Municipal Auditorium compares favorably to Blue Horizon boxing venue.
Municipal Auditorium is at the intersection of Texas Avenue and Elvis Presley Avenue near downtown Shreveport. (Photo: Jim Hudelson/The Times)
Municipal Auditorium has been home to Elvis Presley and the Louisiana Hayride, concerts and circuses. It will soon be home to a monthly series of boxing and MMA events.
A prelude to the series comes Friday when the "Forces of Destruction" MMA event takes place at Municipal Auditorium beginning at 7:30 p.m.
The idea of a series of monthly boxing and MMA events held in a smaller, older venue, has some thinking Municipal could emulate Philadelphia's legendary Blue Horizon.
"It can be done," says Blue Horizon co-owner and promoter Vernoca Michael. "There can be some parts of it replicated. A lot depends on the selling and the skills of the promoter."
The Blue Horizon is a building older than Shreveport's Municipal Auditorium. While Municipal Auditorium was built in 1929, the Blue Horizon was originally built in 1865.
The Blue Horizon covers 8,500 square feet while Municipal Auditorium covers 6,300 square feet.
The Blue Horizon has approximately 1,500 seats available for boxing. On Friday night, Municipal officials expect to have between 2,200 and 2,400 seats available.
The biggest difference — besides market size — is the enormous head start the Blue Horizon has on Municipal.
Boxing became a main feature of the Blue Horizon in 1961 and has been a staple at the building ever since. That long history is evident in the 33 world champion boxers, including Bernard Hopkins and Tim Witherspoon, that have come through the building.
The Blue Horizon is sort of the Fenway Park of boxing — an older building which brings fans right up on the action.
"The uniqueness of the design of the facility is what has helped us get that synergy and energy with the fans," says Michael, the country's first black female boxing promoter.
Indeed, the fans at the Blue Horizon are close to the action, even those in the balcony aren't far away.
"The fans can have a connection with each of the fighters," Michael says.
The Blue Horizon has reached legendary status, having been featured in several national publications and being voted the best boxing venue in the world.
This is, after all, a building where parts of "Rocky V" were filmed.
Municipal will never have the history of the Blue Horizon.
But the building does offer the same intimacy to the action that the Blue Horizon does. And the limited seating also can be beneficial to the atmosphere of the event.
"Unless you have a championship fight, you're not going to sell out a 10-, 12,000 seat arena," says promoter Dana Pitcher, who is bringing both the "Forces of Destruction" and the 2008 series of fights to the building.
Thus, Municipal can re-create the atmosphere of a Blue Horizon.
It has some of the same closeness between fans and fighters.
"Because everyone is so close, there's just a feeling you get that you're not going to get in another building," Pitcher said.
For Municipal, the series of boxing and MMA events could become a staple on the calendar similar to the Blue Horizon in Philadelphia.
"Right now, he (Pitcher) is down on the calendar every month starting in February," says Karl Hasten, executive director of Friends of the Municipal Auditorium, a non-profit that manages the building.
Pitcher is hoping the series of events will build on each other. He said he should know whether the plan is successful by midway through his schedule.
"We want to get to where we have boxing and MMA each month," Pitcher said.
While Municipal has more than just boxing and MMA on its calendar, Hasten is optimistic about the potential for the series in his building.
"We want to see everyone do well," Hasten says. "We're getting good response so far on tickets.'
2007/12/03 By Scott Ferrell - shreveporttimes / www.epgold.com