Williams Arena, located on the Twin Cities campus of the University of Minnesota is the home of the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers men's and women's basketball teams. It also housed the men's hockey team until 1993, when it moved into its own building, Mariucci Arena. The building is known affectionately as "The Barn", and its student section is known as "The Barnyard".
Williams Arena is located on the southwest corner of the intersection of University Avenue and 19th Ave. SE in Minneapolis on the U of M's East Bank campus. It is in a neighborhood called Stadium Village, named for the old Memorial Stadium that stood there until its demolition in 1992. The arena is adjacent to TCF Bank Stadium, Mariucci Arena, and Ridder Arena, where the football and hockey teams respectively play.
Initially known as the Minnesota Field House (another building has that name today), Williams Arena was constructed in the 1920s and opened in 1928. The original construction of Williams Arena cost $650,000. The arena was remodeled in 1950, and renamed Williams Arena after Dr. Henry L. Williams, the football coach from 1900 to 1921.
As part of the 1950 renovation, it was divided into two separate arenas within one building—a larger one for basketball and a smaller one for hockey. Both arenas were called Williams Arena until March 2, 1985, when the hockey section was renamed Mariucci Arena after longtime Gopher hockey coach John Mariucci. The hockey team moved into a new building across the street from Williams in 1993, also named Mariucci Arena. The old Mariucci Arena within Williams was remodeled into the Sports Pavilion, now the Maturi Pavilion, named for former University of Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi in August 2017. which houses the volleyball, wrestling, and gymnastic teams.
The venue hosted the 1951 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament championship game and the 1964 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament Mideast Regional. Williams Arena has hosted the 1st and 2nd rounds of the NCAA women's basketball tournament in 2005, 2007, and 2010. The hockey portion of Williams hosted the Frozen Four in 1958 and 1966. The Minnesota Lynx played all of their 2017 postseason home games at Williams Arena, ultimately winning the franchise's fourth WNBA championship in the building.
Williams Arena was used for the filming of scenes in Columbia Pictures' 1978 motion picture release, Ice Castles.
The building has an arched roof, in the same manner as an airplane hangar. The double arch steel beams allows an open space for the bleachers and floor. There are some seats with partially obscured views due to the upper deck extending past the trusses. Over the summer of 2012, a new Daktronics videoboard and fascia displays were installed as part of a sporting facility update, replacing the older board. The new board is 11'7"x13'8" with LED rings above and below the main display. The fascia extends 360° around the arena.
Williams Arena features an unusual raised floor design. The court surface is raised above the ground approximately two feet so that players' benches, officials tables, etc., are actually below the court. The same goes for fans with the first row looking at players at about knee-level. Normally, other than the officials and those players actively playing, only head coaches are allowed to be on the court itself. The raised floor is one of only a few remaining examples left and contributes significantly to the historic aura of the 80-year-old arena. This served as the inspiration for the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship to host stadiums for their Final Four as of 2009 to have the floor about three feet off the stadium floor as part of an increased capacity to a minimum of 70,000. The floor in Williams Arena recently underwent a replacement. PCL Construction began work on May 11, 2009, replacing the original playing surface from 1928 with a new floor along with new basketball goals. This was the first major upgrade to the facility since a renovation occurred in the early 1990s. Memorial Gymnasium at Vanderbilt University and Hinkle Fieldhouse at Butler University are two other existing arenas with a raised floor. Robertson Memorial Field House at Bradley University, since demolished, also used a raised floor.
From 1950 until the opening of Marriott Center at Brigham Young University in 1971, it had the largest capacity of any collegiate basketball arena in the country. Hinkle Fieldhouse at Butler University also was constructed in 1928, and held the honor of being the highest capacity arena until the remodeling of Williams Arena in 1950.
Before Williams Arena
When the Gophers basketball team first organized, they played games in the on-campus YMCA. In 1896, the team moved into the campus Armory, a large building with gymnasium space for the team to use, even if basketball was not its primary purpose.:6 The Gophers remained in the Armory for almost thirty years. Halfway through the 1924–25 season, coach Harold Taylor moved the team from the University Armory to the Kenwood Armory in downtown Minneapolis.:50 This significantly increased the attendance: capacity at the University Armory was 2,000, but it was 6,500 at Kenwood. The team only played at Kenwood for a few seasons, however, as the University of Minnesota Field House (later known as Williams Arena) opened partway through the 1927–1928 season. The team moved in on January 31, 1928.:50
- "New $650,000 Field Housee of Tremendous Size" (PDF). Minnesota Alumni Weekly. 27 (17): 7. February 11, 1928. Retrieved November 11, 2013.
- Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Community Development Project. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved January 2, 2019.
- "Fun Facts: Folwell Hall Renovation". University of Minnesota. Retrieved November 11, 2013.
- "The Architect, the Engineers, the Contractors and Sub-Contractors Who Are Building the Field House" (PDF). Minnesota Alumni Weekly. 27 (17): 343. February 11, 1928. Retrieved November 11, 2013.
- Rippel, Joel A.; Reusse, Patrick (2006). Minnesota Sports Almanac. Saint Paul: The Minnesota Historical Society Press. p. 366. ISBN 0-87351-558-7. Retrieved February 12, 2012.
- "Williams Arena Tickets". PerfectTix. Retrieved November 11, 2013.
- "Maturi Pavilion". University of Minnesota Athletics. Retrieved December 17, 2018.
- Frederick, Jace (July 27, 2017). "Lynx to play postseason home games at Williams Arena". Pioneer Press. Digital First. Retrieved August 27, 2017.
- "Ice Castles (1978) Filming Locations". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved November 11, 2013.
- Frederick, Jace (September 12, 2017). "Now cooled, Williams Arena ready to host Lynx's playoff run". Pioneer Press. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
- Vanderbilt University Admissions: Self-Guided Tours
- Richards, Phil (March 8, 2007). "History's Home Court". The Indianapolis Star. Retrieved March 8, 2007.
What makes a basketball building a cathedral? The tradition? The ghosts of great players and great games past? The raised floor with its singular springiness
- Ori, Ryan (March 25, 2008). "Remembering Robertson: Origins of a Mecca". Journal Star (Peoria). Retrieved March 25, 2008.
- Hugunin, Marc and Stew Thornley. Minnesota Hoops: Basketball in the North Star State. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2006.
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