Just blocks from Union Station in Washington, D.C., an unassuming coliseum is the site of The Beatles’ first concert in the United States. Though you wouldn’t know it to look at it.
From the outside, the building seems like nothing more than another construction site in a rapidly developing part of town. But this former stadium was the venue for the Fab Four’s first Stateside concert, which kicked off the tour that would bring Beatlemania to America.
At the time of the historic concert on February 11, 1964 —two days after the band’s famous appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show — the Washington Coliseum, as the stadium was named at the time, held just over 8,000 fans The stage was set in the center of the stadium, with fans watching on all four sides. The Beatles regularly readjusted their position on stage throughout the show to alternate which side they were facing.
First opened in 1941, the building was constructed by the owner of the Washington Lions hockey team to serve as their stadium, and named Uline Ice Arena. The unassuming arena is also significant for having hosted President Eisenhower’s inaugural ball in 1953.
In 1959, it was purchased for $1 million by a wealthy jeweler and renamed the Washington Coliseum. By the early 70s it had fallen into disuse, hitting rock bottom when it served as one of Waste Management’s trash transfer stations in the 90s and early 2000s. The company tried to have the arena demolished in 2003, but it was designated as a historic space.
Most recently, after a major gutting, the arena reopened in October 2016 as the District’s first REI store. Inside, you can see replica posters from artists that played there, as well as seats from the stands and wood panels from the basketball court. Outside on M Street, across from the store’s main entrance, you’ll find an interpretive sign that commemorates the Beatles’ performance and the arena’s former lives.
Know Before You Go
The easiest way to reach the arena is by taking Metro's Red Line to the NoMa-Gallaudet U Station.