|The Orlando Sports Stadium first opened in 1967 and later named after wrestler Eddie Graham. It was located on the east side of Orlando on the
Econolahatchee Trail. It was a very basic indoor arena, no air conditioning, concrete floors, wood plank benches and plywood doors
on the stalls in the bathroom, if you were lucky.
In the late 60's and early 70's The Orlando Sports Stadium was the only venue in Orlando to host large concerts, professional wrestling and boxing
events. It's amazing that headline acts agreed to perform in such a small venue. If you wanted a seat, you sat just a few feet above the roller rink
shaped floor on two 2x4 boards that could deliver hefty splinters. The only other choice was to sit on the concrete floor in front of the stage where spilled
drinks was the rule more often than the exception. Most people tried to get to the front row where they were rewarded with music so loud pouring from
the amplifier stacks that your hearing was diminished for hours and your ears rang for days. The tickets were always around $5.00 to $10.00 each
which was about the cost of a record album at the time.
The Orlando Sports Stadium hosted famous concerts by big named bands such as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Elvis Presley, Grand Funk Railroad
and Bob Dylan and The Rolling Thunder Review.
The 1971 John Sebastian concert resulted in 2 deaths. A crowd who did not have tickets gathered outside the front of the Stadium and were trying to
storm the gate. The manager called the police and while the squad car was rushing to the scene heading east on Colonial Drive they ran a red light at
Highway 436 killing 2 girls in a car at that intersection. Other officers arriving on the scene, decided to tear gas the paying fans. They remained seated
trying to hear Sebastian playing his acoustic guitar as John Sebastian tried to calm everyone inside as the commotion taking place at the entrance
overpowered his microphone. The paying fans finally had to head for the exits when the tear gas came lingering in.
Deputies arrested 29 fans and the conflicts continued at the stadium. Reports of drug use at concerts were rampant. Some blamed the type of bands
that played there. That type of music attracted ''long-hairs'' and with them came drugs.
Orange County commissioners in 1971 filed a suit asking a circuit judge to ban hard-rock concerts at the stadium. The suit was later dismissed, but
the trouble did not end. In the years that followed, stadium owner Pete Ashlock and the county went head to head
on whether the concerts would continue. Despite the violence that had occurred, the stadium had its followers.
Even as parents crowded the jail to retrieve their children who had been arrested in the 1971 riot, they spoke in favor of the stadium. Without the
Orlando Sports Stadium, they said, the kids would have nowhere to go.
Ashlock and sheriff's deputies eventually reached an agreement that provided extra security at major concerts.
As a result of the John Sebastian riot there were no rock concerts held at the venue for many years. When the concerts did resume, there was no
"Festival Seating" as they somehow blamed that as the cause of the riot and you were forced to go directly to your seats and were not allowed to move
from your seat to take photos or dance making the concert not as fun as it was in the past.
The building was closed by the Orange County Building Department because of code violations and was demolished in November 1995. The land on
which it stood is now occupied by a housing development called Econ River Estates.