Backstory and Context
The Atlantic City Convention Hall was built along the South Jersey coastline on May 31, 1929. Replacing a temporary exhibit, the Convention Hall became an architectural marvel during that time. Boasting a 137 foot-high barrel vault ceiling without any roof posts or pillars, the Hall was a modern adaptation of Romanesque architecture and claimed the title of largest clear span space for an auditorium. Carved into the limestone above the Hall's facade was a testimonial that summarized its purpose, "A permanent monument, conceived as a tribute to the ideals of Atlantic City, built by its citizens and dedicated to recreation, social progress and industrial achievements." Boardwalkhall.com
Known today as Boardwalk Hall, the original testimonial remains true after 86 years. Boardwalk Hall still remains in the same location and with mostly original architecture still intact, but received major renovations during the 90's. Seeking to leave the historic hall with as much original architecture as possible, the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority conducted restorations totaling $90 million. The original cost to build the Hall, in 1929, was $15 million.
Boardwalk Hall is certainly a spectacle of architecture and venue history, but it is the events that have been held under this vault ceiling that truly make the Hall remarkable. Events held over the years include hockey, basketball, football, boxing, archery, horse shows, auto racing, and wrestling. Along with the myriad of sporting events, Boardwalk Hall has been the host to the Miss America Pageant since 1940, hosting national political conventions, and was home to the first ever indoor-helicopter flight. The Hall has converted to a stage for many different performances and concerts for artists ranging from Frank Sinatra to Bruce Springsteen and from The Beatles to The Rolling Stones. To this day, Boardwalk Hall remains a coastline mecca for touring shows, concerts, and sporting events.
It is not unusual for major sporting events to be played indoors in today’s day and age. This is in part thanks to Boardwalk Hall, which hosted the first college football bowl game played indoors. The historic game took place in Atlantic City on Dec. 19, 1964 between the University of Utah and West Virginia University. Utah won the game 32-6 in front of a crowd of 6,059 fans. Real grass was used indoors and was kept alive during the week using artificial lighting. The size of the field was also altered, with each end zone a total of 8 yards deep, instead of 10 yards. The tickets to the game were $10, the most expensive ones for a bowl game during the time.
Boardwalk Hall is truly a unique venue in the United States. Very few places still exist, let alone thrive, for as long as Boardwalk Hall has. The name may have changed, the events may have passed, but Boardwalk Hall remains a must stop place for any sports fan or history enthusiast.