No circus for Asheville; new city policy forbids exotic, wild animals at US Cellular Center


The circus won’t be coming to Asheville this year.

Asheville city officials recently made a one-line change to the U.S. Cellular Center’s booking policy that calls for the venue to “refrain from contracting with promoters that include any wild or exotic animals” in their shows, according to Chris Corl, the center’s general manager. The move has resulted in the cancellation of circus shows in Asheville this year, Corl confirmed Wednesday.

The decision also means the cancelation of other kid-friendly shows. The promoter who brought the circus to Asheville in recent years also booked Disney-related shows, such as last year’s Disney Live: Pirate and Princess Adventure, as well as a Disney on Ice show. The promoter has pull those shows from Asheville as well, according to Corl.

Asheville City Councilman Jan Davis alerted the Asheville Civic Center Commission to the policy change during a meeting Tuesday. Davis, in an interview Wednesday, said the policy change emerged from City Council’s governance committee. That committee’s members are Mayor Esther Manheimer and council members Marc Hunt and Gordon Smith.

Davis said a group of people opposed to the circus and its treatment of some animals in its acts, including elephants, had brought its concerns to the council committee. “It’s been an issue that’s been before us for some time, and the group has been vocal in the past about not having circuses perform here,” Davis said. Davis said he didn’t know the name of the group that had been lobbying City Council members.

Asked his personal opinion on the issue, Davis said “I do not feel good about circuses.” He added that he was “a little taken aback that this was done out of the norm” in terms of bringing the issue before the full City Council and allowing the public to weigh in. Davis also said he realizes that the cancelation of other non-circus, family friendly acts is a blow to the Asheville entertainment scene.

Some residents have been vocally protesting circus performances in Asheville for years. Last year, the Asheville Voice for Animals launched a protest online and in letters to local print publications protesting the Ringling Bros. Circus which came to town. In a letter to the Mountain Xpress, the group urged a boycott of the circus.

 I’m writing to ask you to consider boycotting anything to do with Ringling Bros Circus because they treat their animal with documented horrific cruelty. Most of these animals are in constant agony. Ringling subjects all their animals to brutal” training,” including their baby elephants. …

Neither child nor adult should be giving a single dollar to Ringling Bros. because they will use it to buy stun guns, whips, electrical prods and bullhooks to torture their animals with until they comply. For your entertainment. This is nothing less than slavery. I know you wouldn’t want to be part of such horrific treatment of innocent and magnificent animals, nor would you help fund their suffering if you knew that’s what you were money was used for.

The circus has been a relatively popular staple at the U.S. Cellular Center over the years. Corl said Wednesday that last year, the circus staged five shows with a total attendance of 7,646. Last year’s Disney pirates and princesses show had an attendance of 2,488, he said.

Corl said the family friendly events were not hugely financially successful, but the loss of the shows will affect the US Cellular Center’s bottom line. Corl said he was working on a report that would show the financial impact of the policy change decision.

I was unable to reach Wes Wright, vice chairman of the Civic Center Commission, Wednesday afternoon. I’ve left messages with Smith, Manheimer and the animal rights group. More as I get it.


North Asheville February 7, 2015 - 9:05 am

John Boyle puts the council’s decision in different context:
I have concerns about animal treatment and traveling circuses. Yes, they provide wonderment for children, but the lifestyle for the animals is a high price to pay for our amusement.

What really bugs me about this ban is the way Asheville went about it.

“City Council has been urged by a very active group that was concerned that the city was supporting what they consider to be abuse of wild and exotic animals,” Mayor Esther Manheimer said.

So, we’re going with governance by protest now? The loudest voice wins?

No soliciting input from families? Or, heaven forbid, the circus itself?

Matt February 7, 2015 - 11:07 pm

I see what you’re saying, North Asheville. But you also have to consider that these folks (city council) are just doing their job: If we opened every decision to the public nothing would ever get done. This particular change is not the kind of call I’m worried about happening without public input or outside consultation. It’s small potatoes, it obviously reflects the values of the community, and it doesn’t impede on anyone’s quality of life in Asheville.

North Asheville February 8, 2015 - 8:10 am

“If we opened every decision to the public nothing would ever get done.”

Just making sure that’s what you really said. Any other advocates for open, democratic, and transparent government wish to weigh in?

NFB February 8, 2015 - 11:59 am

“it obviously reflects the values of the community, and it doesn’t impede on anyone’s quality of life in Asheville.”

No, it would obviously reflect the values of the community if the community had been aware such a decision was being considered and then, though public input such a decision was made via their elected officials.

They was this decision was made only reflects the values of the activists involved.

“If we opened every decision to the public nothing would ever get done.”


Matt February 8, 2015 - 7:22 pm

Maybe I’m confused. Is it the duty of city council committees to have a public forum for every call they make? (Real question here, not trying to be argumentative.) my understanding is their job is to make certain regulatory decisions, and the bigger decisions are opened to public or outside consultants, and smaller decisions they just make in good faith….

And , I suppose we’d need to take a poll to really know how the community feels about the circus, but is it so far fetched to say asheville’s attitude is one that errs on the side of animal welfare?

Matt February 11, 2015 - 6:04 pm

I’m still curious if anyone wants to weigh in on my question. (But perhaps it’s naive of me to hope to get more out of a comments section than histrionics and taking quotes out of context.)

