The Sporto: Tales from the Rock Mecca of South Florida is a C. Rich classic book. Billy Joel once called it “an acoustic nightmare.” Rodger Waters called the place “a real compromise.” And Robert Plant said, “This is the first gig I’ve ever done that was rained out inside the building.” However, what they might not have understood at the time was that this place was a temple to all of us in South Florida. It was a sacred place where we would gather and worship at the altar of Hard Rock. It was where we went to hear angels sing. It was the place the rock god Brian Johnson screamed out, “Oh, Let there be rock!” I am talking about the Hollywood Sportatorium in the 1980s. I’m talking about a place in Rock ‘n’ Roll history that existed for 18 years as the only venue of its kind in all of South Florida to see rock music live.
The Hollywood Sportatorium, or The Sporto as we called it, was the venue in South Florida where everyone came to play like Bon Jovi, Cinderella, Def Leppard, Guns N’ Roses, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Mötley Crüe, Night Ranger, Poison, Quiet Riot, Ratt, Triumph, Foreigner, Twisted Sister and Van Halen just to name a handful. It was the place where we would all go to see all of our favorite bands. If you were a rock band and you never played the Sporto, then you just hadn’t made it to the top like Foreigner sang about in the song “Jukebox Hero.” The Sporto was an arena that held 15,532 rock souls and was THE place for live rock concerts in South Florida.
The building does not exist anymore. However, it still stands in the four corners of my heart and soul. I can still see the whole place in my mind’s eye. I can still smell the cigarette and pot smoke in the air. If I close my eyes long enough, I can hear the sounds of the last Heavy Metal Band to ever play there, Judas Priest in September of 1988 singing “Turbo Lover.” Some of the best memories of my entire life lay forever in the four walls of the Hollywood Sportatorium.
I heard some of the greatest bands the world of music had to offer. I heard bands right in the middle of their prime. I saw bands play before anyone knew who they were and I watched bands play long after their peak and everything in between. I stood witness to the greatest era in rock ‘n’ roll. I stood in abject awe watching and listening to the last generation of master musicians that could actually play their instruments. I came of age in a magical time in music. I was there and grew up during 1980’s Hard Rock scene.