Reynolds Coliseum is about to get its first major renovation, one that will provide space to display memorabilia from Wolfpack sports history and add air conditioning to the building. (You can learn more about the renovation in the latest issue of NC State magazine.) Built in 1949, Reynolds is known for being home to great basketball teams.
But over the years, it has served other purposes as well.
Many alumni remember the days when class registration took place on its crowded floor, and for years, NC State’s main graduation ceremony was held at Reynolds. The coliseum has also been a platform for presidents and a mecca for music.
Beginning in 1959, the newly formed Friends of the College began bringing performers and productions from around the country and the world that had not been available to Raleigh audiences.
In 1962, the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra was scheduled to perform at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The orchestra had been getting the cold shoulder during its U.S. tour—but on the day of the Reynolds concert, Russia agreed to remove the missiles from Cuba.
“There was a tremendous reception for the orchestra and great enthusiasm for their concert. I don’t know who was more relived, them or us,” said Henry Bowers, director of Friends of the College at the time, according to an account in “Raleigh’s Reynolds Coliseum” by Craig Chappelow.
In the 1980s, the coliseum was a popular venue for rock bands. And presidents and presidential aspirants continue to use Reynolds as a national stage. Here are a few of the performers and speakers Reynolds has hosted over the years:
1950: Architect Frank Lloyd Wright
1957: Jazz great Louis Armstrong
1960: Sen. John F. Kennedy (making a presidential campaign stop)
1963: Pianist Van Cliburn
1964: President Lyndon B. Johnson
1965: The Rolling Stones
1966: Metropolitan Opera National Company (“Madame Butterfly”)
1980: Elton John
1982: Van Halen
1983: Violinist Itzhak Perlman
1985: President Ronald Reagan
2008: Then-Sen. Barack Obama (delivering a campaign address)
2011: President Obama
—Sylvia Adcock ’81