The José Miguel Agrelot Coliseum, officially named "Coliseo de Puerto Rico José Miguel Agrelot" (and nicknamed El Choliseo, in honor of Agrelot's best known character, Don Cholito), is the biggest indoor arena in Puerto Rico dedicated to entertainment. It is located at the Golden Mile of San Juan, the island capital.

The coliseum opened its doors to the public in September 2004 after a prolonged construction financed by the Government of Puerto Rico. This venue is owned by the Puerto Rico Convention District Authority, a public corporation of Puerto Rico, and managed by SMG. It can accommodate up to 18,500 spectators and can be reached by the Tren Urbano (Urban Train) system from a nearby station.

The arena hosted the first WWE pay-per-view event outside the continental United States, Canada and the United Kingdom when New Years Revolution was held there in 2005.

As of November 2009, the arena has received over 3 million spectators, hosting more than 516 events with a gross ticket revenue of over $128 million.

On May 26, 2011, the "Choliseo" was ranked 8th on the "Top 50 Arena Venues" of the world and second of the West Hemisphere in worldwide ticket sales by Pollstar Magazine.

History
Original plans

The Coliseum was a project started during the administration of Governor Rafael Hernández Colón, initially as part of an Olympic bid to host the 2004 Olympic Games. The facility was supposed to be constructed between two local sport venues: the Roberto Clemente Coliseum and Hiram Bithorn Baseball Stadium, about a mile and a half away from the current arena site. The Coliseum would have been used for events such as Gymnastics and Olympic Basketball had the games been held in San Juan.

Controversy

In 1997, however, Athens was selected to host the games, and the construction of the Coliseum was jeopardized. Recognizing the need for such a facility anyway, the government decided to continue the construction, this time at a site physically close to San Juan's financial district, the "Milla de Oro" ("Golden Mile"). Since the new site was adjacent to a future Tren Urbano station, the Coliseum's planners decided not to incorporate parking facilities to the arena, as to induce visitors to use mass transportation to reach it.

Political opponents of the Rosselló administration raised various objections to the original plan, claiming that the lot of land purchased for the construction would benefit some of his political party's (the New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico) heaviest financial contributors. They also objected to the lack of parking space, claiming that nearby private parking operators (who were also money donors to Rosselló's party, they claimed) would extort high parking fees from people who could not or would not use public transportation to the venue (at the time, the Tren Urbano was in its initial stages of construction; by the time the facility opened it was still under construction). Objectors would also point out that a private operator would take control of the facility under contract from the government of Puerto Rico under what was perceived as a highly expensive contract. The Rosselló administration countered by stating that previous experience with public sports facilities in Puerto Rico (which would quickly fall into disrepair at an accelerated rate requiring constant remodelling) demanded that a private entity manage the facility. The contract's expense would be justified by bringing in an operating partner with international experience managing world-class facilities, whose reputation would ensure that performers and sport events that had never been staged in Puerto Rico could visit the island.

The Coliseum's construction was stopped for close to two years during the administration of governor Sila María Calderón, the leader of the opposition party (the Popular Democratic Party of Puerto Rico) whose administration followed Rosselló's. She claimed that the Puerto Rican government had spent $242 million dollars for a facility where only 42% of its scheduled project plan had been completed when she took office. The planners and constructors had overlooked the fact that a water pumping station next to the facility had been built over unstable land, and a portion of the building's foundations would have had to be redone because of this. There was even talk of demolishing what had been built and starting from scratch, which infuriated Rosselló supporters, who dismissed the suggestion as merely an excuse to spend more government money, this time to benefit the PDP's financial backers. Plans for a redesigned interior added during the Calderón administration added fuel to the intense public controversy.

Yet another controversy came about when the ticketing distributor was named. An exclusive contract was awarded to Banco Popular's Ticketpop, almost ignoring the bid by competitor TicketCenter. The situation almost went to trial, as both parties argued over who should sell the tickets for the events, but the Puerto Rican government stood by their original contract with Ticketpop. Local producer Angelo Medina spearheaded a group that wanted the legislature to curb the managing powers of SMG, recently named to oversee operations and activities, because they feared that the company's relationship with non-local T.V. companies would limit the participation of local talent in the arena.

The coliseum was finally inaugurated in September 2004, several years into its construction and millions of dollars over budget.

Dedication

The naming of the structure caused a controversy by itself. During the construction phase, plans called for the coliseum to be named simply El Coliseo de Puerto Rico (The Coliseum of Puerto Rico), but when it was also suggested that a private entity could sponsor the facility and thereby lend its name to it, most local politicians objected to the idea, since the financial scandal involving Enron reminded them that the bankrupt company had sponsored a sports facility (Enron Field, later named the Minute Maid Park) in Houston, Texas, United States.

Some politicians argued on behalf of naming the coliseum after a Puerto Rican celebrity. Some of the names mentioned were that of pop star Ricky Martin, boxer Félix Trinidad and recently deceased actor Raúl Juliá. Puerto Rican law demanded that no facility could be named after a living individual, and there were talks of making an exception to the law should a living Puerto Rican icon be honored with the name.

However, the name of beloved local comedian José Miguel Agrelot was chosen when the coliseum was near its completion. Agrelot himself had suggested the name of Rafael Hernández Marín to be used, and when someone suggested his name instead he was both surprised and concerned. He was quoted as saying once in his radio program, "Tu Alegre Despertar": "I can only hope my name won't be used, since I'd like God to keep me alive for quite some time. .. it would be a great honor, and I wouldn't object to it if that is what people want, but public facilities here are customarily named after dead people. .. I won't even dare to think about it. I'd only like the controversy over the name to stop".

Soon after, Agrelot died in his sleep while taking an afternoon nap, on January 28, 2004. The almost unanimous consensus of most Puerto Ricans was that Agrelot deserved the honor, and the facility was dedicated to him on what would have been his birthday that year. A bust of "Don Cholito" now stands at the coliseum's lobby.

Awards and recognitions

Pollstar, the prestigious U.S. based magazine, chose the Puerto Rico Coliseum as the "International Large Venue of the Year 2005". This means it is recognized as one of the most important venues in the world, competing with the Acer Arena in Australia; the Manchester Evening News Arena in Manchester, England; The Auditorio Nacional in Mexico City, and the Odyssey Arena in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

"The Choliseo, as Puerto Ricans affectionately call, was another of those pleasant surprises last year," continued Rivera Cardona. "It received Pollstar's coveted 2005 Best New International Large Venue of the Year and it was nominated again for the Best International Venue of the Year in 2006." The Puerto Rico Coliseum ranks No. 15 in ticket sales worldwide according to industry trade magazine Pollstar.

The Puerto Rico Coliseum has developed into the premier entertainment site of the Island. Since its inauguration in September 2004 over 3 million people have crossed its gates bringing in $128 million in gross ticket revenue and hosting more than 516 events.

On May 26, 2011, the "Choliseo" was ranked 8th on the "Top 50 Arena Venues" of the world and second of the West Hemisphere in worldwide ticket sales by Pollstar Magazine, surpassing Los Angeles' Staples Center, Miami's American Airlines Arena, London's Wembley Arena, etc. In its first three months of 2011, the coliseum received an overwhelming number of people of over 205,000. During the first trimester, the coliseum was ranked 13 times in the 25 best arenas worldwide, according to Pollstar, Billboard Magazine and Venues Today.

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