Long before the BOK Center, downtown Tulsa was home to another arena nearly as impressive — at least, to Tulsans of the era.
The 7,500-seat Coliseum Building opened Jan. 1, 1929, on South Elgin Avenue between East Fifth and Sixth streets. (The slightly smaller Expo Square Pavilion would be built three years later and a few miles east.)
In addition to hosting Tulsa’s first hockey league, the Coliseum was home to Monday night wrestling, musical performances and other local events, including high school graduations. According to Beryl Ford Collection records, no fence surrounded the ice rink, so hockey spectators had to be careful of flying pucks and players.
Like many of downtown’s once glamorous structures, the Coliseum now exists only in photos and memories. The building burned to the ground Sept. 20, 1952, after it was struck by lightning. The fire was the first to be broadcast live on local television, according to the Beryl Ford Collection. The footage was captured from a camera on the roof of KOTV Channel 6’s office.
A Tulsa World article published the day after the fire estimated that 12,000 spectators stood outside as the building burned, and police said about 125,000 drove past the smoldering remains the next day.
Images Courtesy of Beryl Ford Collection/Tulsa City-County Library