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Kaiser Convention Center

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Title: Kaiser Convention Center  
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Subject: History of Oakland, California, C. W. Bergstrom, Road Trips Volume 3 Number 1, Dick's Picks Volume 5, Henry J. Kaiser
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Kaiser Convention Center

Kaiser Convention Center
circa 1917
Former names Oakland Civic Auditorium (1914-84)
General information
Architectural style Beaux Arts[1]
Location Oakland, California
Address 10 10th Street
Completed 1914
Design and construction
Architect John J. Donovan

The Kaiser Convention Center is a historic, publicly owned multi-purpose arena in Oakland, California. The facility includes a 5,492-seat arena, a large theater, and a large ballroom.[2] The building is #27 on the list of Oakland Historic Landmarks.[3]


The Beaux-Arts style landmark was built in 1914; the architect was John J. Donovan.[3] Originally known as the Oakland Civic Auditorium, it was renamed in honor of Henry J. Kaiser after a 1984 renovation.

The city closed the facility in 2006 and its future is uncertain.[1] In 2006, Oakland voters defeated a ballot proposition advocating a library space in the building.

The facility was owned by the City of Oakland until 2011, when it was sold to the local redevelopment agency for $28 million.[4] However, the redevelopment agency was dissolved by the State of California in 2012,[5] so ownership reverted to the city of Oakland.


The building is located next to the Oakland Museum, near Laney College and Lake Merritt. Parking at the building is very limited, which affects the building's viability as a major event space.

Notable events

Auditorium in use as a temporary hospital during the 1918 flu pandemic

Until 1941, Kaiser Arena hosted the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. In 1942, the Circus moved across the bay to the San Francisco Civic Auditorium and then in the mid-1960s to the Cow Palace

In the 1950s and 1960s the Roller Derby played there hundreds of times. The auditorium hosted the Oakland Symphony Orchestra until 1972, and the arena was home to the Oakland Skates roller hockey team in 1996.

For almost 70 years, from 1919 until 1987, the arena was home to the annual Christmas Pageant (later the Oakland Children's Holiday Pageant) involving at least 1,700 youngsters from 70 city schools. The organizer, professional ballerina and dance teacher Louise Jorgensen,[6] went to each school to train the children for their role as elves, toys, poinsettias or fairies.[7]

From 1967 through 1989, the Grateful Dead, an American rock band, performed at the Convention Center 57 times. Their first 23 concerts at the Convention Center were billed at "Oakland Auditorium", and later, starting in 1985, the venue changed to "Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center". In the 80's the band started performing "runs" of shows over the course of three to seven days.[8][9]

Elvis Presley performed at the Convention Center on June 3, 1956 and again on October 27, 1957.

On December 28, 1962, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to an audience of 7,000 at the auditorium to mark the 100 year anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.[10]

On November 23, 1969, Western swing pioneer and TV personality Spade Cooley received a 72-hour furlough from Vacaville prison to play a benefit concert for the Deputy Sheriffs Association of Alameda County. During the intermission, after a standing ovation, he died of a heart attack. He was to be paroled on February 22, 1970.

From 1997 through 1999 the arena played host to the University of California, Berkeley's women's basketball team while the team's on-campus venue, Haas Pavilion, was being renovated.

In January 2012 Occupy Oakland marched on the facility, stating their intent to reclaim this abandoned space for the people, but were kept away by police.[11] The action and subsequent incidents that day resulted in over 400 arrests by the Oakland Police Department and in an undetermined cost to the city due to damage and vandalism.[12]


  1. ^ a b Phillips, Ryan (February 13, 2012). "Once the Center of Civic Life, Former Oakland Auditorium Now Vacant with Future Still Uncertain", San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved February 24, 2012.
  2. ^ Ward, Jennifer Inez (June 28, 2011). "Historic Kaiser Convention Center's Future Remains Unknown", Oakland Local. Retrieved February 24, 2012.
  3. ^ a b Oakland historic landmarks
  4. ^ Johnson, Chip (July 25, 2011). "Oakland Budget Saved by Bizarre Building Transfer", San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved February 24, 2012.
  5. ^ [1] "City of Oakland Minimizes Job Losses Following Adoption of Amended Budget to Close $28 Million Deficit from Elimination of Redevelopment", City of Oakland. February 23, 2012
  6. ^ Louise Jorgensen obituary, San Francisco Chronicle, June 17, 1995
  7. ^ "A Beloved Pageant: Oakland event still stirs memories, hearts of those who danced in it, San Francisco Chronicle, December 28, 1998
  8. ^ Grateful Dead ticket stubs. Retrieved February 25, 2012.
  9. ^ Internet Archive - Grateful Dead (audio archives). Retrieved May 2009.
  10. ^ Allen, Annalee (December 30, 2012). "Oakland Municipal Auditorium was site of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. visit in 1962 to commemorate Emancipation Proclamation". Oakland Tribune. Retrieved 9 January 2013. 
  11. ^ Baker, David R., and Ho, Vivian (January 29, 2012). "Oakland Police, Occupy Protesters Clash — 100 Held", San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved February 24, 2012.
  12. ^ "Oakland assesses City Hall damage after Occupy break-in". NBC News. January 28, 2012. Retrieved 9 January 2013. 

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