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The International Amphitheatre was an indoor arena, located in Chicago, Illinois, between 1934 and 1999. It was located on the west side of Halsted Street, at 42nd Street, on the city's south side, adjacent to the Union Stock Yards.

The arena was built for $1.5 million, by the stock yard company, principally to host the International Livestock Exhibition. The arena replaced Dexter Park, a horse-racing track that had stood on the site for over 50 years prior to its destruction by fire in May 1934. The completion of the Amphitheater ushered in an era where Chicago reigned as a convention capital. In an era before air conditioning and space for the press and broadcast media were commonplace, the International Amphitheater was among the first arenas to be equipped with these innovations.

The arena, which seated 9,000, was the first home of the Chicago Packers of the NBA during 1961-62, before changing their name to the Chicago Zephyrs and moving to the Chicago Coliseum for their second season.[1] It was also the home of the Chicago Bulls during their inaugural season of 1966-67; they also played only one game in the Chicago Coliseum, a playoff game in their first season, as no other arena was available for a game versus the St. Louis Hawks. Afterwards, the Bulls then moved permanently to Chicago Stadium, not the Coliseum.

The Amphitheatre was also the primary home of the Chicago Cougars of the WHA from 1972-1975. It was originally intended to be only a temporary home for the Cougars, but the permanent solution, the Rosemont Horizon, was not completed until 1980, five years after the team folded and a year after the WHA had gone out of business.

The Amphitheatre hosted several national political conventions:

  • 1952 Republican National Convention
  • 1952 Democratic National Convention
  • 1956 Democratic National Convention
  • 1960 Republican National Convention
  • 1968 Democratic National Convention

The 1952 Republican National Convention was held at what was then called the the Chicago Amphitheater, and had the distinction of being the first political convention broadcast live by television with special studio facilities provided for all the major networks. [2]

The 1968 convention was one of the most tumultuous political conventions in American history, marred by rioting stemming from Opposition to the Vietnam War|anti-war protests.

Prior to that, the Amphitheatre was also noted for being the site of one of Elvis Presley's most notable concerts, in 1957, with the singer wearing his now legendary gold lame suit for the first time.

On September 5, 1964 and August 12, 1966, The Beatles performed at the Amphitheatre.

In October 1978, English rock group UFO recorded Strangers In The Night at the International Amphitheatre.

The Stock Yards closed in 1971, but the Amphitheatre stayed open, hosting rock concerts, college basketball and IHSA playoff games, circuses, religious gatherings, and other events. The shift of many conventions and trade shows to the more modern and more conveniently-located lakefront McCormick Place convention center during the Sixties and Seventies began the International Amphitheater's decline, and the Amphitheater's business dried up as new convention centers and concert arenas opened in the suburbs.

In December 1981, Joe Frazier had his final boxing match at the Amphitheatre against Floyd Cummings, which resulted in a draw.

Sold in 1983 for a mere $250,000, the sprawling Amphitheater became difficult to maintain, and proved unable to attract enough large events to pay for its own upkeep. It was eventually sold to the city of Chicago, which had no more success at attracting events than its previous owner. In August 1999, demolition of the International Amphitheater began. An Aramark Uniform Services plant is located on the site once occupied by the Amphitheatre.


  1. Hareas. "A Colorful Tradition". Washington Wizards. Retrieved 2008-03-19. 
  2. "TV Goes to the Conventions." Popular Mechanics, June 1952, p. 94.

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