Quick links

Concordia’s 1978 Gymnasium Fire and the Phoenix Force

In the early morning of February 26, 1978, Concordia’s gymnasium-auditorium, Alumni Hall, was burned to the ground, likely owing to a short circuit in the wiring. This building, constructed in 1953, was home to eight professors’ offices, a print shop, photography shop, typing classroom, and the college’s athletic and drama equipment. The fire was Edmonton’s largest at that time, needing 50 firefighters to extinguish it. The gym itself had never been regulation size, with an undersized floor; during basketball games the referee’s job was quite difficult, as the over-and-back line would change based on the direction of the play. Nevertheless, the gym and the building as a whole held a special place in the hearts of many Concordians. It was a place of gathering and community for the institution. Graduations, church services, dances, and sporting events were all held within Alumni Hall. This loss was heavily felt by the private institution which did not receive any provincial grants and therefore relied on alumni, family, friends, and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod for funds to repairs. This prompted the creation of the Phoenix Force Guerrillas and Company for the restoration of the burnt building. Just as the mythical Phoenix rose from the ashes, so would Concordia. Students and faculty were hired for $1.00/ hour for random jobs around the city and area. Upon finishing the task, the employer would then be encouraged to donate extra to the College to help rebuild Alumni Hall. Students of the Company or Guerrilla Force received a t-shirt with the words Phoenix Force printed on it after they completed 5 days of work. If they completed 20 days of work, they received a monogrammed windbreaker. After many hours of hard work and gathering donations, Concordia successfully rebuilt Alumni Hall which was dedicated and re-opened on November 2, 1980.

by Natasha Eklund