Now known as Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City Convention Hall - dedicated in 1929 - was the largest auditorium in the world without columns or supports.
As early as 1910 city promoters encouraged the construction of a convention hall to host meetings and events and bring more tourism to the city. It wasn’t until 1923, when the city held a referendum to authorize the purchase of the property, that the project began. The chosen site was Rendezvous Park on the Boardwalk, an amusement park.
The $15 million project ($225 million in 2019 dollars) opened in 1929 with great fanfare. Vice President of the United States Charles H. Curtis attended the dedication. The largest structure of its kind in the world at the time, it encompassed an entire city block. It could seat 40,000 visitors - in a city that only had 65,000 residents in 1929.
The project also included two massive pipe organs.
Over the years, the Hall underwent various renovations and expansions. West Hall opened in 1970 with the nation’s first indoor helicopter flight to commemorate the occasion. Convention Hall was renovated and reopened as Boardwalk Hall in 2001. In 2017, it was renamed Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall, in honor of the Atlantic City Mayor and State Senator who died earlier that year.
Convention Hall has hosted thousands of events during its history. Some of these include the Miss America Pageant, Ice Capades, sporting events, and concerts. During World War II, the Hall was converted to a training facility for members of the Army stationed here. Convention Hall was also the site of a major event in the City’s history, the 1964 Democratic National Convention.
Root for the Home Team
Convention Hall has hosted hundreds of sporting events throughout its history. The arena can be converted to an indoor football field, an ice hockey rink, a basketball court, a race track, and even a bowling alley, depending on the need.
Claims are that an official game for every organized team sport has been played in Boardwalk Hall, except one - baseball. Although legend has it that baseball great Joe DiMaggio and fellow soldiers played a pick-up game inside the Hall during the World War II training, no official games are on record.
Several teams have called the Hall home over the years. In ice hockey, the Atlantic City Sea Gulls played here from 1930 to 1952, with a break during the war years. Later, the Boardwalk Bullies battled their opposing teams on the home ice from 2001 to 2005.
Arena Football League’s Atlantic City Blackjacks are the newest team to claim the Hall as their home turf. The Blackjacks began playing indoor football here in 2019.