After Northern Kentucky handed Idaho its third-straight loss last Saturday, I was able to talk to NKU head coach Dave Bezold. Along with the standard game questions, I was curious what he thought about the game’s venue, Memorial Gym.
His reaction, to my surprise, was positive:
“We were excited. As soon as we walked in half our kids — and we got a bunch of kids from Indiana — they were like ‘this is just like Hoosiers.’ They thought it was the greatest thing ever. I think it’s got character. I love it. I mean this is awesome.”
“We’ve got some cookie cutter gyms all over the nation now, but this is really, really neat.”
The win probably helped Bezold’s attitude towards the place, but he seemed genuine with his comments. For what it’s worth, his face even lit up a little bit when he heard the question.
I’ve always wondered what opposing coaches and players thought of the old Mem. Gym. There’s no question it’s unique, just like the Kibbie Dome, but it’s also old, outdated and could really use some upgrades. The opposing team has to go up two flights of stairs to its locker room, and I’m not entirely sure where Idaho’s locker room is even located. I can’t speak for the women’s restroom, but the men’s is, well, cozy. The “concourse” is a hallway, and the lower bowl (if you want to call it that) is hidden underneath the upper deck — which is a little odd.
With all that said, I absolutely love it. It has a certain charm to it and while some might dread watching games there, I always look forward to it. With the overhang of the second level, fans are right on top of the action. The stage at the far end of the court gives the Vandal Marching Band, a stage — and when the band is playing, good luck talking to whoever is sitting next to you. The building was even placed on the National Register of Historic Buildings in 1970.
With the majority of students not back from Thanksgiving break the reported attendance for Saturday’s game against Northern Kentucky was only 227 people. But when Idaho started to gain momentum late in the game, the small crowd was electric. The small venue doesn’t let any sound escape, and with fans shouting down onto the court from the second level, it created an unexpected, loud and electric roar — and it was great.
As a registered historic building, renovating Memorial Gym would be difficult and expensive. Not to mention it might be tricky to design a functioning event center with the current layout and overall size. I am, however, not an architect major or historian — so I could be wrong.
It is no secret Idaho needs an event center. While it might be a long shot Mem. Gym gets renovated, I hope the new event center (if it ever gets approved) has some of the same charm as the 86-year-old building.