Throughout W&M Basketball’s 100+ year history, the team has played in surprisingly few home venues. Perhaps it’s due to a strong sense of tradition. Perhaps it’s due to a relative lack of funding. But any way you look at it, Williamsburg is not only home to an historic college, but it’s also home to a rich history of collegiate athletics. How rich? Rich enough for us to look back at old black and white photos depicting a time that has long since past.
Blow Hall: Home Court (1925-1970)
As the story goes, according to an excerpt from the Swem Special Collections Research Center:
“Blow Memorial Hall was constructed between 1923 and 1925 following a gift to William & Mary from Mrs. Adele Matthiessen Blow in memory of her husband, Captain George Preston Blow, U.S. Navy. The building was referred to as Blow Gym at this time.
While Captain Blow did not attended William &Mary, his father, grandfather, and other family members were alumni, and his grandfather also served on the Board of Visitors. Dramatic growth of the student body during the 1920s and 1930s had made more and larger athletic facilities a necessity soon after the completion of the Blow Gym in 1925. Originally T-shaped, it was substantially enlarged by the addition of a south wing in 1940. Blow Gym remained the home of men’s basketball until William & Mary Hall hosted its first games in December 1970. From the 1970s until the opening of the Recreation Center, Blow Gym continued to serve as a much-needed recreation center for students, faculty and staff.
In 1991, Blow Gymnasium was renovated and converted from a physical education building into a complex for classrooms and offices and was rededicated as Blow Memorial Hall. Blow Hall is home to a number of offices and departments including the Roy R. Charles Center, Sharpe Community Scholars Program, and the Office of the Registrar. These offices moved to Blow after the School of Business moved to new quarters upon the opening of Alan B. Miller Hall in 2009.”
Interestingly enough, W&M also played games at Norfolk Municipal Auditorium during this era, which served as an alternate home for the Green and Gold. The Tribe would play one or two home games a year at the Auditorium, which was a 5,200 seat multi-purpose arena that opened in May 1943. However, the building began to fade with the official opening of Norfolk Scope Arena in 1971 (former home of ODU basketball, and current home of the ECHL’s Norfolk Admirals). William & Mary stopped playing games in Norfolk around this time, as the team transitioned to its newly opened Kaplan Arena. The old Norfolk Municipal Auditorium remains standing today, but now serves as storage and administrative space for the Harrison Opera House. The more you know!
Modern Day: Kaplan Arena (1970-Present)
From Blow to Kaplan the Tribe went — which of course is the stadium we’re most familiar with today (for better or for worse, depending how you look at it). We were unable to uncover an interesting nugget from a Swem wiki page:
“The first ever event held at the Kaplan Arena was a basketball game between the William & Mary Indians against the top 5 ranked University of North Carolina Tar Heels. The event took place before construction of the building was complete. The most noticeable thing lacking during that game were doors on the back of the arena. Photos of the game show the sold out crowd dressed in winter coats and hats. The Tar Heels opted to spend halftime on their team bus as opposed to the unfinished locker room. North Carolina won the game 101-72.”
Kaplan 2.0: Tribe Athletics’ 10-Year Plan
As we’ve noted in this article, which outlines W&M Tribe Athletics’ “10-Year Plan,” there are big plans for Kaplan Arena. A stadium that has certainly seen better days is more than due for a facelift, and the 2015 10-Year memo released by W&M was a big step toward correcting that fact. Below are the details that William & Mary released around the Tribe’s soon-to-be renovated home.
William & Mary Hall 2.0: (Estimated Cost: $60 – $75 million for new construction, $22 – $28 million for renovation)
- “William & Mary Hall is more than 40 years old and showing its age. Opened in 1971, it is home to most of Tribe Athletics – team locker rooms, coaching offices, and support services – and is the athletic department’s operational base.”
- “The next incarnation of William & Mary Hall is of strategic importance to the university and region. In reaction to the 2014 update to William & Mary’s master plan, the student body president noted the need for an appealing 3,000-seat venue on campus, which is acknowledged to be a regional need in the City of Williamsburg and the Historic Triangle.”
- “The Committee does not have the architectural, engineering, or campus planning expertise to determine whether replacement, as occurred via the John Paul Jones Arena at the University of Virginia…or a comprehensive renovation, as occurred in the Robins Center at the University of Richmond (opened 1972, renovated in 2013 for $17 million), is the best solution for William & Mary.”
- “A new or made-like-new William & Mary Hall would be transformative for Tribe Athletics, the university, and the Historic Triangle region.”
So as you can see, Tribe fans have plenty of reason to be excited about the future of William & Mary’s basketball. The team has come a long way since Blow Gymnasium in the ’20s, and we can’t wait to see what this program can do with a brand new (or fully renovated) facility in the years to come.
LET’S GO TRIBE.