Detroit Coliseum - Detroit MI

Address: 1120 W. State Fair Ave
City: Detroit
State: MI
Zip: 48203
County: Wayne
Number of visits to this page: 12435

Please note that location entries may feature older photos or post card views that may not represent the current appearance, features, addresses, phone numbers, or contact names of the attraction. This site is intended to be a historical as well as current record of various attractions but it is not always possible to have up-to-date information due to the vast number of locations featured here. We ask you consult the propietor for current information.

General Information:

Update 2/26/2024: See Michigan State Fairgrounds

Source: Al Blixt

The Coliseum at the Michigan State Fairgrounds at 8 Mile and Woodward in Detroit was an incredibly popular venue for midget auto racing in the 1930's and 40's. Crowds of perhaps 5000 fans attended every Saturday night from November to April. It was a 1/7th mile flat concrete oval. I have a number of Coliseum race programs from 1935 to 1941.

One program from January 2nd, 1937 lists drivers such as Henry Banks, Vern Fritch, Ted Hartley, Art Hartsfeld, Jake Jacobson, Eddie Ostwick, Duke Nalon, Johnny Ritter, jimmy Snyder, George Witzman and Wally Zale. All were well-known midget drivers at the time who competed at many mid-West tracks in the summer and at indoor venues in the winter. A newspaper article featuring Wally Zale's photo in 1941 announced that 50 cars would try to qualify for the 12 spots in the 200 lap feature that Saturday.

Other well-known drivers listed as competing at the Coliseum in 1941 include Paul Russo, Johnny Wohlfiel, Cowboy O'Rourke, Tony Willman, Howard Dauphin, Ray Stauffer and Carl Forberg. I invite everyone interested in racing during the 30's and 40's to visit the site I have established to honor my dad, Al Blixt, Sr., who was a writer and photographer at the time. You can find it by searching for "Al Blixt Racing History".

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Info Updates:
10/13/2013 - Ron Pollock
I have film of the Midgets racing indoors and I think it is this location. Concrete floor, straw bales on the inside edge of the track and very small.
11/28/2010 - John Zarro
It was great to read that there are a few of us lovers of midget racing who remember that those beautiful little cars did, in fact, race inside Detroit's Michigan State Fair Coliseum back in the late 30's and early 40's. One correction, however, on an earlier posted comment regarding the surface of the track on which they raced. While the floor of the Coliseum was indeed concrete, the races back then were actually run on an overlaid, banked clay surface. The reason I can attest to this is because my father was the track maintainer whose job it was to literally plow up the track after each week's racing and then disc, harrow and grade it to a level playing field for that week's polo match held a couple days later in the same arena. The day following each polo match the process would begin all over again of blading, compacting and banking the clay up about two feet against the outer six foot concrete perimeter wall that separated the spectators from the track. This leveling and banking was repeated weekly throughout each of the many racing seasons that followed. As a result, the constantly reworked clay always presented a fresh, firm, dustless, pot-hole-free racing surface of live dirt for the next night of racing. The pits for working on the cars were located in the centerfield of the track, protected only by a ring of hay bales strung out just inside the racing surface, making for some hasty dodging by pit-crewmen when an on-track mishap sent a car spinning into the infield amid flying hay! Should anyone doubt my recollection of a plow, disc and harrow being tractored into the Coliseum before and after each night's racing there is, still to this day, evidence of their use. Just outside the north entrance to the Coliseum, between it and what was at one time the State Fair's dairy cattle building, there is a pair of brick columns with rounded concrete abutments at their bases. Because the gap between the columns was slightly narrower than the width of the track maintenance equipment, each time equipment was tractored in or out it would ride up on one or the other of the abutments, over time permanently scraping deep gouges into the concrete that can still be seen these 70 to 80 years later. Just a quick note about the cars and drivers of the day. While Offy's were in their infancy at the time, even in their early stages of development the motors had too much torque and didn't fare well on the Coliseum's short track. The more successful engines for midgets back then were small block Ford, 60 hp V-8's. Oddly, even as vivid as my 75 year old memories are of the sights and sounds of those brightly painted doodle bugs broadsliding hub-to-hub though the Coliseum's banked turns, the more poignant recollection I have is their smell. that intoxicating mixture of exhaust fumes and the sweet aroma of over-heating castor oil used in their crank cases. As for the drivers, it was the Chicago Gang that included Jimmy Snider, Howard Dauphin, Cowboy O'Rourke, Curly Mills and Johnny Ritter among others who gave Detroit's own Ronnie Householder his toughest run for the money night after night. And sadly, that last appearance of midgets in Detroit's Coliseum in more recent times?. it was an ARCA sanctioned event that actually was, in fact, run on the flat concrete surface the night of Saturday, April 10th, 1999. The engines had changed, the chassis and body styles were different, roll cages had been added, and mufflers were mandatory! Even the oldest competitor, the great Mel Kenyon, was far removed from the drivers of that long ago era. However, one thing remained constant after all those many years. It was exciting!!!.
3/23/2008 - Andrew Cummins
any one have pic. I would like to make track for a game??????
4/18/2007 - Bill Jackson
Yes they did race there a few years back. I think it was March of 2003. It was billed as The Motor City Meltdown. Attendance was ok, but I think it could have been promoted better. Karts, Quarter Midgets, Michigan Legends, and Midgets raced that night. I thought they had too many karts and Quarter Midgets, causing the show to end well past midnight. All in all it was a good night of racing. Bobby Jackson won the Midget feature over his car owner Dave Furhman, with the winningest midget driver of all time Mel Kenyon third.
3/18/2007 - Sean Fitzgerald
Correct me if I am wrong again, but they ran there a few years ago. Don't know what the attendance was but i am sorry i didn't go. I think the one thing that can be learned is that an indoor facility is viable, and with todays technology a decent sized track could be built indoors anywhere, eliminating much of local noise concerns. Why not do it there?
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