Only a little more than a quarter century ago, the University of Kentucky provided its basketball team with its second home a magnificent new Alumni Gymnasium seating 2,800 spectators.
A great many persons freely suggested that the arena would prove to be a "white elephant" which would never be crowded to anywhere near capacity by the sport that then was considered little more than an innocuous winter-month's pastime.
But the hardwood game blitzed the nation and Kentucky's teams forged to the national forefront in such a crowd-pleasing manner that the "huge" hall soon could not begin to accommodate the large number of fans seeking to whet their new-found interest. In fact, the situation soon developed to the point where only the student body and faculty were admitted and for several years about all that Kentuckians at large knew of their state university's famed cage teams consisted of information gleaned from the press and radio.
In 1941, when Dr. H. L. Donovan became president of the University, one of his first recommendations was for a building "that will properly take care of our athletics, our health service, physical education, and recreation." From this beginning came the plan that culminated in the construction of 12,000-seat Memorial Coliseum, an unparalleled edifice costing $3,925,000 by the time it was completed in 1950.
The huge building, which serves as a memorial to the nearly 10,000 Kentucky heroes who lost their lives in World War II and the Korean conflict, covers an entire city block and contains as much space as a seven-story office building. Situated along Avenue of Champions, the Coliseum is used primarily for basketball games but also serves as the site of a sellout community concert and lecture series as well as numerous physical education classes and conventions.
In sharp contrast to the early days in Alumni Gym, the present hall plays host to more than 100,000 Kentuckians annually for appearances ,of the famous Wildcat cage teams alone and interest is increasing with such strides that even this splendid arena may someday be outgrown.