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A Mecca of Glaze & Haze: The Cape Cod Coliseum

Grateful Dead ticket stub, 1979

Enter the impresario. . .

Vince McMahon in the mid-seventies was a young promoter and marketer. Brash and bombastic, he fused 1920s vaudeville kitsch with 1970s sports programming. The tempered alloy forged the World Wrestling Federation. McMahon was an old-school showman but foresaw the coming cable television revolution and its money-making potential. It was at the Coliseum offices that he built the fledgling professional wrestling franchise that became a multi-billion dollar enterprise (World Wrestling Entertainment). He and his wife Linda (one-time U.S. Senate candidate and now Administrator of the Small Business Administration under President Donald Trump) lived on the Cape, and he became the Coliseum’s last owner by decade’s end.

But like his predecessors, McMahon was tempted by the allure of professional hockey, notwithstanding painful evidence of the sport’s failure at the arena. He welcomed the proposition of owning the Cape Cod Buccaneers of the newly formed Atlantic Coast Hockey League in 1981. Professional hockey’s rebirth on the Cape was short lived; the team was shut down during the winter of 1982.

The concrete dungeon and its hodge-podge roster proved too small for a man with big ambitions. So with little fanfare the last event at the arena took place on June 4, 1984, a wrestling card featuring (with skillful irony) Sgt. Slaughter. Shortly thereafter, the McMahons sold the property to Christmas Tree Shops and his empire relocated to Stamford, CT. The structure was tripled in size to accommodate retail merchandise. Today, it still stands as a local warehouse for off-Cape distribution. Defeated yet defiant.

According to the blogspot “Heartpunchwrestling,” McMahon once predicted that an exhibition hockey game featuring the Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres in late 1979 would be the “greatest event in the building’s history.” What McMahon got wrong The Boston Globe got right. The paper wrote in May 1984 that “it was the rock stars who were the main event” throughout the Coliseum’s history. And that is true. Rock concerts left the most enduring impressions on youth of that era.



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