Our old gymnasiums

There are still some schools that play in their vintage gymnasiums, and many others at which the old gymnasium is a memory. But when I see one or learn about one, I always make it a point to stop by, if I can get in.

Heck, sometimes I just stumble across one. I did that at Amherst tonight. Do it at enough campuses and you can begin to tell from the outside. I was hoping to at Wesleyan last week but the place has been torn down.

Small gyms — perhaps 94 feet in length but not always. Lots of history, not much space. Now they’re intramural gyms and practice gyms, and that’s OK.

The old gym was gone at my alma mater by the time I arrived. It was an early 20th century armory, converted into a gymnasium after World War I, then into student architecture studios in the ’80s. That wasn’t a bad use. But when I got to see vintage gyms at Hampden-Sydney and especially Randolph-Macon, it made me wonder what I missed.

Randolph-Macon’s is exactly what you’d expect. The old scoreboard is still high on the wall. The gym is connected to the current gymnasium. It has a track ringing the top and everything. Looks like it came straight out of 1921. Hampden-Sydney’s old gym is still around on campus as well. And shoot, Macalester is still playing in its old gym, for a little while at least.

What has your campus done with its old gym?

51 thoughts on “Our old gymnasiums

  1. Fisher has done a lot of work on their old gym…they have the Student Life Center that is a big old place with 4 basketball courts….but in the small varsity gym…they have changed the floor and put in better score boards…but it is still on of the best places I have ever watched a game…while Fisher-Naz games are the best games to watch their…it is fun even when the place is not loud because you are right on the court as a student and it can get very intense…more than once players from opposing teams have given us the finger or thrown balls at us…

  2. Lynchburg’s old gym (the only other one i’m aware of before Turner Gymnasium) was Memorial Gym located on the 3rd floor in the Hall Campus Center building if anyone is familiar with the campus. It now serves as a ballroom and hosts various lectures, conferences, meeting, awards programs, etc. Hall Campus Center, mostly an administrative building, is currently the second oldest building on campus, with the oldest being Hopwood, which is an academic building.

  3. Although these days, a gym made in the late 60’s with basically no major renovations that I’m aware of is considered old if you compare it to some of the other ODAC gyms like VWC and the renovated gym at Macon for example!

  4. Randolph-Macon’s old gym is very cool. I even played a game of one-on-one there in 2003 when IWU was there for a Sectional.

    Roanoke also has a neat old gym.

  5. Severance Gym (1912) at the College of Wooster became the home of the art department in 1973. I went to a couple of student exhibitions there in the early 80’s, and it was pretty cool. I haven’t been in side since then, and like almost all of the old buildings on campus, it got thoroughly renovated in 1997 and is now the Ebert Art Center: http://admissions.wooster.edu/area/campus_map/ebert.php

  6. You HAVE to see Blackburn’s gym in Carlinville, IL. It’s a slight step up from the Old Gym at my alma mater, Randolph-Macon, because it at least has bleachers (5 rows) on one side, whereas the running track Pat mentions was the only available seating at R-MC my freshman year. (Crenshaw gym opened in 1964 when I was a sophomore.) My wife’s father taught at Blackburn for 21 years starting in 1956. Their gym looks the same today as it did when she moved there over 50 years ago.

    Also, Westminster (MO) has a fairly old gym, but not as tiny as Blackburn’s.

  7. The one thing I forgot to mention about IWU’s Hansen Student Center is that they kept the old basketball floor. I think that was a neat touch.

  8. My alma mater (Westminster College, PA) still has the original gym standing and is in use as an intramural/recreational gym as well as an indoor track ringing the top as well. It is known as ‘Old 77’ and it dates back almost 100 years. The buiding is named in honor of the Titan men’s basketball team, which won 77 consecutive home games there over a 10-year span before moving to the current home of Titan basketball, Memorial Field House, in 1951.

  9. Wow. Lots of cool stuff here. Particularly on some of the schools — Blackburn, Lynchburg, Westminster — that we don’t hear much about.

  10. Goucher still has its old gym… which is used on a daily basis by lots of teams and students. It’s rather plain, to be honest. The old, small scoreboard remains high-up in one corner and there isn’t much space for more than team benches on the sidelines. I have played on the court many times… which is still kept in great shape. Basketball, soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, and even intertramurals use the gym every day. So while it may be old… and has some history in its walls… it’s still used – which I think makes it special! Heck… you can’t go to the Goucher Pool… without walking through the gym… but the pool is another story :).

