Glory Days: 50th Anniversary of New Haven Coliseum Lecture with Professor Rich Hanley
To many baby boomers, the former New Haven Veterans Memorial Coliseum represents the glory days: From Aerosmith to ZZ Top, and even Elvis, the Elm City hosted some of the biggest names of the 70s, 80s and 90s, along with minor-league hockey, monster-truck pulls and professional wrestling. The New Haven Museum will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Coliseum’s first event—a hockey game, on Sept. 27, 1972—with a virtual lecture, “New Haven Coliseum: Where Boomers Roamed,” by Quinnipiac University Associate Professor Richard Hanley. The free presentation will be held on Thursday, September, 29, 2022, at 6 p.m. Register here.
Hanley will discuss how the Coliseum, which was demolished in 2007, became more than an entertainment venue. He notes it became a “cultural capitol” to many boomers and stood long enough for them to share their experiences with their children. He summarizes, “In short, the Coliseum mirrored the rise and demise of baby boomers as a cultural force in the region.”
While researching the topic for his 2010 documentary “Last Days of the Coliseum,” Hanley discovered the building’s history went beyond merely concerts and hockey. “The Coliseum was the final piece of the late mayor Richard C. Lee’s dream of a revitalized city,” Hanley says. “And, like other projects, it didn’t work.” He explains that the middle class Lee wanted to attract to New Haven did show up for events, but then left. Ironically, Hanley says, the Coliseum’s architect, Kevin Roche, predicted this when he designed it, noting that the building needed to be part of a larger entertainment district.
Bureaucratic maneuverings aside, those who attended Coliseum events loved it for what it was and have fond memories of what took place there, notes Hanley. “The Coliseum is both a failure and a success, which pretty much defines the nature of the baby-boom generation.”
During his lecture, Hanley will share some lesser-known tales of the Coliseum, including the fact that the building was never completed to the original design, which included a glass-enclosed exhibition hall. “The city ran out of money during construction and cut that piece out, making the building appear more Brutalist than Roche planned,” says Hanley. Other tidbits include the filming of Van Halen’s concert video “Live Without a Net” and a fall by Tommy Lee of Motley Crue while cables raised him to the roof with his drum kit in 1990.
From a personal perspective, Hanley notes he saw many a Coliseum show for free while writing for the University of New Haven newspaper. While his favorite performance was by Bob Dylan, in 1975, his memory of the 1978 Bruce Springsteen show includes a front-row view and being asked by guitarist Steven Van Zandt to help with crowd control.
Hanley’s documentary “Last Days of the Coliseum” was nominated for an Emmy Award. The two-hour film is slated to air on CPTV at 9:30 pm on September 27, 50 years to the day of Coliseum’s opening.
About Richard Hanley
Richard Hanley is an associate professor of journalism at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut. He is also co-director of the university’s Sports Studies program. A graduate of the University of New Haven and Wesleyan University, he served as a journalist for local, national, and global media for 23 years in print, television and online before joining Quinnipiac in 2001. He has produced, written, and directed Emmy-nominated documentaries for CPTV and PBS.
In 2007, Hanley received the Charter Oak Society Distinguished Faculty Member Award from Quinnipiac University. He founded the school’s Sports Journalism graduate program in 2014, and later became the first Frank H. Netter School of Medicine Outstanding Capstone Mentor for his work with a student in developing programs for youth hockey coaches to spot concussion symptoms in their players. He is also an assistant professor of medical sciences at Quinnipiac, where he co-mentors students pursuing health communications capstone projects. He is frequently interviewed by news media on the intersection of politics and technology, appearing in media outlets ranging from the New York Times to Variety.
About the New Haven Museum
The New Haven Museum, founded in 1862 as the New Haven Colony Historical Society, is in downtown New Haven at 114 Whitney Avenue. The Museum collects, preserves and interprets the history and heritage of Greater New Haven and through its collections, exhibitions, programs and outreach brings more than 375 years of the Elm City’s history to life. For more information visit www.newhavenmuseum.org or facebook.com/NewHavenMuseum or call 203-562-4183.