The Spirit of Elvis and MTSU Celebrate 50 Years, Murphy Center

Elvis, Elton John, The Who, Stevie Wonder, The Beach Boys, Johnny Cash, The Eagles, The Judds, REM, Nine Inch Nails — even Middle Tennessee State University alumnus Chris Young – have played the iconic Charles M. Murphy Center.

Graduations, state basketball tournaments and more took center stage in “The Glass House” at MTSU, which opened in December 1972.

“This special place, The Glass House, is indeed a whole building. But it is so much more than that,” said MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee. “It has been said that we often erect buildings not only to contain things and people, but also to reflect who we are – and what we value. And, when structures like the Murphy Center transcend the simple purpose of shelter or storage, they become essential.

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This west side view of Middle Tennessee State University's Murphy Center shows the many SageGlass smart window panels that were installed to reduce glare and heat inside the facility by tinting and brightening automatically in response to the sun.

To celebrate the 50e anniversary of the structure perched along Middle Tennessee Boulevard, McPhee was joined by coaches, administrators and a host of Blue Raiders Athletics supporters to kick off a year-long celebration of the milestone.

Kicking off the celebration featured 33,000 square feet of dynamic “smart window” glass panels that replaced outdated panels, giving the building’s modern industrial design a sparkling new exterior. The panels tint and lighten automatically in response to sunlight, eliminating glare and heat issues inside Murphy over the years and ensuring the interior of the 11,500-seat arena is cool and comfortable.

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee greets attendees Tuesday, Oct. 18 at the launch event on the track lobby of the Murphy Center for a year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the iconic building, affectionately known as the name of

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The approximately two-year glass replacement project, from design to installation, required the use of 16 tractor-trailers to deliver the 1,300 pieces of SageGlass to be installed.

McPhee also unveiled samples of 17 large timeline panels featuring vintage photos that will be installed around the Murphy Center contest track, giving fans a nostalgic self-guided look back at Murphy Center’s five-decade history.

The venue also serves as an academic facility, housing departmental offices, classrooms, and dance studios.

Elvis was in the building

Elvis Presley performs at MTSU's Murphy Center in May 1974.

Elvis played a series of five sold-out shows at the Murphy Center in 1974 and 1975. For two decades, the Murphy Center was the premier indoor concert venue until the current Bridgestone Arena in Nashville opened in 1996.

“The city then adopted it. It was their arena, it wasn’t just ours, and it belonged to Murfreesboro and Rutherford County,” said Ed Arning, former director of sports information and current director of market development in marketing and communications. , as the anniversary kicks off.

“The Next 50 Years”

MTSU Athletics also touted a newly designed basketball court and showed off retro uniforms that will be worn by the Blue Raiders men’s basketball team in a special Dec. 15 anniversary game against the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.

And there are even more improvements to come, as MTSU Athletics officials discussed future Murphy Center upgrades that include a dedicated entrance to the main arena and a new main lobby as part of the campaign. Build Blue global fundraising campaign to raise more than $100 million to upgrade sports facilities.

“I don’t think the importance of the building to the cultural identity of many Tennessees across the state can be overstated,” said MTSU athletic director Chris Massaro. “The next step is to remodel it, modernize it and make it even more fan-friendly over the next 50 years.”

Contact reporter Nancy DeGennaro at

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