El Casino Ballroom
437 E. 26th St., Tucson, AZ 85713
The legendary El Casino Ballroom, at 437 E. 26th St., has been a social center for Tucson, particularly Tucson's Mexican-American community. Since its opening on Sept. 14, 1947, the ballroom has hosted a myriad of festivities of all kinds. It also hosted a parade of musical all stars from Tucson-born, father of Chicano music, Lalo Guerrero, big band genius Duke Ellington, Tejano powerhouse Little Joe Hernandez, Tito Puente and other world-renowned performers like James Brown and Fats Domino. The ballroom continued filling its 1,200-person capacity until 1991, when a windstorm blew off the roof. The wood floor, once the largest spring-mounted floor in Southern Arizona, was almost destroyed by the summer monsoon. Fortunately, thanks to the dedicated efforts of many, the El Casino Ballroom re-opened in 2000, and has been the destination for weddings, quinceañeras, and other special events ever since.
The Storm Video: Tucson history: El Casino Ballroom from Star Net on Vimeo.
In the mid 1960s, the El Casino Ballroom (ballroom) and the Latin American Social Club (LASC) were separate entities. The City of Tucson began buying up properties in preparation of building the Tucson Convention Center; one of those properties belonged to the LASC at 425 S. Main. With the monies they received from the City, the LASC purchased the ballroom as a business venture, and built their new club on the west side of the ballroom in 1972.
Things nearly ended for the ballroom in October 1991: The Storm. A windstorm picked up the entire south-end of the roof, ripping it off entirely. For five months, the club was left exposed to the elements, causing severe damage. It was during this time that South Tucson Fire Department condemned the building. The ballroom was no longer open for business. A forty-five year tradition of our culture and community ceased to exist. Everywhere I went, people were always asking me when, if ever, were we going to rebuild.
After The Storm, the active Board of Directors was not doing much to restore and re-open the ballroom. Members of the community decided the first thing that needed to be done was to elect a new Board of Directors: Frank Amparano, Vince Amparano, Jesus Gastelum, Johnny Hernandez, Henry Martinez, Fred Martinez, Danny Rodriguez, and Ed Lopez, with “Butch” Martinez as the manager. The new board faced an uphill battle: the LASC had accumulated over $250,000 in debt, and everything from taxes, licenses, and bills were delinquent. And to top it all off, the main source of income, the ballroom (capacity 1,200 at the time), was still condemned. But through the support of the community and fun raising, the ballroom was rebuilt, restored and reopened!
The El Casino Ballroom has been Tucson’s favorite place for weddings, quinceañeras, and other celebrations since 1947. The facility is equipped with air conditioning, security personal, video surveillance, as well as a full bar and kitchen. The El Casino Ballroom can comfortably accommodate up to 800 people, and with its large original wooden dance floor, still considered the best in Tucson.