Herald-Whig

Which gymnasium in Quincy is the oldest?

The sign on the wall still says Memorial Gym, but the home of Quincy University's men's and women's basketball teams is now known as Pepsi Arena. | H-W Photo/David Adam
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Oct. 10, 2016 8:05 am Updated: Oct. 10, 2016 10:12 am

Which gymnasium in Quincy is the oldest?

Four of Quincy's five main basketball facilities were all built within a 10-year span. (The Student Activity Center at John Wood Community College was built in 2006.) So, in order of completion:

Memorial Gym (Pepsi Arena), 1950

Ground breaking ceremonies for Memorial Gymnasium took place in November 1948. The cornerstone was placed in April 1950, with the dedication by Father Provincial Eliguis Wear in December 1950.

The Mart Heinen Club was responsible for the funding and construction of the gym annex, which was completed on Sept. 6, 1973. The school's athletic website, quhawks.com, says the gym underwent an extensive renovation project in 1991.

The facility underwent a major change again in 1999 when the Health and Fitness Center was built to the west. It includes three multi-purpose courts, an indoor track and racquetball courts, a weight room and an aerobics/dance room. The name of the gymnasium was changed to Pepsi Arena at that time.

CYO Gym, 1953

The Catholic Youth Organization was organized in 1933, and according to a publication celebrating the organization's 75th year of existence, activities were played where ever space was available.

In the mid 1940s, the School Sisters of Notre Dame made the decision to build the gymnasium at Seventh and Broadway. Ground was broken in 1952. The official dedication of the facility was held on May 28, 1953. The singing quartet, the Silvertones, performed, and Bishop William A. O'Connor officiated the dedication.

The gym was home for the Notre Dame basketball team for the rest of the 1950s, and even when Christian Brothers High School was built at 10th and Jackson, the Raiders played in the CYO Gym until February 1960.

When Notre Dame and Catholic Boys merged in 1975, the gymnasium title was given to the CYO. It served as the home court for the JWCC men's and women's basketball teams from 1991-2006.

The CYO board decided in August to put the gymnasium up for sale.

Blue Devil Gym, 1957

After 24 seasons playing in the dim, dark gym at the old school at 14th and Maine, the Quincy High School boys basketball team moved into its new digs in 1957. The new facility had a capacity of 3,200 seats, more than doubling the number available in what was known as "Latham's Dungeon."

Modifications to Blue Devil Gym have increased the current capacity to 3,979, according to "Stand Up and Cheer," a book written by Matt Schuckman in 2006 chronicling the first 100 years of QHS basketball.

The first game was played on Dec. 30, 1957. Kent Keim is credited with scoring the first basket in Blue Devil Gym during a 54-48 victory over Keokuk, Iowa. Tickets for the game were sold for $1.25.

The Pit, 1960

Ground was broken for the new Christian Brothers High School at 10th and Jackson on Aug. 25, 1958. The 11 1/2-acre tract of land was known as the YMCA lot, but it also was the site for the Quinsippi Festival and also remembered as Bluebird Park.

The school opened on Sept. 8, 1959.

The Herald-Whig reported the Raiders had planned to play their first two games of 1959 against CBC and Alton in the their old gym, the CYO Gymnasium at Seventh and Broadway, but the first home game was expected to be played Jan. 8 against Breese Mater Dei.

However, construction delays forced the Raiders to play their first eight games at the CYO Gym and pushed back the first game at the new school until Feb. 21, 1960, when the Raiders played host to East St. Louis Assumption on a Sunday afternoon. A near-capacity crowd turned out in spite of a snowstorm to watch Christian Brothers win 74-50. Greg Bernbrock was the first player to score a basket in the new gym.

John Spring, the former executive director of the QND Foundation, said construction was delayed because plans had called for the possible construction of a pool to the west of the gymnasium. The gymnasium was one of the final portions finished in the construction process because of that possibility.

A tile floor originally was installed, but it was replaced by a wood floor after the end of the 1964 season.

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