When the Church of the Brethren chose Hershey as the location for its next annual meeting, the church requested permission to erect a tent on park grounds. Milton Hershey responded with an offer to build a 6,000 seat convention hall for their use. The Convention Hall was completed in less than a year, just in time for the Brethren’s June 1915 meeting. Over 60,000 people from all over the United States attended the convention that year.
The Hershey Convention Hall was originally conceived as a Chautauqua Hall, which would offer a wide array of educational and cultural opportunities. The size and location of the Convention Hall led to its use not only as a meeting place but also as a performance hall. Between 1915 and 1930 it hosted nationally recognized performers, including Paul Whiteman and his orchestra, the Sistine Chapel Choir, soprano Marion Talley and Will Rogers. In 1925 the Convention Hall was remodeled, and its acoustics were improved. That year John Philip Sousa and his band performed at the Convention Hall over the Fourth of July weekend celebration. Tickets for his afternoon and evening concerts were 75 cents. There was standing room only for the concerts, and many more people crowded around the building listening to the music.
In 1931 the Convention Hall was again remodeled and a ice rink added to the facility. Each winter the rink was used for public skating, an annual ice carnival and ice hockey games. Hershey’s instant love affair with ice skating and hockey would lead to the construction of the Hershey Sports Arena in 1936.