Bayfront Auditorium

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Bayfront Auditorium
formerly the Pensacola Municipal Auditorium
The Municipal Auditorium in 1974
Building Information
Location 900 South Palafox Street
Client City of Pensacola
Completion Date 1955
Cost $820,000
Date Demolished 2005
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Bayfront Auditorium (known as the Pensacola Municipal Auditorium until 1988) was a building that sat for fifty years at the foot of Palafox Street, overlooking Pensacola Bay. It was demolished in 2005.


Planning for the auditorium was begun in the early 1950s. The development faced early opposition from the Saenger Theatre's owners and others who questioned "the right of the city to levy amusement taxes which would tax the theatres for the construction of a competitive business."[1]

The Municipal Auditorium was built for $820,000 and dedicated on February 8, 1955. The Pensacola High School band played at the dedication ceremony and was the first group to perform there. The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra was the first major concert a month later, to a crowd of about 2,000.[2]

The building was managed by former Pensacola mayor Walter Wicke from its opening until Wicke's death in 1966.[3] During segregation, blacks were forced to use a side entrance and sit in the balcony.

During its lifetime, the building was host to some of the world's biggest musical acts. Elvis Presley performed at the auditorium on February 26, 1956.[4] Patsy Cline sang at the auditorium only a few years before her death. When Jerry Lee Lewis performed, he pounded the new piano so fiercely that the management stopped the show halfway through. The attendance record was set by Charley Pride, whose 1971 concert packed in 3,000 fans.[2]

In later years, the building also hosted the Civil Airs Dance Club and the Pensacola Junior League's annual "Bargain Sale" fundraiser.

The building began to lose its appeal to more modern venues with better acoustics and more accessible parking. As more musical acts chose to perform at the larger Pensacola Civic Center and more intimate Saenger Theatre, Bayfront Auditorium fell into disrepair. In its final years, the City of Pensacola was losing more than $100,000 every year to keep it open.[5]

On January 22, 2004, the Pensacola City Council voted to demolish the building, to be replaced by a new municipal auditorium as part of the Festival Park project on the Trillium site. It got a reprieve when that project was halted by a voter referendum. However, after receiving extensive damage during Hurricane Ivan, the building was again slated for demolition. Big Dog Demolition completed the demolition on July 24, 2005, and debris was used for offshore fishing reefs and in Phase II of Project GreenShores.[6]

Plaza de Luna was built on the site of the auditorium in 2006 and opened in 2007.

Other performers[edit]



  1. "Saenger Continues Fight On Pensacola Auditorium." Boxoffice, July 14, 1951.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Landmark brought many greats." Pensacola News Journal, October 18, 1999.
  5. O'Brien, Mark. "Tear down a tired auditorium and let county build better facility." Pensacola News Journal, August 24, 2003.