Why San Juan’s Coliseo de Puerto Rico Is a Rite-of-Passage Venue for Latin Pop Stars
Affectionately known as "El Choli" to locals, the Coliseo has been integral to the careers of Bad Bunny, Rauw Alejandro and more
For Puerto Rican audiences, Latin pop concerts are no passive spectator sport, but rather an invigorating experience, and on the island no indoor performance space captures that spirit better than Coliseo de Puerto Rico José Miguel Agrelot. Located at the heart of San Juan’s Milla de Oro, the venue — a spectacular structure that resembles a peaked cap on 5.2 acres — not only hosts some of the greatest local performances Puerto Rico has to offer, but it has held some of the genre’s most important events of the 21st century. Since opening its doors in 2004, “El Choli,” as locals affectionately call it, has become a rite-of-passage venue for artists across Latin pop.
“Coliseo has a magic about it. It represents a connection with the Puerto Rican public that when they accept you, they show you all their love by singing, dancing, shouting, and enjoying,” Eric Duars, CEO of Duars Entertainment, says. The entrepreneur, who manages artists like Eix, Cauty, and the reggaeton superstar Rauw Alejandro, first helped organize gigs at Coliseo in 2014 for genre legends Zion & Lennox, and more recently, Rauw Alejandro.
Alejandro earned his Coliseo crown last October with four back-to-back performances selling out in just 24 hours. “Words can’t express what it felt like to be able to share four evenings with the island that gave me life,” Alejandro says. “Being able to share this joy with my family and fans meant everything to me.”
“Coliseo de Puerto Rico is our largest and most important venue,” says Mariela Vallines, executive director of Puerto Rico Convention District Authority, a government district that oversees the management of the island’s eminent hotels, venues, and restaurants. “We have the pride and joy of being home to some of the most important artists, especially in reggaeton as most of them are Puerto Rican. It’s important for them to present themselves in Coliseo. They usually save their best shows and presentations for Puerto Rico because it is home to them.”
From local heroes like Bad Bunny to Colombian powerhouse Karol G, a sold-out Coliseo performance is an affirmation of star power. Last November, Karol G made history by becoming the first international female artist to set the record for fastest ticket sales with two sold-out dates.
“[International artists] not only recognize the importance of being able to present themselves in Coliseo, but they recognize Puerto Rico as a very important place when you speak about their music careers,” says Vallines. “We’ve had the opportunity of hosting incredible shows in Coliseo de Puerto Rico, and that’s recognized out there [beyond Puerto Rico]. It puts us in a very important position in the music and entertainment business.”
“Our focus is to continue positioning Puerto Rico as an entertainment destination with the content that we are providing at Coliseo,” Jorge L. Pérez, general manager of Coliseo de Puerto Rico, says. “The approach that we take at ASM Global with the responsibility of managing such a history-rich venue is recognizing that it’s an economic motor for our community. First and foremost, we are focused on job creation.”
Generally, the venue hires between 300 to 500 employees per event, and up to 1,000 with its extended activities. For Univision’s Premios Juventud awards show this past July, the TV network and Coliseo management worked side by side, hiring over 50 percent of Puerto Ricans across all departments, and about 40 percent of local vendors.
It was also the first time the show was held outside of Florida in its 19-year existence. “[The Coliseo] is the building where all the big acts go in Puerto Rico. It’s where they celebrate their culture, and culture is at the center of all our events,” says Ignacio Meyer, President of U.S. Networks at Univision. “Premios Juventud is a show that is dedicated to celebrating those who do outstanding things in the community, and artists that use their platform to do something good in the community. So what better show to take out to a community that is at the core of music than Puerto Rico? It is undoubtedly the birthplace of the new urbano movement.”
As it approaches its 20th anniversary, El Choli continues to provide artists and audiences with a home of which to be proud: both memories and stars are made there.
“We have a great 18-year-old building that’s kept in pristine conditions [with] a lot of energy that artists feed off,” Pérez says.
“I’ve been to concerts in different places of the world,” adds Vallines, “and Coliseo has a magic of its own.”
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