History / Greenville Arena District

History

Original state legislation forming Greenville Memorial Auditorium District (GMAD), which later became the Greenville Arena District, dates back to 1940. GMAD oversaw the Greenville Memorial Auditorium which opened in 1958 and changed to the Greenville Arena District (GAD) in 1998, upon the construction and opening of the Bon Secours Wellness Arena (first known as the BI-LO Center).

 

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The Lions Club began the Memorial Auditorium project in 1938. Even with the club's active support, it took over twenty years to complete the project, including delays from two wars, lawsuits, and many disagreements over design elements. The Greenville Memorial Auditorium opened its doors, before completion, and held its first event, a basketball game between Furman University and the University of West Virginia on December 1, 1958.

 

The Memorial Auditorium held concerts for three decades for some of the “who’s who” of American popular music, including James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Tom Jones, Johnny Cash and Chuck Berry. On October 19, 1977, Lynyrd Skynyrd played at the Auditorium and ended their performance by singing “Freebird” for over twenty minutes. The next day, lead singer Ronnie VanZant and band members Steve and Cassie Gaines were killed in an airplane crash.

The Memorial Auditorium stood at the corner of East North Street and Church Street near Christ Church until the late 1990’s. The Bon Secours Wellness Arena (then, BI-LO Center) was opened on September 13, 1998, and has hosted award-winning artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Prince, George Strait, The Eagles and Carrie Underwood, as well as events like the Ringling Bros.and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Trans-Siberian Orchestra and WWE.‚Äč

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Greenville Area District Board

The Bon Secours Wellness Arena is a Greenville Arena District managed facility. The Greenville Arena District Board is a political subdivision of the State of South Carolina. The nine members of the Board are nominated by County Council, and appointed by the Governor of South Carolina. Members’ three-year terms are served voluntarily, without compensation.

For more information about the Greenville Arena District, please visit their website.