Civic Auditorium History
Emporia hosts a Civic Auditorium that seats about 5,000 people. The Emporia City Commission on November 5th of 1972 honored William Lindsay White (son of William Allen White) by naming the auditorium after him due to the significant work he did for The Emporia Gazette.
The auditorium underwent its initial construction in December of 1938. Although this initial phase only built the basement and foundation of the auditorium, it helped to pave the way for the next phases of construction. By April of 1939 virtually all of the steel and brick work was complete on the new civic center. The outside pillars were filled in with appropriate concrete and all that remained was interior work. One year later, in May of 1940, the William Lindsay White auditorium was ready to be opened for the public.
May 6th of 1940 was when the auditorium was dedicated and opened. Emporia threw a five day celebration which was appropriately called the "Fiestaval" (a phrase coined just for this event from the words fiesta and festival). Although church services and formal dedications took place the first two days of this Fiestaval, by May 7th the auditorium was ready for its shows.
The auditorium was pitted with a three show line up. The shows included the "Kansas Cavalcade" which was a 1000 performer act that told a mammoth epic of the west; from Kansas' involvement in the Civil War, to early Kansas Indian days, to even local monuments like the induction of Emporia's College. The fanfare carried on for another procession called "Three Cheers". This was a musical comedy starring Bobby Pope and his orchestra. The finale included the Fiestaval Grand Ball which bared host to Duke Ellington and his famous orchestra to bring the auditorium to life with style.
Since 1940, the facility has been the host of Emporia State University basketball games. The Building has hosted a State High School basketball play-off tournament continually since 1955 with the exception of a three year drought in 91,92, and 93. The Lyon County League Basketball Tournament is the longest continuously running High School tournament in the Nation.
The Auditorium has been the host for Circuses, trade-shows, commencement ceremonies, The Annual Seasonal Celebrations, concerts and performance's with such notables as Louis Armstrong, The Israeli Ballet, The Beach Boys, The Cowsills, Little River Band, Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, George Strait, Alan Jackson, and John Denver. Notable speakers have included Eleanor Roosevelt, Eric Severeid, and George Gallup III.