Dorton Arena

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Dorton Arena
Dorton Arena.jpg
Dorton Arena
Former namesState Fair Arena (19521961)
Location North Carolina State Fairgrounds
1025 Blue Ridge Road
Raleigh, North Carolina
OwnerState of North Carolina
OperatorState of North Carolina
Capacity 5,110 Arena Football and Hockey
7,610 Basketball
SurfaceIce, Concrete, Hardwood
Architect Maciej Nowicki, William Henley Dietrick
Carolina Cougars (ABA) (1969–1974)
Raleigh Bullfrogs (GBA) (1991–1992)
Raleigh IceCaps (ECHL) (1991–1998)
Raleigh Cougars (USBL) (1997–1999)
Raleigh Rebels (AIFL) (2005–2006)
Carolina Rollergirls (WFTDA) (2006–present)
Triangle Torch (AIF/SIF) (2016–2017)
J. S. Dorton Arena
USA North Carolina location map.svg
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Usa edcp location map.svg
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LocationNorth Carolina State Fairgrounds, W. Hillsborough St., Raleigh, North Carolina
Coordinates 35°47′37″N78°42′36″W / 35.79361°N 78.71000°W / 35.79361; -78.71000 Coordinates: 35°47′37″N78°42′36″W / 35.79361°N 78.71000°W / 35.79361; -78.71000
ArchitectNowicki, Matthew, et al.; Muirhead, William, Construction
NRHP reference No. 73001375 [1]
Added to NRHPApril 11, 1973

J. S. Dorton Arena is a 7,610-seat multi-purpose arena located in Raleigh, North Carolina, on the grounds of the North Carolina State Fair. It opened in 1952.


Architect Maciej Nowicki of the North Carolina State University Department of Architecture was killed in an airplane crash before the construction phase. Local architect William Henley Dietrick supervised the completion of the arena using Nowicki's innovative design. Said design features a steel cable supported saddle-shaped roof in tension, held up by parabolic concrete arches in compression. The arches cross about 20 feet above ground level and continue underground, where the ends of the arches are held together by more steel cables in tension. The outer walls of the arena support next to no weight at all. Dorton Arena was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on April 11, 1973. [1] Originally named the "State Fair Arena", it was dedicated to Dr. J. S. Dorton, former North Carolina State Fair manager, in 1961. [2]

In the past, it has hosted many sporting events, concerts, political rallies and circuses.

Historic significance

The Dorton Arena was the first structure in the world to use a cable-supported roof. The structure is based on two parabolic concrete arches which lean over to the point that they are closer to being parallel to the ground than they are to being vertical. The arches lean toward and beyond each other such that they cross each other 26 feet above ground. These arches, approaching horizontal in plane, thus serve as the outer edges of the structure, which when viewed from above appears almost elliptical. The arches are supported by slender columns around the building perimeter. Cables are strung between the two opposing arch structures providing support for the saddle-shaped roof. This was the first permanent cable-supported roof in the world. Constructed in 1952, the arena was the predecessor of more famous domed stadiums to follow such as the Houston Astrodome in 1965 and the Louisiana Superdome in 1975. Dorton Arena was designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2002. [3] [4] [5]


Dorton Arena has hosted numerous sporting events and teams throughout the decades. The longest-running tenant was the Raleigh IceCaps (ECHL) ice hockey team from 19911998. The American Basketball Association's Carolina Cougars also played some games in the arena from 196974. It was also the home of the Carolina Rollergirls (WFTDA).

Triangle Torch (black jerseys with and red and yellow accents) vs. Lehigh Valley Steelhawks (gold jerseys with black accents) during a game at Dorton Arena, March 25, 2016 Triangle Torch vs Lehigh Valley Steelhawks 1.jpg
Triangle Torch (black jerseys with and red and yellow accents) vs. Lehigh Valley Steelhawks (gold jerseys with black accents) during a game at Dorton Arena, March 25, 2016

The Cougars became tenants after the Houston Mavericks moved to North Carolina in 1969. The Cougars were a "regional franchise", playing "home" games in Charlotte (Bojangles' Coliseum), Greensboro (Greensboro Coliseum), Winston-Salem Memorial Coliseum and Raleigh (Dorton Arena). Hall of Fame Coach Larry Brown began his coaching career with the Cougars in 1972. Billy Cunningham was the ABA MVP for the Brown and theCougars in the 197273 season. Despite a strong fan base the Cougars were sold and moved to St. Louis in 1974. [6]

Dorton Arena was a popular venue for professional wrestling in the 70s and 80s, with sometimes weekly matches. Wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper defeated “Nature Boy” Ric Flair for the National Wrestling Alliance U.S. Heavyweight championship in Dorton Arena on Jan. 27, 1981.

Beginning in 2016, it became the home of the Triangle Torch in American Indoor Football. [7] The Torch have since played as members of Supreme Indoor Football but left Dorton Arena prior to the 2018 season in the American Arena League.

Other events

Besides hosting sporting events, the arena is also used for concerts during the North Carolina State Fair. Various conventions and fairs also use floorspace of the arena as an exhibition space, often in conjunction with the neighboring Jim Graham building.

The arena has hosted the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) regional robotics competition and was the first space to hold a regional in the state.

Both Shaw University and Meredith College use Dorton Arena as a site for graduation, and the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics use the facility as a rain site for their commencement exercises.

