Classic Venues: The Dallas Sportatorium

dalsportWhen one thinks about the glory days of professional wrestling in the great state of Texas, you think about the talent (i.e., the Von Erich family), the promotions (i.e., World Class Championship Wrestling) and when it comes to venues, you HAVE to talk about the Dallas Sportatorium.  The Sportatorium (built in 1934) was a 4,500-seat capacity barn-like arena primarily used for professional wrestling shows, and it stood at 1000 South Industrial Boulevard (near the I-30/I35 East interchange) in downtown Dallas, Texas.

Originally built as a octagonal stadium that seated 10,000 in 1934, the first iteration of the Sportatorium held its first pro wrestling event — promoted by Burt Willoughby — on December 9, 1935.  The venue also hosted the country music showcase, the Big D Jamboree from 1946 to 1966, rock concerts, and boxing events.

The Sportatorium was partially destroyed by fire on May 1, 1953 — rumored as an act of arson by a rival wrestling promoter — but it was swiftly rebuilt on location as a rectangular venue (featuring a modified octagonal seating configuration similar to the original), and reopened on September 22 of that year, and was billed as The Million-Dollar Sportatorium.

Sportatorium - DallasIn late 1966,  wrestler Jack Adkisson — a.k.a. Fritz Von Erich — became a joint partner in the Sportatorium.  After the death of his business partner, he took on the day-to-day operation of the facility, leading to his promotion, World Class Championship Wrestling, utilizing the Sportatorium to feature his promotion’s talent — including his sons — and become the most famous and successful wrestling federation to run regularly at the Sportatorium.

After WCCW folding in 1990 — due to low attendance, a changing wrestling industry and tragedies involving its top talent — the Global Wrestling Federation temporarily used the Sportatorium from 1991 to 1994. After GWF’s demise, smaller indie promotions would run shows there for short periods of time.  The Sportatorium fell into near-complete disuse and dilapidation in the late 1990’s, as indie promotions elected to hold their shows in much smaller venues instead.  After a fire in late December 2001, the Dallas Sportatorium was demolished in the spring of 2003, and despite its reputation for its uncomfortable and unsanitary conditions, the Sportatorium is still fondly remembered for the intimate atmosphere and for being one of the most legendary venues in professional wrestling history.

A photo of the Von Erich wrestling family (fro...

Long Live the Dallas Sportatorium!

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4 thoughts on “Classic Venues: The Dallas Sportatorium

  1. Nice story on the Sportatorium. I own the Heroes of World Class DVD (not WWE’s version) and the best part of the documentary is when Kevin goes back to visit the building. Definitely an historical venue!

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    1. The Heroes of World Class is an excellent doc, and it’s probably the second time I almost shed a tear watching a pro wrestling doc of any kind (the first was actually the WWE’s “Rise & Fall of ECW” doc).

      Like

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