On March 18 the public was granted its first official look at the new Tennessee Miller Coliseum. The grand opening festivities included guided tours, a reception for invited guests, and a “Symphony Of Horses” accompanied by a special performance by the Murfreesboro Philharmonic Orchestra.

Middle Tennessee State University’s state-of-the-art facility was made possible by a generous bequest from the late John C. “Tennessee” and Mary Elizabeth Miller. Their gift of more than $20 million is the largest single gift ever made to benefit a public university in Tennessee.

The Millers were Tennessee Walking Horse enthusiasts and avid supporters of both WHOA and the International Grand Championship Horse Show. They were the owners of 10-Tucky Stables in Lewisburg, Tenn. as well as the 1973 World Grand Champion, Delight Bumin Around.

“I believe John and Mary Miller would be tremendously excited about the facilities they made possible with their gift,” said Chairman of the Miller Trust Planning Committee Charlie Myatt. “It has been nine years since Mary’s death and the reading of her will. Their dream has become a reality, and so many people share the excitement of their gift.”

Built on a 154 acre site located just off Highway 231 North in Murfreesboro, Tenn., the facility includes a 222,000 square foot arena with a 150-foot by 300-foot coliseum floor and matching enclosed warm-up area. Stadium-style seating is available for 4,600. Total seating capacity can be increased to 6,000 with the addition of bleachers on the concourse level.

Office space in the front of the building will be the new home for the offices of WHOA, and plans call for the addition of the Miller Clubhouse in the far end of the arena. Overlooking the warm up area, it will be glassed in and will offer full food and beverage service.

There are 492 stalls in the covered barn area with 300 of those under one roof. The barn area is extremely well-equipped with wash racks and farrier stalls for the horses and restrooms and showers for exhibitors. The barn has a high ceiling and fans to provide excellent ventilation.

Coliseum Director Bruce Currie stated that the goal for the facility is to host between 30-40 horse shows and events per year. He went on to add that several of the shows scheduled for 2003 have already booked all the available stalls. The first event for the coliseum will be held on the first weekend in April.

In addition to the coliseum facilities, a $2.5 million Horse Science Center adjacent to the arena was constructed as a new home for MTSU’s horse science program. This addition was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture secured by Congressman Bart Gordon. It contains office space, classrooms, climate controlled stall area, riding arena, and a breeding laboratory for use by the students.

The highlight of the evening was a special performance by the Murfreesboro Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Laurence Harvin during which 11 champion horses from across the state of Tennessee were presented. The “Symphony Of Horses” featured exhibitions by reigning World Champions Dangerous Medusa and Cash In My Stock.

Owned by Womack Stables of Murfreesboro, Medusa and Sara Womack opened the performance by carrying our nation’s flag for the playing of the National Anthem. They were followed by Charles and Joy Gleghorn’s Cash In My Stock with trainer Brett Boyd from Fayetteville, Tenn.

Reigning World Grand Champion Spotted Saddle Horse Cassius Clay was on hand for the festivities. Along with trainer Phil Dunivan and backed by owner Jay Dickey of Adamsville, Tenn., they were excellent ambassadors for the breed.

One of the most entertaining demonstrations of the evening was the champion reining horse Nu Chex To Cash. Along with two other horses, Charlie, Tammy, and David Hutton of Fayetteville, Tenn. showcased their prize winning reigning skills.

Continuing the performance were champion Arabian dressage horse, Lasodo, and owner Darlene Bottorfs of College Grove, Tenn. Laura Hampton exhibited Paso Fino Legion of Merit Champion Passionario de Guadalupe for owner Geoffrey Wood of Watertown, Tenn.

The last two presentations of the evening certainly excited the crowd. David Wright of Murfreesboro demonstrated his excellent equestrian skills with his champion Grand Prix show jumper, Step Right Up, and in the final exhibition of the night, George Meek of Burns, Tenn. gave a wonderful Roman style riding performance with his team of white horses.

WHOA Executive Director Tommy Hall summed up the feelings of everyone involved with the planning and construction of this wonderful new facility, “I’m excited. It’s a year we’ve been waiting on for a long time...It’s one of the best facilities in the South. It has taken nine years, but it has been worth it.”