Harrah’s Cherokee Center – Asheville (HCCA), previously the U.S. Cellular Center Asheville and the Asheville Civic Center, has a long and interesting history which dates back over one hundred years. HCCA is known as a quality venue that hosts a diverse variety of events that reflects the creativity, uniqueness, and artistry that Asheville is known for. With over 200 days of events and drawing over 225,000 people annually, HCCA continues to support the vitality of the region as a whole and the vibrant downtown of Asheville in particular.
City Auditorium: (1900-1903)
In the year 1900, a movement was started by the newly-organized Asheville Auditorium Company to secure a large gathering place for the Asheville area. This “hall for accommodations of large assemblages” was built in 1902 and its initial performance was presented in May of that year. Sadly the Auditorium burned to the ground at 4:15 am Saturday, October 24, 1903.
The Municipal Auditorium: (1904-1937)
Following the destruction of the former Auditorium, the building was partially rebuilt with funds from the insurance claim settlement. In 1911 the City of Asheville assumed ownership and continued its operation until the building was condemned in 1931 as a potential safety hazard. The Auditorium stood abandoned until its demolition in 1937.
Asheville Auditorium: (1939-1974)
The new Asheville Auditorium was built following the Great Depression with the support of the local public and the federal Public Works Administration. Described as “a City Auditorium in which to accommodate musical concerts, theatrical performances, social events, athletic contests of certain kinds, and a variety of conventions and conferences,” the new building was designed to cover 20,000 square feet and have a seating capacity of over 3,000 persons with a level floor capable of being converted to a ballroom. The architect charged with this new design, Lindsey M. Gudger, drew much of his inspiration from the Art Deco movement, and he included many of its motifs throughout the building, which earned the Auditorium the compliment of “being an example of one of the finest buildings of its type”. The new Asheville Auditorium opened January 8, 1940 with the Asheville Civic Center Music Association’s presentation of violinist Yehuda Menuhin.
Asheville Civic Center Complex: (1974-2010)
On July 11, 1968, City Council approved plans for a new Asheville Civic Center Complex. The new facility would encompass the existing Auditorium and add an exhibition hall, a banquet hall, meeting rooms, and an arena for conventions, concerts, sports, and family show productions. It would also include exhibit and rehearsal areas for the Asheville Art Museum, Colburn Mineral Museum, and the Asheville Symphony Orchestra. The official ground-breaking ceremony took place on June 2, 1970. The Complex was built by the City of Asheville General Obligation Bonds and was opened in June of 1974. Following the completion and opening of the Arena and Banquet Hall additions, the Auditorium underwent over two years of renovative construction. Architect John Cort considered it important to integrate many of the original design elements incorporated by Lindsey M. Gudger. The newly-christened Thomas Wolfe Auditorium was opened on Sunday, December 13, 1975 with the Asheville Symphony’s presentation of “Christmas Concerto” and “The Nutcracker”. One of the nation’s oldest and longest continuously running folk festivals, the perennial favorite Mountain Dance & Folk Festival, was held here during this time period and continued until 1998 before moving to a smaller location. For a time, the Asheville Civic Center was also home to the NBA’s Development League team Asheville Altitude, the United Hockey League’s Asheville Smoke, and the Southern Professional Hockey League’s Asheville Aces.
Thomas Wolfe Auditorium (1975-Present)
Following the completion and opening of the Arena and Banquet Hall additions, the Auditorium underwent over two years of renovative construction. Architect John Cort considered it important to integrate many of the original design elements incorporated by Lindsey M. Gudger. The newly-christened Thomas Wolfe Auditorium was opened on Sunday, December 13, 1975 with the Asheville Symphony’s presentation of “Christmas Concerto” and “The Nutcracker”. One of the nation’s oldest and longest continuously running folk festivals, the perennial favorite Mountain Dance & Folk Festival, was held here during this time period and continued until 1998 before moving to a smaller location.
U.S. Cellular Center Asheville: (2010-Present)
With support from the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority and additional proceeds from a naming rights agreement with U.S. Cellular, the City of Asheville began executing a master plan of improvements to the facility in 2010. These renovations included expanding the Thomas Wolfe lobby, updating Arena seating, new scoreboards and electronic displays, sound and lighting improvements, and general interior refurbishing. Thanks in large part to the renovations and community support the USCC hosted the return of the Southern Conference Basketball Tournament in 2012. Asheville was host to the tournament from 1984 through 1995 and is very proud to have this prestigious and exciting event back in the city. With these renovations the U.S. Cellular Center seeks to remain a vital component in the destination experience with events often being a primary motivator for people to visit Asheville. Drawing out of town visitors and locals alike, the updated facility can host events for years to come.
Harrah’s Cherokee Center – Asheville: (2020-Present)
With the support from multiple community leaders, Harrah’s Cherokee, owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, was approved by Asheville City Council as the official naming rights for the venue. As of January 1, 2020, the venue was renamed the Harrah’s Cherokee Center – Asheville.
For general information, please call 828-259-5736.