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Then and Now photos: The Pavilion

Expo ’74 centerpiece could become concert venue

Spokane’s Expo ’74 continues to recede in the rear-view mirror, but the silhouette of the former United States Pavilion reminds us of that glorious summer of exhibitions, concerts, rides, famous faces and international visitors with its spider web of cables rising above Riverfront Park. President Richard Nixon, Gov. Dan Evans and U.S. Rep. Tom Foley opened the fair with speeches and 50,000 helium balloons May 4 of that year. Jack Benny, Buck Owens and Bob Hope performed. But when the curtain came down Nov. 3, the transformation from world’s fair to Riverfront Park began immediately. Rides disappeared, stages were dismantled and equipment sold to help pay off debts incurred by the rapid buildup to the fair. The covering of the U.S. Pavilion deteriorated quickly, and within five years the giant tent, which shredded under winter snow loads, was removed. The original Imax theater was moved from the main area of the pavilion to an enclosed space on one end in 1978. The Imax’s giant screen has since been eclipsed by new technology and competition from the AMC Theatres at River Park Square. The theater will now only open for spring and summer seasons in 2013. The master plan for Riverfront Park commits the city to preserving the signature structure and offers ideas for the space, such as moving the summer carnival rides to make it a concert venue. – Jesse Tinsley