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Freedom Hall

The KFC Yum! Center is buzzing as Louisville’s newest sports and entertainment venue, but its predecessor—Freedom Hall—has had an impressive 55-year history in the River City.

Freedom Hall opened during the 1956 Kentucky State Fair, a debut presided over by then Governor A.B. “Happy” Chandler.

The founding host of NBC’s Today show, Dave Garroway and his chimpanzee sidekick, J. Fred Muggs<,strong>, also joined in the festivities.

Though best known as the former home of University of Louisville Basketball, Freedom Hall was designed mainly to host the Kentucky State Fair World’s Championship Horse Show.

It has since been used for a variety of purposes including, many other sporting events, ice shows, circuses, political events and religious crusades.

In fact, the Reverend Billy Graham booked Freedom Hall’s first event in 1956.

In 1960, an up-and-coming fighter by the name of Cassius Clay boxed at Freedom Hall after winning gold in the Rome Olympics.

Numerous big-name performers have appeared in Freedom Hall.

For four consecutive days in the summer of 1976, three of the biggest acts in rock 'n' roll music: Elton John; The Eagles; and Elvis lit up the stage.

According to "Celebrating 54 Years at Freedom Hall" from Butler Books, the facility was once the nation’s largest arena for college basketball.

And because of that huge seating capacity, UofL ranked in the top five for average home attendance for nearly 30 years.

UofL left Freedom Hall in March 2010, but the arena is still in use on a regular basis.

Etc:

  • Freedom Hall was originally known as a coliseum and was considered "state-of-the-art" and visionary for its time. ("Celebrating 54 Years At Freedom Hall: Great Events And Memorable Moments At One Of America's Premier Arenas")
  • According to "The Encyclopedia of Louisville", the architect firm of Joseph & Joseph designed Freedom Hall - the same firm responsible for Louisville's legendary Rialto and Majestic theaters.
  • Freedom Hall was built as a memorial to honor Kentucky's fallen soldiers. 17 year-old Charlotte Owens of dupont Manual High School won a contest to name the arena.
  • Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas played in the very first sporting event at Freedom Hall, when his Baltimore Colts took on the Washington Redskins on September 9, 1956.
  • According to University of Louisville Sports, Freedom Hall was the site of the 2001 and 2003 Conference USA Basketball tournaments, nine Metro Conference Basketball tournaments and six NCAA Finals.
  • The largest crowd on record at Freedom Hall was at the UofL v Connecticut game on January 21, 2006. 20,091 people were in attendance.
  • Freedom Hall surpassed the 12 million attendance mark for UofL Cardinals Basketball games in 2009. (University of Louisville Sports)
Program 511
Meet tomorrow's stars today at Actors Theatre of Louisville, as we spotlight the apprentice program. Plus, flip through the histories of Louisville's Germantown and Schnitzelburg neighborhoods, visit the celebrated Oscar's Hardware and meet local sports journalist and author Billy Reed. (#511)