Brown County arena leaves 60 years of memories

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ASHWAUBENON, Wis. (WBAY) - After 60 years of hosting concerts, sporting events and various shows, the Brown County Veterans Memorial Arena is set for one last hurrah.

This spring, the historical arena will be torn down to make way for a new expo center, but not before one final concert.

PMI Entertainment Group says music icon Bret Michaels, who's performed five other times at the arena, asked if he could play the final concert there. His "Unbroken" world tour will close out the arena on Saturday, April 6.

"1960, a couple weeks before the election, John Kennedy, they had a breakfast for Kennedy at the arena and it was full. I mean, the ground level, flat level was full, all the stands were full," Brown County Library historian Mary Jane Herber says.

Herber says when the arena opened on November 11, 1958, Northeast Wisconsin suddenly became a player in big time entertainment.

"One of the things about the arena was, it opened the community up to that kind of thing because prior to that it was basically Riverside Ballroom was the biggest facility in the community," Herber says.

Beyond the concerts and famous dignitaries, the arena became a home to annual shows and expos, pro wrestling matches, hockey teams the Bobcats and Gamblers, and UW-Green Bay Phoenix basketball.

The arena was also the birth place of the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame. A small exhibit in the concourse was so well-received, it led to the original hall of fame connected to the arena before moving to its current home in Lambeau Field.

With its days numbered, the arena's lights will come on one last time, April 6.

"For all the people that say, 'I saw my very first show...' now's your chance to say, 'I saw the last show,'" PMI chief operating officer Brendan Bruss says.

Brown County Executive Troy Streckenbach says, "I think everybody that live in Northeast Wisconsin has a favorite moment in this arena."

"It's run the gamut in terms of entertainment," says Herber. "Been used in many, many, many different ways which is what they anticipated."

"It has served the community very, very well," she says.