Fair History


The Arizona State Fairgrounds are not only a staple of Arizona’s history. Millions of ArizonansHistory Arizona State Fair Coliseum have visited the Arizona Exposition and State Fairgrounds since its birth over a 133 years ago. Thousands of entertainers have performed in the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum, including The Rolling Stones, Rihanna, Toby Keith, Bob Dylan, and even the “King of Rock and Roll”…. Elvis Presley. The Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum formerly known as the Madhouse on McDowell was home to the Phoenix Suns for 23 seasons.

Here are some fun historical facts about the Arizona Exposition and State Fair grounds:
1884 – The very first Arizona Territorial Fair
1905 – The current site of the Arizona Exposition and State Fair was purchased
1909 – The Fair Commission purchased the grounds for $30,000 after having rented it from the Fair Association for $10 a year.
1912 – Arizona is granted statehood and the State Fair Commission continued the work of the Territorial Fair Commission.
1918 – The Gem and Mineral building is constructed on the grounds and is currently the oldest building on the grounds.
1936 – The new Grandstand arena, funded by the WPA, is completed after the original wooden grandstand was destroyed in a fire
1955 – Scenes from the film Bus Stop starring Marilyn Monroe were shot in the Grandstand Arena
1957 – Jimmy Bryan wins his second victory at the Bobby Ball Memorial USAC Indy Car race held in the Grandstand Arena
1964 – Broke ground for the newly commissioned Coliseum
1965 – The Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum opens to a production of Ice Follies
1967 – The Phoenix Roadrunners of the WHL become the first professional team in Arizona and called the Veteran’ Memorial Coliseum home until 1996
1968 – Jimi Hendrix, Simon & Garfunkel, and the Doors all perform at the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum
1968 – The new NBA expansion team, the Phoenix Suns, find their home at the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum, later to be dubbed the Madhouse on McDowell
1970 – Elvis Presley kicks off his first tour after returning to live performing to a sold out crowd of 13,000
1976 – The nation’s bicentennial symbol became the world’s largest paint when it was painted on the roof the Coliseum
1985 – The Arizona State Fair has their first attendance over one million people
1987 – Pope John Paul II visits Phoenix to speak with Native American representatives at the Coliseum
1993 – Nirvana kicks off their In Utero world tour at the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum, this would be the band’s final tour
2004 – President George W. Bush hosts a rally at the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum
2005 – The Vetearn’s Memorial Coliseum sheltered 2,500 evacuees from New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina
2008 – Then presidential candidate, Barack Obama, held a rally at the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum to a full house of 14,500 people
2012 – The Arizona State Fair Foundation was created to assist in raising funds to help improvements on the grounds
2013 – ZZ Top performed in the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum
2014 – Hall of Heroes Exhibit at the Arizona State Fair with Optimus Prime Display
2016 – President Trump (Elect at the time) held a rally at the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum

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