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Grand Funk Railroad

Celebrating 50 Years of Concerts at the WVU Coliseum
September 19, 1970

Grand Funk Railroad
with Special Guest Cactus

Grand Funk Railroad The  American Band with American Flag art and finger pointing outward
Photo of the famous block-long billboard in Times Square promoting the Closer to Home album

This is a photo of the famous block-long billboard in Times Square promoting the "Closer to Home" album in 1970.

Album cover for Closer to Home with Grand Funk in red and photos of the three band members
SHOW DATE: Saturday, September 19, 1970 • 8:15pm
The WVU Coliseum opened for its first-ever event September 19, 1970. When then athletic director Red Brown began looking for support in his bid to build a new basketball facility on campus, he accurately predicted that this new venue would attract some of the biggest names in entertainment. So it's fitting that the first event held in the newly constructed arena was a rock concert. Grand Funk Railroad performed for a crowd of 11,140 fans, the overwhelming majority of whom were WVU Students. Only 2,400 tickets were held by non-students. This would be the first of more than 150 concerts to be staged in the building over the next 50 years. 

Grand Funk Railroad skyrocketed to fame after their appearance at the July 4, 1969, performance at the Atlanta Pop Festival. By the time they arrived in Morgantown, they had released three albums: "On Time," "Grand Funk" (aka The Red Album) and "Closer to Home," and their single "I'm Your Captain/Closer to Home" had become the Vietnam soldier's anthem. Grand Funk laid the groundwork for such bands as Foreigner, Journey, Van Halen and Bon Jovi with its signature hard driving sound, soulful vocals, muscular instrumentation and forceful pop melodies.

Following in the footsteps of Grand Funk, some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry, representing nearly every genre of music, have performed on the Coliseum stage. Comedic legends Jay Leno and Bill Cosby have also performed in the building as well as the famous Harlem Globetrotters. The Coliseum has also been the site of many performances of "Sesame Street Live."

All of these events have been planned and executed by WVU students. Originally these students were volunteers serving on a committee known as the Pop Arts Committee and then the Student Activities Programming Board. Now these students are paid interns at WVU Arts & Entertainment where they gain hands-on experience in event management. These concerts were, and continue to be, training grounds for countless students working toward careers not only in event management, but also in technical production, marketing, public relations, hospitality, finance and many other fields. 

Transforming this basketball arena into a concert venue is no easy feat. The tunnel leading to the Coliseum floor has become almost infamous to those who work in the touring industry. Why? Because it's impossible for a tractor-trailer to navigate the tunnel's 90-degree turn. In order to load production equipment into the building, a small loading dock must be built in the parking lot. Crew members then unload the contents of the semis and repack it into smaller box trucks that will fit into the tunnel.

The more elaborate the concert, the more semis necessary to carry the production. The biggest concert, in terms of production, to be held in the Coliseum was Brad Paisley's Country Nation Tour with a total of 16 trucks. Because Paisley chose kick off this tour from Morgantown, he performed two shows here Jan. 16 and 17, 2015, before embarking on the rest of the tour. 

The transformation from basketball arena to concert venue starts the night before the show. The basketball floor is covered to protect it from damage, the stage is loaded in and constructed as are lighting and sound systems. Furniture is also moved into the locker rooms to serve as artist dressing rooms. The artist's crew and gear don't arrive until the next morning and that load-in process begins again. Typically the artist does not arrive for their sound check until an hour or two before showtime. After the show ends, the equipment is torn down and the arena restored to its basketball state overnight.
A view from inside the WVU Coliseum as it was being constructed

Read more about
the Coliseum's history.
Setting the Stage for a Night at the Ball with Cinderella. Article written by Evelyn Ryan that appeared in the Dominion Post.

Read about the rigging
process for a concert.