CSU Archives and Special Collections

CSU Buildings and Grounds History

A history of CSU's building and grounds from 1870 to the present.

Glenn Morris Field House, 1926-

A large multi-level building with flowers, a street, and trolley tracks in the foreground.

Field House, 1928

From CSU's Sense of Place:  A Campus History of Colorado's Land-Grant University, by James E. Hansen, Gordon A. Hazard, and Linda M. Meyer.  Fort Collins, CO:  Colorado State University, 2018.

Architects - Eugene G. Groves (original and addition), William T. McGregor of the Physical Plant Department (1959 press box)

Builder – C. E. Walker and Company of Denver

901 South College Avenue

Following the completion of the new Chemistry Building and Administration Building, funds became available to finally replace the old basement gym in Old Main and give the Aggie basketball team a new home court on which to train and compete. 

In late March 1925, the State Board of Agriculture gave its final authorization to begin building the new gymnasium.  It was described as being “H” shaped.  The field house would be the south wing and measure 100 x 220 feet.  The middle bar section would house the locker rooms and swimming pool and would be 100 x 120 feet.  The gymnasium would be the north wing and would be 100 x 160 feet in size.  Having experienced the poor conditions at the current gym in the basement of Old Main, good lighting and ventilation were carefully made part of the design. 

Designed by Eugene G. Groves, ground was broken on April 2, 1925 to begin construction of the new gymnasium, swimming pool and field house on the old Durkee Field site.  The cornerstone laying ceremony took place on September 12, 1925 at the northeast corner of the gymnasium portion of the building.

The C. E. Walker and Company of Denver constructed the building complex.  Mr. Groves had been asked to scale back on the original design to meet a tight budget.  It has been said that the expensive prime bricks were used on the east face of the building, and less expensive bricks were incorporated into the construction on the sides and back of the building. 

Commonly known as the “Men’s Gym”, “College Avenue Gym” or “South College Gym”, the first basketball game was played there the evening of February 28, 1926.  The Aggies lost to the Wyoming Cowboys 36-23.  The official dedication ceremony was held March 3, 1926.  It was followed by a basketball game against the visiting University of Colorado Buffaloes.  Sadly, the Aggies lost that one too, 25-18.

The swimming pool and field house portions were finished during the spring and summer of 1926 allowing the entire complex to be ready for full use by the start of school in September 1926. The “Blond Lady of College Avenue” had a regulation-sized basketball court rather than the undersized one in Old Main. It also solved the problem of poor ventilation and lack of spectator seating.  It was viewed by some as being a “sports palace”.

In July 1928, the building became a billboard of sorts.  The State Board of Agriculture authorized federal aviation officials to paint “Fort Collins” on the roof of the Field House for aviation guidance.  This was being done all over the country to help the early aviators to find their way by creating these “road signs” that could be seen from the air.  The original white painted letters faded over the years but were still somewhat visible in 1940.

In 1930, a new locker room measuring 30’ x 82’ was added to the building that used the design of Eugene G. Groves. The work was under the supervision of Building Superintendent, Professor LD Crain.  A large storage room was part of this addition built by the C. E. Walker Construction Company of Denver.  This provided better facilities for the men’s Physical Education classes as well as an improved locker room for visiting teams.  In November 1935, work was started by WPA workers to pour three concrete tennis courts. Two were built on the west side of the gym and one west of the field house.  These would provide the varsity tennis team a place to practice and hold matches with other schools.  Since the 1960s, the old courts have been used as small parking lots.

On September 2, 1938, heavy rains caused flooding on the campus.  The water came within four inches of flooding and ruining the gymnasium floor.  Another locker room addition was made between the Field House and the Swimming Pool sections in 1939.  This construction closed off the windows of the swimming pool and most of the windows along the inside walls of the gym and field house.

During 1942 and 1943, the Field House became a military barracks, and the Gymnasium became a dining hall for hundreds of United States Army troops stationed at the College.  These men were here to receive clerical, engineering and veterinary training.  The Field House was once again used as a dormitory from the fall of 1946 to the spring of 1948 to provide housing for some of the military veterans enrolling at the College.

The week of March 20 – 26, 1949 saw Colorado A & M College serve as the host site for the 19th Annual NCAA Wrestling Championship Matches.  The gymnasium floor was covered with three wrestling mats as the top college wrestlers from around the country competed.  Oklahoma A & M College won its 17th national championship in 19 years.

On the night of August 3-4, 1951, heavy rains caused flooding of the campus.  This storm, the largest 2-day storm on record at the CSU gauge, brought 6 inches of rain to Fort Collins in a 2-day period. At its worst, the storm unleashed more than an inch of rain in 15 minutes. The flooding caused an estimated $500,000 in property damage, with the Colorado A & M College campus suffering more than half of the damage.  The Field House and Gymnasium complex took on several inches of water.  The hardwood floor of the gym had to be replaced.

In late February 1957, a new electronic scoreboard was placed into operation.  It featured panels of small lights for showing the game clock, score and team fouls.  It also had an automatic horn that sounded at the end of the periods.  It was a gift from the class of 1957.  The old scoreboard installed in 1946, had had a round analog clock with a sweep-hand.  This scoreboard was moved to the “women’s gym” in Old Main.  That style of clock was hard to accurately read by players, coaches, officials and spectators.  Additionally, the timer needed to fire a pistol loaded with blanks to signal the end of a period or the game.

In early March 1959, an elevated press box was opened for use by the news media covering games.  The wood and steel structure measured 6’ x 40’ and was just large enough to hold 20 people seated at a narrow table as they observed the action on the court.  It was designed and built by William T. McGregor, Manager of the Physical Plant Department and his staff.  It was equipped with telephone lines and Western Union service.  Access was via a ladder from the top row of bleachers on the south side of the gym floor.

Beginning in 1959, Head Basketball Coach James J. “Jim” Williams and his assistant coaches led the Colorado State University Ram basketball team to thirteen consecutive winning seasons and six post-season invitations. The success of the basketball program, ever increasing fan turnout, and the desire to be accepted into the Western Athletic Conference, resulted in the construction and opening of the new Auditorium / Gymnasium complex on the west end of campus on January 24, 1966.  This new home of the Rams became commonly known as “Moby Gym”.

The multi-use Field House had long been used for events like livestock, horse, and home shows in addition to being the place for indoor track meets and PE classes.  In the fall of 1980, $40,000 was raised to install a 150-meter asphalt and rubber track and infield in the Field House.  Finally, athletes could train and compete inside a building not full of choking dust laced with animal excrement.  Track Coach Doug Max and Physical Education Department Head M. L. Johnson led the effort to upgrade the old building. 

On July 28, 1997, the complex was once again inundated with floodwaters.  The hardwood floor had to be replaced after the building was dried out.  The landscaping around the building was altered to provide berms and walls to try to direct future flood water away from the structure.  The underground storm sewer system in that part of the city was enlarged as part of the flood mitigation efforts.

Today, the CSU Track and Field teams along with the Department of Health and Exercise Science use and operate the facilities. On April 22, 2011, the freshly cleaned and polished Field House hosted a ceremony to officially rededicate and rename the complex the “Glenn Morris Field House”.  This was in honor the famous Aggie athlete who trained there to win the decathlon gold medal in the 1936 Olympics.  Glenn Morris’ Olympic Gold Medal was given to CSU by his town and family at the emotional ceremony held under its roof.

Sources by Gordon Hazard

 

Rocky Mountain Collegian, February 16, 1922, pages 1 and 2, vol. XXXI, number 20.

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Sources by Gordon Hazard

 

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