  11. Lebanon Valley’s old gym is still around, but now you can attend a class in it after you buy an espresso at the coffee bar that now stands near where the north foul lane was painted. 🙂

  12. Catholic U’s gym was very cozy, Pat. Unfortunately, there were more seats at the ends of the court than in the middle, if I remember correctly. Saw Fred Carter, the NBA analyst, play there for archrival Mount St. Mary and it hosted the best high school postseason tournament- the Knights of Columbus for a number of years.
    Even so, it was better than what GW and AU used-the Ft. Myer Army gym that didn’t seem to be heated.

  13. Blackburn’s Dawes Gymnasium has to be one of the oldest gyms still in use at the D3 level in the nation, with a campus founded in 1837. I think I would be correct in stating that Dawes was built in the late 50’s or early sixties. Blackburn still plays inside what is now known as “The Beaver Dome”. The floor consists of the court, a six or 7 flight pull-out bleacher on the right, and a small crows nest above the table to the right side. Some might say the lgihting needs to be updated, but hey it’s the way we like it. Here is a URL to see inside and other pictures can be found at Blackburn.edu

  14. This is not about a D3 gym, but D3 teams play there about 1-2 times per year.

    The University of Texas at Arlington Mavericks play basketball on the stage of Texas Hall, the university’s auditorium. The sign in the lobby of Texas Hall proudly mentions, that in the last 40 years, the notable performers include Leonard Nimoy and James Earl Jones, Pat Boone and Spike Lee, Veggie Tales and REO Speedwagon, Aerosmith and Barry Manilow.

    I saw UT-Dallas defeat UT-Arlington in Texas Hall last month. The official scorer listed the attendance as 369, but about 100 were disguised as empty seats.

    There were no more than 200 fans on the back of the stage in $8 bleacher seats, behind the scorer’s table and the team benches. Those fans looked over the court and out to the seats in the auditorium, which seats about 3500. About 30 fans sat in the floor seats. There were another 20 in the balcony. General Admission seats in the auditorium are $6 for adults, $3 for students 17 and under.

    Hopefully, Pat Coleman is able to find some file photos, if he has the time.

  15. here’s more interesting background info on randolph-macon, provided by wikipedia:

    “Randolph-Macon College had originally established two Randolph Macon Academies, one in Front Royal [Virginia] and one in Bedford [Virginia]; however, R-MA, located in Front Royal, is the only one that remains in operation today.”

    “It was in the news recently when 10-year-old Gregory R. Smith enrolled at the college in September 1999. Smith graduated in 2003 cum laude with a degree in mathematics.”

  16. Dickinson moved into the Kline Center (aka The Ski Lodge) at least 15 years ago. The previous facility is now the Weiss Center for the Arts, which has a large auditorium/recital hall. The wood flooring that was part of the old basketball court was refurbished and is still in use in the building.

  17. scottie2hottieLC has deviated from the subject of gyms, but just for the sake of accuracy Randolph-Macon Academy in Front Royal is a military prep school. The Randolph-Macon that Gerg Smith graduated from is the college in Ashland, VA. I just thought the way the quote from Wikipedia was worded, it sounded like Greg Smith graduated from the academy when in fact he graduated from the college.

  18. I definitely agree that Macalester has one of the coziest gymnasiums in Div III, and definitely the most so in the MIAC. But as old gyms go, Hamline’s tops the list for me. I just did a little research on it (I haven’t been to a game there since the alma mater that Pat and I share played a Christmas tournament there in the mid-90’s) and they have been playing in Hutton Arena since 1937.
    If anyone knows Williams Arena (aka “The Barn”) at the University of Minnesota, this gym always reminded me of it. Not because of the large, looming, curved roof but how small you feel by the sheer size of the gym.

    But now I feel I need to go back. See how it feels today. After all, I was only about 5-foot-3 the last time I was there. 13 years and 9 inches ago.

  19. I forgot to mention earlier that Simpson’s old gymnasium is used as a training facility for the baseball team and classrooms, I believe. It’s still attached to the current athletic complex but I have to say that the new field house is much more spacious.

  20. Pat, the old gym at Roanoke isn’t too far from the current athletic building. It’s been a few years since I’ve been in it (we used to play hoops there on Thursdays upon arriving in Salem), but I know it is close.

  21. Kenyon moved out of the Ernst Center into the new and completely fabulous Kenyon Athletic Center in 2005. Tomsich Arena in Ernst Center was a nice old gym with small sections of bleachers down each sideline. I don’t know how old it was. The name “Tomsich Arena” was carried across the street to the new facility. The Ernst Center now serves as a temporary dining hall while two other halls are being renovated. When this short reprieve is over, the Ernst Center is scheduled for demolition.

