CHARLESTON, W.Va. — After working 41 years at one place, hundreds of memories can happen.
Former General Manager of Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center John Robertson shared some of those memories from meeting presidents to rock stars with MetroNews, after wrapping up his final week on the job.
“One year we had Walter Cronkite here as the speaker to the Chamber dinner,” Robertson said of a fond memory. “I grew up in an era at my home where every night at 6:30, Walter Cronkite was on the television. It was in a day when Walter Cronkite said that was the truth and that’s the way it was.”
Robertson’s final day was on Wednesday but the week was capped by a retirement party on Friday that featured hundreds of guests as well as pictures through the years of Robertson with special arena guests.
Many of the pictures at the retirement party consisted of the most popular events at the facility during Robertson’s tenure: Country music shows. Robertson was seen in photos with Brad Paisley, Garth Brooks, Rascal Flatts, and more.
He said having country shows in town was always a highlight.
“They are more folksy and homey,” Robertson said. “People like Reba McEntire was always a delight to have in the building because she took so some personal interest in folks. Brad Paisley, being a fellow West Virginian, always loved playing Charleston.”
Another experience that came to mind for Robertson was five straight sellout shows for Brooks in 2016. He said Brooks’ show put on a run that the arena had never seen before.
There was an untold story that Robertson shared with MetroNews during those Brooks shows that he will never forget. He said after the first night of the sellout stretch, the arena sustained water issues, which closed all the restrooms.
“All of our restroom facilities weren’t able to be used when we had sold out shows,” he said. “After the first night, they worked and worked to try and find a solution between the water company, the sanitary board, our engineers and contractors and couldn’t determine what the problem was. At the last minute, we brought Port-A-Johns in.”
That occurred during a transition period for the arena that was formerly known as the Charleston Civic Center. In October 2018, the facility capped off a more than $100 million renovation with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and formally became known as the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center.
Robertson said that the transition period was one of the more challenging times during his 41-year tenure.
“To really determine what it is we needed to be, what we needed to have to be competitive,” he said of the challenges.
“To design what the ultimate construction package included and trying to stay open for three years for business while under construction was a real learning experience.”
Robertson joined the facility in 1978 as an assistant director. He has left as the longest-serving general manager in the facility’s history.
As for the future, Robertson said he will be going on vacation for the next couple of weeks.
“I’m certainly going to have to find something to do because I have been going at it every day for so many years,” he said. “I am looking forward to having something different to do that’s not quite the same with new experiences.”
The Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center Board of Directors will launch a national search for Robertson’s successor.