Concerts in Dorton (non-fair)

Dorton Arena and Reynolds Coliseum were the only concert venues in the Capital City for many decades before Walnut Creek Amphitheater and PNC Arena were built. The building was originally designed for livestock shows, not for concerts, so while there are unobstructed views of the stage, the sound tends to bounce off the glass. Fair officials have made significant changes to improve the acoustics of the building in recent years. Many of the biggest names in entertainment have played in this arena.

Ray Charles and his Augmented OrchestraOct. 8, 1962
Johnny CashSeptember 8, 1963Billboard Aug. 31, 1963
The Original Hootenanny starring the Journeyman, The Halifax 111, Geeezinslaw Brothers, Jo Mapes, Glenn YarbroughNov. 1, 1963Daily Tar Heel Oct. 27, 1963
Caravan of Record Stars, including the Shirelles, the Supremes and the CoastersJuly 22, 1964
The Four SeasonsMay 4, 1964
Beach BoysJuly 12, 1965
Warner Mack, the Wilburn Brothers, harold Morrison,Nov. 26, 1965
The SupremesFeb. 6, 1966Daily Tar Heel
The Righteous BrothersOct. 28, 1966Daily Tar Heel
Wilson Pickett Sho Jr. Walker and the All Stars, Sam & Dave, Billy Stewart, James Carr, TV Mama, King Coleman and Al "TNT" Braggs and his great show orchestraNov. 14, 1966Daily Tar Heel
Otis Redding, the Marvelettes, James & Bobby Purify, The DriftersJan. 30, 1967Daily Tar Heel
The SupremesFeb. 5, 1967Daily Tar Heel (Jan. 12, 1967)
Lou RawlsFeb. 18, 1967Daily Tar Heel (Jan. 12, 1967)
The TemptationsMarch 12, 1967Daily Tar Heel Mar 10, 1967
Beach Boys w/ Davy JonesApril 23, 1968(rescheduled from April 6, which was cancelled due to MLK's assassination)
The Four SeasonsMay 4, 1968Billboard, April 27, 1968
Jimi Hendrix ExperienceApril 11, 1969,911&per_page=5&month=1969-4
Led ZeppelinApril 8, 1970
Country Shindig - Jerry Lee Lewis with Linda Gail LewisAug. 29, 1970
The Grand Funk RailroadApril 23, 1971
Jackson 5Aug. 1, 1971
Country Shinding - Jerry Lee Lewis, Dolly Parton & Porter WagonerMay 28, 1971
James Taylor / Carole King, Jo MamaMarch 4, 1971
Black SabbathMarch 6, 1972
King CrimsonMarch 29, 1972
Jethro Tull w/ Captain BeefheartApril 20, 1972Billboard April 22, 1972
CHICAGOApril 26, 1972
The Guess Who Live at the ParamountAug. 10, 1972Billboard, Aug. 12, 1972
Blood Sweat and Tears w/ NC SymphonyJan. 12, 1973
The SylversNov. 16, 1973Billboard Magazine Oct. 27, 1973
Blood Sweat and Tears w/ NC SymphonyJan. 12, 1974Daily Tar Heel Jan. 9, 1974
Kris Kristofferson and Waylon JenningsFebruary 15, 1974
Tom Rundgren's UtopiaMarch 8, 1974
KISS Rock & Roll Over tour Nov. 27, 1976
The Outlaws, Rick Derringer, FoghatJan. 22, 1977The Technician, Jan. 24, 1977
Rick James Fire it Up tour w/ PrinceMarch 15, 1980
Kool and the Gang, the Gap Band, Skyy and Yarbrough and PeoplesMarch 27, 1981
PKMMarch 1, 1982
LoverboySeptember 1982The Technician Sept. 10, 1982
Prince (Controversy Tour)March 12, 1982
Maxwell House Give 'em A Hand Concert - Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter, Jerry Reed, Lee Greenwood, Cabin Fever - [ permanent dead link ]July 2, 1983
HeartAug. 31, 1985
RATT / Bon Jovi 7800 Fahrenheit Tour November 1, 1985
George ThorogoodNov. 30, 1986Daily Tar Heel Dec. 1, 1986
Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double TroubleFebruary 11, 1987
PetraNov. 2, 1990
Climax Blues BandNov. 27, 1976Billboard Nov. 27, 1976

See also

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  1. 1 2 "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places . National Park Service. March 13, 2009.
  2. Survey and Planning Unit Staff (August 1972). "J.S. Dorton Arena" (pdf). National Register of Historic Places - Nomination and Inventory. North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office. Retrieved 2015-05-01.
  3. "Extended history of the J.S. Dorton Arena". North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. Retrieved June 29, 2017.
  4. "Dorton Arena". American Society of Civil Engineers. Retrieved June 29, 2017.
  5. Petroski, Henry (November–December 2002). "Dorton Arena, On the occasion of its 50th anniversary and its dedication as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark" (PDF). American Scientist : 503–507. Retrieved March 3, 2021.
  6. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-11-27. Retrieved 2014-05-19.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. "AIF in Raleigh NC begins today as new team has been awarded to Raleigh, NC". Triangle Torch. August 12, 2015. Archived from the original on August 22, 2015. Retrieved August 12, 2015.