The Peoria Civic Center has seen much change over the 40 years of its existence. For a civic building that was opposed when it was originally built, most Peorians can’t imagine what this city would be like without it now. Through several major upgrades – the largest and most recent one took place in 2008 – and hundreds of performers, sports teams and city officials, the Peoria Civic Center has been an integral part of the cultural and entertainment life of the city.
At the time of it’s creation, the goal for building such a venue was to revitalize the Peoria downtown area. Remember, this was long before the riverfront was developed and downtown was all but a ghost town. Headed by civic leaders at the time including then Mayor, Richard Carver (you may recognize that the arena is named in honor of him), the creation of the HRA tax (an acronym for hotel, restaurant and amusement) enabled construction of the building plus provided an ongoing source for capital improvements through the years.
Located on the site of the former Jefferson Hotel, that building was imploded in 1978 to pave the way for the beginning of construction on the new venue. Combining a theater, arena and exhibit hall was a relatively new concept at that time. Originally managed by the City of Peoria, SMG (Spectacor Management Group) took over as the management firm in 1990. In 2019, SMG merged with Los Angeles-based AEG Facilities to form ASM Global managing over 300 venues and over 60,000 employees across five continents.
One of the greatest challenges over the last 40 years for the venue was of course the COVID-19 Pandemic, which shuttered the building for well over a year. Now that the state mask mandate has been lifted, a majority of area residents are vaccinated and the virus has more or less become a fact of life, the Civic Center has come back strong since it’s reopening last summer.
“We are seeing positive signs that fans are ready to return to live entertainment in 2022. We just set a record with Hot Wheels as the best-selling Monster Truck show in the venue’s history in February. Reba McEntire is on pace to become the best-selling country music show in the venue’s history, Gabriel Iglesias is doing phenomenal sales for his upcoming show and Greta Van Fleet sold out the arena in under 15 minutes. Those are just 3 of the 39 events we are hosting in March. We are not just returning to live events, but we are doing historic levels of business, ” said General Manager Peoria Civic Center, Rik Edgar.
The Peoria Civic Center Theatre is home to the Peoria Symphony Orchestra, the Peoria Ballet and Carver Arena is home to the Peoria Rivermen and Bradley Braves Men’s Basketball.
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