    Musty old gyms filled with history are great. But with the KAC right across the street, it’s hard to mourn the passing of the Ernst Center. Here’s a link to the page detailing the KAC: http://athletics.kenyon.edu/x21069.xml

  22. Pat,
    Stop by in Atlanta to see Oglethorpe’s 1950’s vintage gym with it’s beautiful natural heart pine wooden ceiling and massive laminated wood supports. The ceiling coupled with the new maple floor, the hanging SCAC banners and the cousy surroundings create a wonderful backdrop for classic D3 basketball.

  23. Sounds nice, Ron; I thought they only had “cousy surroundings” at Holy Cross and the old Boston Garden. 🙂

  24. Carleton opened Sayles-Hill Gym in 1910 and played there until moving to West Gym in 1964. The building was converted in 1979 from a gym to Student Center, which is still used today. The balcony area is still in use above where the floor was, which is now a gathering area for students using the adjacent snack bar. The campus pool was in the basement, but it is now the lower level of the bookstore, offices and the campus radio station’s studio. Sayles-Hill hosted the Minnesota State HS Tourney until 1923. The early Knight teams racked up a 64-game home winning streak and was often dubbed the “11th member of the Big 10” by the media playing in Sayles-Hill.

  25. You need to have spellcheck on this sight! But I am old enough to have seen Bob Cousy play at the old Boston Garden as well as the original Madison Square Garden and witness many a game at one of the best college venues: The Penn Palestra. Can’t get much better then the Big Five double headers back in the 60’s. Well, back to D-3. Great pure bball played with intensity and love for the game usually in small intimate gyms with fans to match with mascots like Stormy Petrels and Banana Slugs. Can’t get much better!

  26. Ron, Firefox 2 has a spell check built into it. Definitely worth consideration for all the other things that come with it.

    I caught a press release from Macalester a couple days ago and it looks like the last game in the field house will be Saturday afternoon against St. Thomas. After Saturday the Scots will spend the next 38+ games on the road before the new facility opens in 2008. I cannot imagine how that would feel. At least the other MIAC schools are nearby (for the most part).

  27. 38+ games on the road?! Insane, I’d say poor planning on the behalf of the school to make a team do that, but I don’t know anything about the situation. And I highly recommend Firefox 2!

  28. The old Gym at York College was torn down once our beautiful new home opened. In it’s place will be a performing arts center and the back gym and pool etc are being turned into classrooms and offices.

    I’ll miss the old “Kitchen” as the fans at YCP knew our building. I’ll miss the cork tiles and the memories of all the games I saw on them over the last 13 years. That said, I really love our new home, and I especially love the fact that we can get 1700 strong in there and make the place LOUD!

  29. scottie2,

    I definitely agree. I wish I could remember who I was talking to this fall about it. I think it was at a Macalester volleyball game. But things could have changed…

    They did host the first half of the conference schedule almost entirely at home. But here’s something to ponder: When Saint Mary’s plays Concordia-Moorhead in soccer they play at St. John’s. Neutral field always. But something to keep in mind: Moorhead is 400 miles from Winona. It’s not entirely unheard of in the MIAC but this level of road games has, so far, been unprecedented.

    Macalester has 10 games left on the schedule, another three if they make it to the conference tournament and into the finals and then 25 games on the regular season schedule next year. If they open the 2008-09 schedule at home that will be between 35 and 41 games continously on the road.

  30. Hope College’s Carnegie Schouten Gym was torn down in the 70’s sometime after a wall collapsed, or so I’m told. Its now the site of the Student Center/Administration/Performing Arts Center formally known as the DeWitt Center.

    I’m a little confused by Hope’s history there, they played games at the Holland Civic Center for 50+ years and before that they played a number of games at the Holland Armory there’s little mention of games at Carnegie Schhouten but apparently they did happen.

    Untill last year Hope hadn’t played a game on campus in over 50 years, except for a handfull of NCAA games.

  31. Also the Holland Civic Center is still standing and likely will since it will take the city another decade to decide what to do with it. It still serves as a home for an IBL pro basketball team and summer rec leagues.

    Otherwise the parking lot is frequently empty.

    There are suggestions the building will be used for a community fitness center, but truthfully its beyond its years and should also be torn down.

  32. http://www.wheaton.edu/Athletics/mbasketball/wcmbbhistory.html

    Wheaton’s first BB gym was built in 1899. The playing floor was 77 ft. by 36 ft. 😀 Until 1992, the building housed the bookstore and still houses the art department. It’s now called Adams Hall. One can still see the basketball lines on the floor in places. Very cool.

