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Golden jubilee: Huntsville’s Von Braun Center turning 50 in 2025

HUNTSVILLE – The Huntsville Symphony Orchestra and Huntsville Community Chorus were the first to perform at the Von Braun Civic Center when it opened March 14, 1975.

With all due respect to those noted groups, however, it is Elvis Presley and other musical icons who played the venue in the early days that are most remembered in local lore.

The Von Braun Civic Center under construction in 1973.

Presley performed five concerts and basically brought the then-VBCC into the national music scene. Johnny Cash, Aerosmith, the Eagles and Jackson Five were among the early performers. KISS stopped in the Rocket City when the band had taken over rock-n-roll worldwide twice in 1977.

City officials eventually dropped civic from the building’s name and it is now the Von Braun Center (VBC).

“Back in the ’70s, we were the place to play,’’ Steve Maples, VBC executive director, told al.com’s Steve Doyle during the 40th anniversary celebration. “If there was a concert in the Southeast, it came through Huntsville, Alabama.’’

The arena in 1975 (above) and the Propst Arena in 2024. (VBC Contributed)

Between now and March 14, 2025, the VBC is launching a 50th anniversary campaign. The initiative involves publishing a commemorative anniversary book, creating an interactive public art installation, launching a 50th anniversary website, giving away tickets and prizes throughout the year for the use of #VBC50 social media tag, and hosting special anniversary events like behind-the-scenes tours, open-houses, headlining events and more – all culminating on the 50th birthday of March 14, 2025.

“Since 1975, the VBC has created a legacy that is unparalleled in the community,” Maples recently said. “It is an icon, a pillar of Huntsville and North Alabama, and there is truly no other organization or business like the VBC in the region.”

The VBC serves diverse audiences through diverse events including major conferences, concerts, theatrical performances, sporting events, private events, and much more. 

The theme for the 50th anniversary is “Your Place Through Time,” a time for the community to remember how the VBC has been the place for shared experiences and how it will continue being your place for many years to come.

“In the age of online media and virtual experiences, the VBC remains a physical landmark uniting people together – in person,” Maples said. “We are in the business of cultivating experiences. Whether it’s giving local theatre groups and young dancers a stage to perform on, providing a space for graduates to share the moment of receiving their diploma with family and friends, bringing someone’s favorite touring band to their hometown, hosting thousands of industry professionals as they share information and secure deals, or creating family traditions of cheering for Huntsville Havoc ice hockey each season – nearly every type of moment, big and small, happens at the VBC.”

The VBCC box office staff at work in 1975. (VBC Contributed)

When the Von Braun Civic Center opened in 1975, it was home to an arena, concert hall, playhouse, and East Hall.

Today, the Von Braun Center includes Propst Arena, Mark C. Smith Concert Hall, The Playhouse, Saturn Ballroom, South Hall, East Hall, Mars Music Hall, and Rhythm on Monroe, as well as a full-service catering kitchen.

“The Von Braun Center has been a catalyst in creating culture and great memories through the many thousands of concerts, performances, sporting and special events it has provided over the past 50 years,” Mayor Tommy Battle said. “Thanks to the outstanding VBC management and employees who lead this landmark venue. We can’t wait to see what happens in the next 50 years.”

Recently, the VBC was showcased multiple times on national television during coverage of the SEC Gymnastics Championships; Lee Greenwood’s All-Star Salute tribute concert; and “Still Playin’ Possum: Music and Memories of George Jones.”

“I like to ask people if they can imagine what Huntsville would look like without the Von Braun Center,” said Maples.  “We know the VBC is a large factor for Huntsville’s quality-of-life and we take that role very seriously.  With our city consistently landing in top spots on national rankings, including the No. 1 Best Place to Live by U.S. News & World Report, people and businesses are constantly relocating to the area. 

“The VBC staff, our Board of Control, and city leaders are deeply committed to ensuring the Von Braun Center remains a place where community members and visitors continue connecting.”

Renovations and additions to improve the facility continue. When last year’s fiscal year ended, the VBC had hosted 544 events with an estimated economic impact of more than $97 million between October 2022 and September 2023.

“We are thrilled to celebrate our 50th anniversary with you,” Maples said. “Let’s create another 50 years of memories together.”

For more information about the Von Braun Center and the 50th anniversary, visit vonbrauncenter.com.

 

 

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