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The San Diego Sports Arena turns 50, at a glance

The San Diego Sports Arena, now known as Valley View Casino Center, turns 50 on Thursday.

01.13.1992 -- James Hetfield of Metallica on stage with band at Sports Arena. (Scott Linnett/San Diego Union-Tribune file photo)

01.13.1992 — James Hetfield of Metallica on stage with band at Sports Arena. (Scott Linnett/San Diego Union-Tribune file photo)

The San Diego Sports Arena, now known as Valley View Casino Center, turns 50 on Thursday. Here are some notable dates and events that have taken place over the past half century at the arena, which opened Nov. 17, 1966, with a hockey match between the victorious San Diego Gulls and the Seattle Totems.

First concert: James Brown, Feb. 18, 1967

Most recent concert: “LED TrampsLikeUs,” featuring Flosstradamus, Botnek, Dombresky, HeRobust, San Holo and Sikdope, Sept. 30. 

Changing names: San Diego International Sports Arena (1966-1970); San Diego Sports Arena (1970-2004); iPayOne Center (2005-2006); San Diego Sports Arena (2006-2010); Valley View Casino Center (2010-present).

Maximum concert capacity: 14,600 

Total events held in 2015: 120

Total events held in 2016: 140

Top-grossing concert: The Sports Arena shows by Andrea Bocelli in 1998, Roger Waters in 2012 and Madonna in 2015  grossed more than $1.3 million each.

All shook up: Elvis Presley performed three times at the Sports Arena: Nov. 15, 1970; April 26, 1973; and April 24, 1976.

Solitary man: Neil Diamond holds the record for most performances at the Sports Arena, with 23 concerts.

Raising the bar: Garth Brooks holds the record for most consecutive concerts at the arena, having performed there five times last November. His previous record at the same venue came in 1996, when he sold out three consecutive concerts at the arena.

Triple-plays: Only three other artists besides Garth Brooks have performed three consecutive shows at the Sports Arena: Neil Diamond, The Cure and Depeche Mode.

Let’s go crazy: Prince performed at the Sports Arena in 1983 to a loudly enthusiastic audience and again, in 1997, to a completely empty house. His second visit was to test out a new sound system and even arena employees were forbidden from attending.   

Hit me with your best shot: At the conclusion of Pat Benatar’s 1986 Sports Arena concert, her drummer, Myron Grombacher,  threw both his sticks into the audience, beaning Benatar on the back of the head in the process.  

No-show: In 1993, Rod Stewart canceled his “in-the-round” concert at the arena barely a week before it was scheduled to take place.

Double no-show: In 1989, Rod Stewart postponed his concert at the arena by a day. The next night, he waited until 40 minutes after the scheduled starting time before canceling the make-up show, purportedly because of a throat problem. 

Night train: The typically tardy Guns N’ Roses did not take the stage until 11:40 p.m. for its 1992 Sports Arena concert because singer Axl Rose was still in Los Angeles. A private plane was sent to get him.

Welcome to the Jungle: By the time Guns N’ Roses’ 1992 Sports Arena show concluded, there were 97 arrests for drug and alcohol violations, while Staff Pro security guards ejected 48 concertgoers for rowdy behavior.

Say what? Eric Clapton laughed heartily when he saw the message on a banner held aloft by two fans in the front row at his 1990 Sports Arena concert. It read: “Eric, you’re a shining star. Would you please autograph my car?”

Taking charge: In order, the private operators of the arena have been: Bob Breitbard (1966-1971); Graymont Ltd. (1971-1989); Harry Cooper & Richard Esquinas (1989-1991); Arena Group 2000 (1992-2007); AEG Management, a partnership between AEG Live and Arena Group 2000 (2007-present). 

On album: Some of the live albums that were recorded partly, or entirely, at the Sports Arena include: Jimi Hendrix’s “Hendrix in the West” and “Stages”; Johnny Winter’s ”Captured Live”; The Scorpions’ “World Wide Live”; Pearl Jam’s “Official Bootleg — 10/25/00, San Diego Sports Arena”;  Eric Clapton’s “Live in San Diego, with Special Guest JJ Cale”; and the Grateful Dead bootleg, “Live at San Diego Sports Arena, 1973-11-14.”

On film: Director and screenwriter Cameron Crowe, who grew up in San Diego, shot concert and backstage footage here for his 2000 movie, “Almost Famous,” at the Sports Arena. He knew the venue well as a teen-aged music writer for San Diego Door, a local underground paper, and Rolling Stone, which he began writing for in 1973. Crowe won an Oscar for his “Almost Famous” screenplay. Scenes from the Lorenzo Lamas TV series “Renegade” were also shot at the Sports Arena.”

Most colorful contractual stipulations: Mariah Carey demanded a white leather couch for her dressing room, which she used briefly prior to her concert.  Anita Baker and several other artists requested brand new toilet seats be installed for their private use. The arena complied.

george.varga@sduniontribune.com

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