Published on July 14th, 2016 | by Pro Wrestling Stories1
The Story of THE SPORTATORIUM
“If Those Walls Could Talk”
The Sportatorium, once located in downtown Dallas, Texas, used to be the home of many professional wrestling events and music concerts from December 1935 until it’s final show in 1998. The building had a seating capacity of over 5,000 people and had many greats such as the Von Erich’s, The Fabulous Freebirds, Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts and a young ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin walk through its doors. The most famous promotion to run out of the arena was Jack Adkisson (Fritz Von Erich)’s World Class Championship Wrestling from 1982-1990 and later was the home of the Global Wrestling Federation from 1991-94 and the NWA in 1994-96. Soon later, the building fell into disuse.
Legendary booker/manager Gary Hart had this to say about the building:
“On TV, the Sportatorium looked like the greatest arena on earth, while in reality it was – pardon my French – a shit-hole. The Sportatorium – at the best of times – was nothing more than a tin building. It was literally just a sheet of tin surrounding wooden benches with no backs. That was it. It was put up to hold jamborees in 1938, was incredibly uncomfortable, and there were never any renovations done on it. It was so ram shackled that when it rained, the water literally would run down the aisles. There was no insulation or air conditioning in the building, either, so in the summer it could easily be 110 degrees in there, and in the wintertime it was colder than you could possibly imagine. Yet, week after week, we would have 5,200 people in there screaming their brains out. Everyone talks about the Sportatorium so glowingly these days, but in reality, it was the worst arena in Texas. It was a total dump. Fans would come from all over the world, and everyone wanted to see the Sportatorium because they were under the illusion that it was this magnificent arena. When they would walk up to the Sportatorium, they would shockingly ask, ‘Is this the right place?'”
Perhaps some of the rosy retrospective mystique surrounding the Sportatorium could be because it no longer stands. After a fire decimated most of the building in December 2001, a demolition of the building took place in the spring of 2003, but not before Kevin Von Erich had one last opportunity to walk through the historic building. The video of this can be found on the next page.
Del ‘The Patriot’ Wilkes spent some time wrestling inside the storied venue during his time with the Global Wrestling Federation back when the building was called ‘The GlobalDome.’ This is what he had to say to us about the venue:
“[The building was iconic] not only from a wrestling standpoint but when you think of all the musical stars that went through there. Elvis, when he first hit the road back in the mid to late 50’s, he frequented the Sportatorium. If those walls could have talked, man, they had stories to tell.”
After reading this story, Del Wilkes reached out to us earlier today on Twitter and had this to add:
“Great job. That building and those fans hold a special place in my heart. That’s where The Patriot started!!”
Watch Del ‘The Patriot’ Wilkes battle One Man Gang at the Sportatorium for the Global Wrestling Federation (October 3rd, 1991):