As popular as Memorial Coliseum was in its heyday, it had some severe limitations. The primary one being its size.
It had only 2,900 permanent wooden seats surrounding the horseshoe-shaped arena. An additional 3,600 seats could be set up on the arena floor itself for stage productions. The stage at the west end of the building had a usable “acting” area of only 50 feet by 37 feet.
By the 1990s, it was clear that our growing city would soon need a much bigger auditorium.
On November 3, 2002, ground was broken on the American Bank Center at the far end of Shoreline.
The new auditorium opened in October 2004. The new building would seat 10,000 for sporting events and concerts.
When the Bank Center opened, Memorial Coliseum was closed and boarded up.
For the next six years, what to do with the abandoned Memorial Coliseum became a matter of heated public debate.
Numerous ideas and proposals were floated, but none seemed solid enough to meet City Council approval.
City staff recommended that the building be demolished, which set off protests among veterans groups (the Coliseum was, remember, a memorial to our WWII dead). Petitions were circulated to save the building, and lawsuits were threatened.
As the move to demolish gained momentum in 2010, local architect George E. Clower, came up with a compromise plan to at least retain the innovative roof as a bayfront shade structure. The city council's initial response was positive, but even that idea was eventually cast aside. A city council vote to demolish was passed on February 23, 2010.
Rallies, lawsuits, and public opinion to save the building only delayed the inevitable.
In May 2010, workers with A&R Demolition began to remove pieces of the building. I was there almost every day thereafter to photograph the demolition.
I don't think that I believed it was really coming down until the day a bulldozer punched a hole in one of the exterior walls. It was a sad moment on June 21, 2010, when the historic roof came crashing down.
An iconic and memorable Corpus Christi structure was gone.
The only remnant of Memorial Coliseum that remains today is the memorial plaque that once hung on the front of the building.
It is mounted on a base built with bricks retrieved from the Coliseum during demolition.
The memorial is located in Sherrill Park.
Robert Parks is a special contributor to KRIS 6 News. Parks was a history teacher at Carroll High School for 19 years and is now retired. His knowledge of Corpus Christi history makes him a unique expert in the subject.