T he Cow Palace has played host to its full share of the famous, infamous and just plain bizarre over the past 60 years. Liberace and Lassie, Elvis and Eisenhower - they've all played the Palace.
Since opening in 1941, the Cow Palace has welcomed 50 million visitors through its doors. The Cow Palace is officially the 1-A District Agricultural Association, a State agency of the California Department of Food and Agriculture's Division of Fairs and Expositions.
The idea for what was to become the Cow Palace was born at the1915 Pan-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. When the fair's huge livestock exposition proved to be one of its most popular attractions, local business leaders met and resolved to build a permanent structure to house a great animal livestock exposition in San Francisco.
For ten years after the Pan-Pacific Expo, the idea lay dormant. In 1925, the San Francisco Exposition Company was formed to finance the project. Nineteen firms and individuals each contributed $20,000, and the land was purchased in the Marina District, the site of the 1915 fair.
A legislative appropriation of $250,000 was passed in 1931. This appropriation was to be used in part to purchase a suitable site. However, as the depression of the 1930's worsened, resistance developed to using public funds for construction of a livestock pavilion. The economy was in a state of shock. Millions were unemployed. A local newspaper asked, "Why, when people are starving, should money be spent on a "palace for cows?" A headline writer turned the phrase around, hence the origin of the world famous name.
Twenty years after the inception, and a change from the original site, the first spadeful of dirt was turned. Through the W.P.A. Program, the construction of the Cow Palace put to work thousands of the unemployed.
The Cow Palace was completed in 1941. The new arena boasted a concrete and steel roof that covered nearly six acres. The first event to be held in the new arena was the Western Classic Holstein Show in April, 1941. In November of that year, the first Grand National Rodeo was held, featuring a tribute to the late Will Rogers. The show was declared a smash hit.
Two short weeks after the close of the first show, Pearl Harbor was attacked. Rented by the Federal Government for $1.00 per year, for the next five years the huge structure was filled with troops embarking for the war zone. As the war progressed, the pavilion was turned over to the Ordinance Department and converted into a huge repair garage.
Following the war in 1946, the facility was again readied to host the Grand National. The show was again a success, despite rain and wind storms that flattened the enormous outdoor livestock tents. This near disaster lead to the construction of the permanent storm-proof pavilions that had been in the original plans.
In the spring of 1946, the Junior Grand National was established to encourage the youth of California in their livestock projects. In December of 1947, inter-collegiate basketball came to the arena, beginning the Cow Palace's nationwide reputation as a major sports arena. In 1948, the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus started its tenure as the Cow Palace's oldest continuous renter.
In 1949 legislation was passed officially opening the facility to general public use. In October of that year, the Cow Palace was host to the U.S. Heavyweight Boxing Championship. From then on, all manner of events came to the arena, such as ice shows, political conventions, Roller Derby, tennis, wrestling, professional basketball, and ice hockey.
Other Cow Palace highlights include appearances by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Liberace, the Billy Graham Crusade (with attendance of 696,525), John F. Kennedy, Evil Knievel, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Elvis Presley. In addition to these, the Cow Palace has been the host of many successful sold-out concerts. Some of the more memorable are the Grateful Dead/Santana, ZZ Top, Yes, Paul McCartney & Wings, Neil Diamond, Elton John, U2, and Prince.
The long term tenants of the Cow Palace include the Grand National Rodeo, Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus, the San Francisco Sport & Boat Show, the Golden Gate Kennel Club Dog Show, and Disney on Ice.
On May 11, 2006 C. Florey wrote: FYI the Cow Palace stood in for the Astrodome in the movie The Right Stuff.ΚΚ The airfield where Gus Grissom gets his medal is the old Hamilton Air Force Base in Novato, California.
COW PALACE'S DAYS MAY BE NUMBERED
July 8, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures
San Francisco, Calif. - Reports say the 46-year-old Cow Palace arena may be looking at a sale.
While the venue draws crowds, the reports say the venue has fallen into "financial disarray and physical disuse."
Owned by the state food and agriculture department, the arena still draws crowds sometimes well in excess of 10,000 for a patchwork of expositions and events with niche appeal.
But a plan to redevelop some or all of the property has gained currency, with local officials clamoring for a grocery store and other amenities in the neighborhood, the reports say.
The governor proposed selling the arena and other state properties such as San Quentin prison as part of previous years' budget negotiations, but his plan died.
Andrea McCarthy, a spokeswoman for the governor, said Schwarzenegger would be open to selling the arena this year "if there were legislative support."
The state faces a $19 billion budget deficit.
Venue officials say it is making enough money to cover its costs and make payments on $450,000 in state debt remaining from its down years. The arena reportedly lost an estimated $1.3 million over a five-year period ending in 2006.
September 22, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures
San Francisco's Cow Palace will get an ECHL team for the 2012-13 season, the league reported. The San Francisco Bulls become the 21st team in the "AA" hockey league, which serves as the primary developmental league for the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League. The San Francisco team joins the Pacific Division of the ECHL, which includes the Bakersfield Condors, the Las Vegas Wranglers, Ontario Reign, and the Stockton Thunder. The Bulls are owned by a group of investors, led by Pat Curcio and his wife Elouise who have relocated to San Francisco from Salt Lake City, Utah. Curcio will serve as president, general manager and head coach