Hardy Murphy Coliseum was constructed in the mid 1930’s by the Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.). It opened for business in 1937 as the Municipal Exhibition Building. For its first ten years it was a roofless stadium. During this period a rodeo bull jumped from the arena floor into the grandstand. After charging uphill through spectators the bull did a swan dive into the parking lot below where he was finally destroyed.
In the late 1940’s a roof was added and presumably a better fence separating spectators and bulls. The county fair, jr. livestock show, professional rodeos and a host of other civic events headquartered at what was the regions most prestigious facility. In the early sixties the coliseum was renamed for an Ardmore native and internationally famous Wild West Show and rodeo performer Hardy Murphy. Hardy’s show business career spanned three decades and took him to Hollywood, Madison Square Garden and a command performance for the King of England. Hardy’s friends included Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and Oklahoma’s other famous cowboy Will Rogers.
At about the same time that Hardy gave his name to the coliseum, his two partners, show horses Buck and Silver Cloud, were buried at the coliseum’s grounds. The city closed it’s schools for the funeral and both the governor and long time friend Gene Autry were among the 10,000 admirers of Hardy and his horses that attended.
Sometime in the early 1970’s Hardy Murphy Coliseum fell into a period of neglect and disrepair. In the mid-eighties a group of concerned citizens organized as the Hardy Murphy Coliseum Trust Authority and were given responsibility of managing and renovating the aging but still viable building.
Last year over 100,000 people visited Hardy Murphy Coliseum and Ardmore. Forty-eight weeks of the year the coliseum holds events spanning anywhere from a single day to all seven of the week. While horse events are our mainstay there is something at Hardy Murphy Coliseum that will interest nearly everyone.