immense structure, not far from where the Elk River flows into the Great Kanawha. (The Kanawha, in turn, flows west to the Ohio.) Charleston is also at the crossroads of Interstates 64, 77, and 79.
Additional positions are filled by part-time contract workers, including those working as ticket sales staff, stage hands, and food-service personnel.
In high school, Debi Ball-McCoy worked at a Dairy Queen. Today, she creates memorable "food events" as a catering sales manager with Fine Host Corporation. Fine Host serves food for hospitals, recreation facilities, and stadiums all over the United States.
In almost thirty years with the Charleston Civic Center and Coliseum, Johnna Snodgrass has booked weddings, operas, circuses, and professional wrestlers. She's even seen Elvis -- several times.Stage Hand: 'Common Sense Is a Real Virtue'
Ken Jarrell works backstage in the entertainment industry, the "smoke-and-mirrors" world behind the high-power concerts, conferences and Broadway shows performed in Charleston. It's a world of lights, looming sets, heavy cables, and speaker towers.
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