Williams Arena exterior

photo by: Jimmy Emerson, DVM, Flickr

November 27, 2015

Historic Hoops: Williams Arena in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Welcome to our Historic Hoops series, where we offer a guide to historic places related (at least tangentially) to a televised men’s or women’s NCAA basketball matchup each week throughout the 2015-2016 season. Whether you’re a die-hard fan or simply stuck watching with your significant other, we’re here to assist your viewing experience with some historic context beyond the hardwood.

This week’s matchup(s): University of Nebraska Omaha at the University of Minnesota

Time: Friday at 3:00 p.m. EST

Channel: ESPN3 and WatchESPN

Venue: Williams Arena, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Opening Tip: There’s not a whole lot to be thankful for this weekend as far as NCAA hoops matchups go. And while this one probably won’t be a barn-burner, at least it’ll be played in a “barn.”

Fast Break: Don’t you just love the Midwest? Williams Arena seats more than 14,000, but it’s known affectionately by Golden Gopher fans as “the Barn.” When you see it, you’ll understand why.

The structure opened in 1928, making it one of the oldest basketball arenas not just in the college game, but in the country. Originally known as the University of Minnesota Field House, it was renamed after the University’s former football coach in 1950 during a remodel that converted part of its space into a hockey arena.

Though the building has seen a number of renovations and remodels, it retains its historic raised floor, which puts team benches, scorers’ tables, and seating a few feet below the court surface. It joins Vanderbilt University as one of the very few in the college game to maintain the raised-court design.

Three Points:

Before the construction of what is now Williams Arena, the Minnesota men’s basketball team played in a number of armories on campus.

From 1950 until 1971, Williams Arena sat 18,025 fans, the largest seating capacity of any college hoops arena.

Williams Arena was completed in 1928 at the total cost of $650,000.

Buzzer Beater: In keeping with the theme of calling the arena “the Barn,” the student section of Williams Arena is referred to as “the barnyard.”

And-1: Head south to watch the University of Houston host the University of Louisiana-Monroe at the 1967 Hofheinz Pavilion. Tip is at 8:00 p.m. EST on Saturday.

Williams Arena Interior

photo by: Jimmy Emerson, DVM, Flickr

Today, Williams Arena sits more than 14,000 fans.

The raised floor at Williams Arena

photo by: Drew Geraets, Flickr

The raised floor at Williams Arena is certified old-school.

David Weible is the content specialist at the National Trust, previously with Preservation and Outside magazines. His interest in historic preservation was inspired by the ‘20s-era architecture, streetcar neighborhoods, and bars of his hometown of Cleveland.

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