The Curious History Of The University Of Iowa’s Duane Allman Memorial Field House

Find out how Iowa City became home to an unofficial memorial to the late legendary guitarist.

By Andy Kahn Mar 17, 2023 12:15 pm PDT

On September 8, 1977, Linda Ronstadt performed on the campus of the University Of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa. Posters for the concert promoted by the local Hancher Entertainment Commission (HEC) listed the location of the concert as the “Duane Allman Memorial Fieldhouse.”

As noted in a November 3, 1977 article in the university’s newspaper the Daily Iowan, in response to the advertisement (and perhaps others like this Frank Zappa show on September 24, 1977), former U of I director of public information Loren Hickerson contacted HEC’s John Gallo and asked for an end to the use of the unofficial name the Field House due to a “rash of inquires” fielded by the school seeking information regarding the unexpectedly named venue.

The DI article entitled “Allman haunts Field House” was written by Beverly Gerber, who played an unknowing role in resurfacing the use of the “Duane Allman Memorial Field House” for the Ronstadt concert. In a column published in the DI earlier in 1977, Gerber – who at the time was a five-year resident of Iowa City – wrote about the transient nature of college towns, and wondered if anyone knew the “real” name of the Field House. Gallo read the column and revived the use of the “Duane Allman Memorial Field House,” if but only in the one Ronstadt instance.

Gerber went on to detail the original circumstances that led to the informal christening of the Field House in honor of the late Allman Brothers Band guitarist.

The Allman Brothers Band formed in Jacksonville, Florida in 1969 and quickly became central figures in the burgeoning Southern rock scene. The band featured namesake brothers Gregg Allman and Duane Allman, along with Dickey Betts, Butch Trucks, Berry Oakley and Jaimoe. On October 29, 1971, Duane Allman — the group’s slide guitar master — tragically died in a motorcycle accident. Mere months later, the band made their debut in Iowa City in 1972, performing at the Field House on February 19.

A few days after the ABB concert, a March 3, 1972 article in the Daily Iowan quoted Donald L. Pugsley, then coordinator of the Commission for University Entertainment (CUE), a long-running organization that puts on events at the school. According to Pugsley, 10,000 people attended the sold-out Allmans concert.

“The crowd was the most well-behaved I’ve seen,” Pugsley said, attributing the docile scene to fewer beer and wine bottles being left on the Field House floor. The floor had been covered with a fire-proof tarp, purchased by CUE to protect the Field House playing surface and protected by sending ushers going through the audience with ashtrays because according to Pugsley, “you can’t keep people from drinking, or smoking.”

As Gerber pointed out, on March 17, 1972 — 51 years ago today — the DI published a letter to the editor written by Dave Sitz and Jerry Damsky. At the time, the University of Iowa was preparing to name its football stadium after Nile Kinnick, an alumni Heisman Trophy winner who died in 1943. A student-led effort to name the stadium after Kinnick fizzled shortly after his death, but renewed interest was generated in 1972 and that year Nile Kinnick Stadium was adopted as the official name.

In their letter to the editor titled “Rename the Fieldhouse,” Sitz and Damsky wrote:

In response to the recent fervor over reading the renaming of Iowa Stadium, we feel as responsible members of the University community, that if Nile Kinnick Stadium is to become a reality on this campus, then it is only fitting and proper that our beloved fieldhouse be adorned with a new name also. Our Field House has been the scene of many a hard fought battle, such as the Iowa-Illinois game, Hawkeyes vs. Gophers, Donald Pugsley vs. the Athletic Department.

It has also been the scene of many a memorable concert, but none so moving as the show put on by The Allman Brothers Band on Feb. 19, 1972. On that night in February, barely four months after the death of Brother Duane Allman, the Pride of Macon, Georgia proved that they are still capable of putting together the finest music in the land. Duane Allman was here that night though, in the hearts of everybody who has ever heard him play. Brother Greg (sic) dedicated the concert to Duane and now we would like to see the field house also dedicated to him. Show your support for this movement. Deluge this newspaper with letters. The name is “The Duane Allman Memorial Field House.”

Gerber wrote that the requested “deluge” never developed, though some students in Iowa City continued to use the informal moniker. “The Duane Allman Memorial Field House” surfaced again in the Daily Iowan in 1973 when The Allman Brothers Band returned to the Duane Allman Field House for another concert held on November 9. The DI article previewing the show — “Death & success but togetherness reigns – The Allman Brothers Band returns” — opined the Southern rock legends were “coming home” due to the venue having been “christened” in tribute to Allman. Other clips in the student paper advertising the concert

Another poster in the University Of Iowa archives promoting a Kris Kristofferson, Gordon Lightfoot and Waylon Jennings concert on December 15, 1973, indicated the show was taking place at the U.I. Allman Field House (like the above ABB poster).

Once home to one of the largest indoor swimming pools in the country, the Field House originally opened in 1927 and used to be the main facility for the school’s primary sports. According to the University of Iowa website:

The Field House is located on the west side of campus and is home to Recreational Services, UI Academics, and UI Athletics. The Field House is a 334,000 square feet facility. Amenities of this facility include 8 Basketball/Volleyball Courts, 5 Badminton Courts, 16 Racquetball Courts, 2 Squash Courts, Cycling Studio, Mind/Body Studio, Olympic Weightlifting Room, 6 Multi-Activity Rooms, classrooms, locker rooms, saunas, table tennis, and an indoor track.

The Allman Brothers Band’s official website’s setlist database lists the “Duane Allman Fieldhouse” as the location of their concerts on February 19, 1972, November 9, 1973, and from a few years later when the post-break-up, reformed group returned on December 5, 1980. Concerts at the University of Iowa’s Field House became sparse after the ABB show in 1980, with few taking place over the subsequent decades.

The Allmans never returned to Iowa City after their show in December 1980. For many Hawkeyes, officially or unofficially, the place the band played on campus will always be known as the Duane Allman Field House.

The Allman Brothers Band – Whipping Post – September 23, 1970

Allman Brothers on MV (See 166 videos)
The Allman Brothers Band (See 225 videos)
JamBase Collections