Flashback: Old Name Returns To Historic Waterloo Arena
Some observant motorists going past the National Cattle Congress Fairgrounds in Waterloo may have recently noticed something a little bit different.
Specifically, it's the new sign attached to the nearly century-old main arena. The historic venue that sits prominently along Ansborough Ave. near the U.S Highway 218 interchange underwent a name change on Wednesday (Aug. 1, 2018).
McElroy Auditorium is now called The Hippodrome.
The name isn't new; it's the original moniker attached to the building when it first opened in 1919.
"We wanted to bring the arena back to its old roots," said Jim Koch, fairgrounds co-manager. "If you Google 'Hippodrome Waterloo', (the search) comes to this building from year's ago and brings up all kinds of old photos."
The arena's name was changed around 1965 (there is no documentation to clarify the exact year) to honor R.J. "Mac" McElroy, a prominent Waterloo businessman and philanthropist who died unexpectedly that year at the age of 56.
McElroy founded the Black Hawk Broadcasting Company, which launched KWWL-TV and Radio. His estate established the McElroy Trust, which currently grants approximately $2.5 million annually for the educational benefit of deserving young people in 19 Iowa counties.
According to Koch, the feedback from those who have noticed the name change has been positive.
"It's like, 'oh, that's cool'," Koch said. "That's all it is. We're not trying to offend anyone. We're just bringing back the historical name."
The NCC's Board of Directors recently approved the name change, although Koch admitted that the switch has been under consideration for about five years. The non-profit organization is planning to launch a new website this week, and with the annual fair coming up in mid-September, Koch said the timing was right for the change to happen.
"We wanted to fire everything off at one time," Koch stated. "Now, it's a matter of coming events. We've got a mindset 'change the name in the contracts, change the name in the advertising'."
The Hippodrome, which turns 100 years old next year, has been inducted into the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It has hosted some the nation's biggest stars over the years. Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson, KISS, Aerosmith, REO Speedwagon, The Beach Boys, Garth Brooks, Martina McBride, Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, Destiny's Child, Nelly, Jason Aldean, and Dierks Bentley are among the many artists who have performed there. On Feb. 20, 1984, President Ronald Reagan kicked off his re-election campaign at McElroy Auditorium.
The arena served as the original home of the Waterloo Black Hawks hockey team from its inception in 1962 until Young Arena opened in 1994. The Waterloo Hawks, one of the original NBA teams and the only sports franchise ever based in Iowa from any of the current Big Four leagues, also played home games at historic venue from 1948 to 1951.