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Celebrating 50 years of Sam Carver Gymnasium

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Aug. 22, 2011

BELLINGHAM, Wash. -

Celebrating 50 years of Carver Gym

  • Celebrating 50 years of Carver Gym (Windows Media File)

    Dedicated on March 30, 1962, Sam Carver Gymnasium will celebrate its 50th year as the home of Western basketball this season.

    Named for Sanford E. Carver, a NAIA Hall of Famer who was Western's first director of athletics and the chair of the physical education department from 1914-55, Carver Gym was an addition to the existing physical education facility. It added 54,233 square feet of floor space at a cost of $1.04 million. The most significant addition was the present main gymnasium.

    The facility opened in time for the 1961-62 basketball season, although it wasn't named for Carver until the dedication ceremony the following spring. Dr. James L. Jarrett, then Western's president, and Dr. E.V. Pullias, a professor at the University of Southern California, were the main speakers at the gathering.

    Basketball has been the primary event at Carver Gym. Seattle Pacific was Western's opponent in the first game played on the new floor on Dec. 6, 1961.

    The Vikings have racked up an impressive record during their time in the gym, with the men going 484-156 (.756) in 49 years and the women 413-70 (.855) in 38 seasons. The combined total is 897-226 (.799).

    In the last decade, Western volleyball has become a big event in the gymnasium, with the Vikings winning back-to-back Great Northwest Athletic Conference titles with perfect 18-0 records in 2001 and 2002 and reaching the NCAA Division II national championship match in 2008.

    Western was a much different place when Carver Gym was built. It was a state college, not a university, and the enrollment was a third of the 14,959 it is today. Many of the buildings that dot the campus landscape today were either brand new or still many years away from construction.

    Perhaps the most unique feature of Carver Gym was that it wasn't built on solid ground. It was constructed on a bog, meaning pilings had to be put in the ground before the foundation could be laid. Money spent on the pilings meant a few other plans had to be delayed. The brick that was supposed to be put on the outer walls was never added, and the final set of bleachers wasn't installed until 1971. There have been numerous renovations and additions to the building over the last 25 years.

    Since opening, Carver Gym has been host to a number of events. Acts like Jefferson Airplane, Duke Ellington, Simon & Garfunkel, the Tubes, Pat Paulsen, the Smothers Brothers and Ike & Tina Turner have played in the facility. There also have been NBA pre-season games, the Harlem Globetrotters, national basketball teams from Australia, Korea, Japan and Taiwan, and the junior national women's team from the Soviet Union. The U.S. and Canadian national volleyball teams played a match at Carver Gym, and Vice President Hubert Humphrey spoke in the building.

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