North Asheville February 12, 2015 - 1:12 pm

” Is it the duty of city council committees to have a public forum for every call they make?”
It i the duty of city council committees to have public forums, yes. North Carolina has an open meetings law.

Matt February 12, 2015 - 10:56 pm
trey tuten February 6, 2015 - 1:16 pm

Thank you Asheville !!!!!!

Matt February 6, 2015 - 12:02 am

Good call. It’s important for Asheville to play the part of the (small) progressive cutting edge city, and this is one way of doing that which doesn’t cost any money.

EKR February 5, 2015 - 9:04 pm

I am completely behind cutting the circus from town- go Asheville! I am a little confused on the Disney show issue though. Since I don’t have kids, maybe someone can inform me of these shows have animals in them also?

AVL LVR February 5, 2015 - 7:17 pm

I wonder if they will move the circus to the WNC Ag Center?

b.c.w. February 5, 2015 - 12:12 pm

Kudos to the council for passing this. Circuses need to fade away and be done with. It really angers me to see animals exploited and (in many cases) mistreated as part of these acts. Good riddance.

Supporter of Ringling Brothers February 5, 2015 - 8:49 pm

You know nothing about Ringling Brothers and the care of the animals. Asheville has become a hippie city full of fools. I bet your kids aren’t vaccinated too. How cruel is that?

b.c.w. February 6, 2015 - 11:38 am

Very, very classy response. You get a cute little sticker for your successful attempt at trolling, while offering nothing substantial to the discussion. BTW, I don’t have kids – but if I did I would vaccinate them. Boom… mind blown, eh?

cwaster February 6, 2015 - 10:45 am

I knew someone that worked at Ringling in 1998. According to him, the animals were not well treated and did not seem happy. Nothing like sitting in your own crap. Good move for once, Asheville.

Stewart February 5, 2015 - 6:15 am


“When I look at animals held captive by circuses, I think of slavery. Animals in circuses represent the domination and oppression we have fought against for so long. They wear the same chains and shackles.”

Dick Gregory

to learn more, please visit

anouk picardo de sousa February 5, 2015 - 4:35 am

Thank you Ashville

Nancy Cunningham February 5, 2015 - 2:49 am

Using animals in circuses is backwards and barbaric. It will be consigned to the history books as society sees Ringling for the thugs they really are.

tanya petrovna February 5, 2015 - 2:23 am

Fabulous for stepping out. Fearless compassion is true leadership and the financial rewards will come.

Jason W. February 4, 2015 - 9:52 pm

Maybe the promoter should consider trying to book one of the Cirque du Soleil touring shows in RB’s place. All the magic and fun of the circus, without animal abuse.

lisa February 5, 2015 - 12:25 pm

YES!!! cirque is amazing and would definitely be a sell out!

Natalie February 4, 2015 - 9:23 pm

Thank you Asheville. I’m from California, but I’ve been to your cool state, and keeping the circus out is a great humanitarian move. Good for you…(and they will be back with the Disney shows by next year I’m sure…they’re bluffing and want to make money).


Marsha Hargreaves February 4, 2015 - 8:39 pm

Fantastic news for the elephants and other animals suffering under the guise of “entertainment” under the big top. This is wonderful! Great work by the Mayor and City Council. Thank you to everyone involved in this important decision on behalf of the animals. Animal free circuses will soon be the new normal as more and more people are becoming aware of the terrible mistreatment and cruel training methods involved in forcing a 3 ton elephant to perform silly tricks that are very often painful and always unnatural. Forcing elephants to live in parking lots and in tiny, dark boxcars for weeks on end is animal cruelty and morally wrong. Elephants are magnificent, socially complex animals with needs that do not include being forced to perform day after day in a circus ring, controlled with stun guns and the painful bullhook. Way to go Asheville, a city full of compassionate hearts!

Jen February 4, 2015 - 8:22 pm

Educate yourself people! Feld Entertainment just won a $9.3 million dollar lawsuit and a $16 million dollar lawsuit for years of slander about their treatment of the circus animals.

If you don’t like it, then don’t go and don’t support the greatest show on earth!

Supporter of Ringling Brothers February 5, 2015 - 8:51 pm

Thank you for posting facts. These people are uneducated and fools.

Laureanne February 4, 2015 - 6:48 pm

Asheville shows once again that it is a progressive, compassionate city.

NFB February 6, 2015 - 12:12 pm


Pat Cuviello February 4, 2015 - 4:33 pm

“The circus has been a relatively popular staple at the U.S. Cellular Center over the years. Last year, the circus staged five shows with a total attendance of 7,646.” Popular? That averages one and a half thousand people a show in an arena that seats 7,654. That is not good attendance and is an indicator the circus is not popular.

ding dong head February 4, 2015 - 3:48 pm

Why are the disney shows getting pulled? Are they using exotic animals as well?

Jason Sandford February 5, 2015 - 10:52 am

The Disney shows are getting pulled because the promoter – the same company that brings the circus to town – says it needs to do a certain amount of business a year at the venue, and it can’t make the numbers work if the circus is banned, says Corl.

Levy February 4, 2015 - 3:29 pm

Good. These animals are treated SO poorly, it’s really sad. Good for the Civic Center! Buy your kid a national Geographic subscription instead

Barry Summers February 4, 2015 - 7:26 pm

Don’t want to nitpick, but US Cellular paid a lot of money to have the name changed, officially.

It’s now referred to as “The Center Formerly Known As Civic”.

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