Music - Old days by Chicago
International Amphitheatre (originally called the Chicago Amphitheater) - Opened in 1934, closed and demolished in 1999. Aramark now sits on the site.
Location - International Amphitheatre 4220 S. Halsted St. Chicago, Illinois -- Bounded by W. Exchange Ave., S. Morgan St., W. 45th St.
The faded peeling brick building at 4220 S. Halsted Street has disappeared from the Chicago landscape. The International Amphitheatre, located in the Bridgeport section of Chicago, sat neglected for years, and was finally razed in 1999. Going back to the beginning, the Amphitheater sat adjacent to the old Chicago stockyards. Located on Halsted at 42nd Street, the Amphitheater was built in the 1930s on the site of the old Dexter race track. Dexter had stood for over 50 years before it was destroyed by fire in the 1920s.
The Amphitheatre was nondescript. To be honest, it was a dump inside and out. It looked like a huge warehouse. Creature comforts it did not have. Rat's on the other hand, well they sometimes outnumbered the fans. Gordie Howe once said the rats lived in the locker room, and the players were just visitors. It was the poor red headed stepchild of Chicago stadium. There wasn't much to the building. except its location, next to the stockyards. The stockyards closed in 1971, and the area became rundown. It still had a viable concert business thru the 70's. But when the new Rosemont horizon arena was built in 1980, the Amp's concerts dried up. During the last 2 decades of it's life, the Amphitheater was used for rodeos, dances and Hispanic based concerts. Used car auctions, warehouse sales and the usual electronics shows dotted the Amphitheatre floor for the last years of the building.
The Amphitheatre did have a few tenants. In 1961, the Chicago Packers of the NBA came into the league. They changed their name to the Zephyrs the following season. But low attendance and a sub par arena forced the team to relocate to Baltimore and become the Bullets.
The second chance at life also occurred with the NBA. The Amphitheatre was the first home for the Chicago Bulls who began play in 1966. They lasted one season before they packed up and moved to Chicago stadium. The Amphitheatre was jilted again.
The third and last major tenant was the Chicago Cougars of the old WHA. In 1972 they made their debut as an original WHA team. The team had some success in their second season, making it all the way to the Avco cup finals against the Houston Aeros. Even making the WHA finals posed problems for the Cougars. They had NO arena to play in. It seems a show starring Cathy Rigby as Peter Pan was booked into the Amp. Scrambling for an available place to play, they settled on the Randhurst twin ice arena in suburban Mt. Prospect. Playing the finals in an arena that was worse than the Amp was typical of the Cougar franchise. They struggled thru the 1975 season. But due to a lackluster team, low attendance and a dank arena, the Cougars disappeared from the WHA after the 75 season. No one really missed them though. There were a few die hard fans, but most hockey fans in Chicago went to the stadium to see the Blackhawks.
The Amphitheatre had its share of concerts. From old blue eyes, Frank Sinatra, to the Rolling Stones, to even the Beatles, music filled the warehouse like arena. In 1957 Elvis Presley wore is gold lame suit for the first time. The concert was held at the Amphitheatre.
The rock group UFO recorded part of their live "strangers in the night" album here in 1979.
The Amphitheatre had its share of political conventions. It was also the host of the 1968 democratic national convention. The same convention that sparked riots in the city of Chicago.
In 1999 the Amphitheatre was finally put to rest. Like the stockyards that closed 28 years earlier, the Amphitheatre was finally demolished. Today, no marker is present to acknowledge the contributions of this arena. Now, an Aaramark uniform service plant sits on the site.