    Edward A. Coray Alumni Gymnasium was christened in 1942. Last things I saw in there before I graduated were computing services, and the actual gym itself was used for out senior banquet. It is directly adjacent to our dining hall, so it was often used for special events. This has been morphed into the new Todd Beamer Student Center, though it may still go by the old name? The last thing I saw there was a Gospel Choir concert.

    Centennial Gymnasium was completed in 1959 and it’s where Wheaton played until they renovated our athletics facilities and transformed it into King Arena in 2000. I honestly had no idea where Centennial Gymnasium was and had to look it up. Hah… obviously I didn’t watch any basketball games my freshman year. 🙂

  33. Scott, if you tear down the Holland Civic Center, where will you go in the event of a nuclear attack? 🙂

  34. Chicago has three old gyms. Bartlett Gymnasium is now a dining hall. The elevated running track is still there – you can sit down for lunch. The women’s gym in Ida Noyes Hall is now the Max Palevsky Cinema – which is home to Doc Films, the longest continuously running student film society in the nation (since 1932). Crown Fieldhouse is still heavily used. It is not in its original configuration. It was built with one level and a dirt floor. It was extensively remodeled in the 1970’s – a second floor was built within the original structure. For those of you who attended a game there, the basketball court was on the new second floor. The new Ratner Center opened in 2003. Its 50 meter pool was a welcome replacement for the 17 yard pool in Bartlett. Home basketball games are now at Ratner, as are volleyball and wrestling. Indoor track is still at Crown.

  35. HJ Long gymnasium was built in 1960. It’s located in Greenville, Ill. and still the home of the Greenville College Panthers. The gym has the original bleachers. The gym that the Panthers used to play in from 1943-1959 is located just beside HJ Long. We now call is Old Burritt or Upper Burritt Gym. It still has the old wooden floors and the skinny lanes. We use it as a classroom and small weight training facility.

  36. Somebody already mentioned it, but I’ll put my vote in for the Palestra in Philadelphia. U of P home and they say more college tournament games have been played there than anywhere in the U.S.

  37. Ryan – I thought I heard Mac was playing its “home” games down the road at Cretin-Derham Hall…

  38. Eric,

    That could easily be a change since the discussion I had last fall. I would defer to you on that since you are someone with a little more knowledge in the league than I.

    But isn’t the CDH gym a little big? Pat, remember that one game with the… uhm… yeah? 🙂

  39. This from a reader regarding St. Mary’s (Minn.):

    SMUM’s old gym was still in use when I arrived. Tiny. The balcony was about 8 feet above the playing floor and directly above the in-bounds line. You might think that an exaggeration but the players stood in-bounds to take the ball out because they could not hold it over their head when they were out of bounds the ceiling was so low; and fans in the balcony could touch the ball or the player. It was an easy jump when we played St Thomas and a fight among the fans broke out.

    Today it’s a dorm, Skemp Hall. In the ’60s it was connected on the balcony level to Heffron Hall, a dorm, and it was great fun to take a guy’s bed into the gym and chain and padlock it to the railing shortly before game time.

  40. I know this is a D3 thread, but Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis and Wharton Fieldhouse in Moline, Illinois are worth a look. Hinkle, home to Butler University’s Bulldogs, is where “Hoosiers” was filmed. Wharton, a high-school gym, has been around since 1928. The NBA played there. George Mikan. Some guy named Auerbach coached the NBA team before he left for Boston. Not sure what happened to him after that.

    If Wharton is a phone booth, as one coach called it, Loras Fieldhouse in Dubuque, Iowa is a sardine can. Home to the Duhawks since 1927, Loras’s most distinctive feature is a balcony that juts out above and beyond the floor-level seating. From the upper level’s front row, you look straight down into the players’ huddle. The balcony hugs the court so tightly that its rounded corners actually protrude over the playing space itself, forcing the broadcasters at the tables above to get a little exercise. One play-by-play man had to leave his chair and lean over the railing to see what was happening on the court directly below and a little behind him.

    In a big game, Loras has one of the most frenzied, into-it student cheering sections I’ve ever seen, a sea of yellow shirts and shirtless guys with yellow letters spelling out “Go Duhawks” on purple-painted chests. Lots of dancing, twisting and gyrating and jumping up and down when the Duhawks go on a roll. There’s no outlet for all that sound. It just bounces off the brick walls and wooden ceiling and comes at you from other angles. Loras only holds 1,100 people, but during a big game in a building this small, you would think you were at the Final Four.

    Five games left for the old barn, not counting the conference tournament. The Duhawks move into a new building in November.

    Eby Fieldhouse at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa has also been around since the 1920’s, I believe. It has a quirky viewing angle: above and about ten feet behind one of the baskets.

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