Oregon State's Gill Coliseum: History and nostalgia enhance basketball experience
CORVALLIS, Ore. — Before the opening tip of the women’s basketball Civil War showdown between Oregon and Oregon State Friday night, the court announcer used the phrase “legendary Gill Coliseum” — an apt description for a special place.
Gill is an old building, not antiquated but rather something that has endured the pressure to change. The result is a basketball experience that is becoming harder to find these days.
The seats are uncomfortable, the orange and black paint is fading and the air is stuffy and hot. Everything is worn, especially the stairs, which seem to have been scuffed by thousands of shoes. There are limited options for food, few amenities and the walkways are so narrow that it is tough to fight your way into your seats.
Basically its perfect.
Everything is more intimate at Gill. You feel like more of a participant than an observer. Everywhere you look there are reminders of the past, which Oregon State is obviously proud of. Banners dangle from the walls honoring past Beaver greats like Gary Payton, A.C. Green and Ralph Miller. Representing women’s basketball are tributes to Carol Menken and Felicia Ragland.
Being at the game it’s hard not to compare Gill with its counterpart in Eugene, Matthew Knight Arena.
Oregon’s new arena solved many of the ‘problems’ with Gill. Its pristine and shiny, featuring everything a modern fan could want. The seats are comfortable (at least as comfortable as arena seats go), there is a giant big screen hanging in the middle to watch all of the highlights on and the air conditioning runs at high speed.
On paper it would seem like Matthew Knight should be a far superior venue in which to watch basketball, and yet the evidence after attending games in both doesn’t support that claim.
Another major difference; Gill was packed. Whether it was in support of their team taking on its rivals, the pregame introduction of new football head coach Gary Anderson or the fact that the Beavers haven’t had a home game in 35 day — there were hardly any open seats.
The result was a raucous atmosphere.
Unlike Matthew Knight, which at times seems to swallow the noise of the crowd due to its size, Gill accentuated everything. The building would erupt with each positive Beaver play — of which there were plenty. The crowd (7,652 in attendance) roared and clapped as their team celebrated on the court, all the while backdropped by the percussion and brass of the band. There was never a break in the noise, almost as if the building refused to ever quiet down.
As someone who has only ever attended Oregon basketball games within Matthew Knight Arena, being at Gill serves as a substitute to what I imagine McArthur Court used to be like. One wonders if the reason Mac still stands is because there is a reluctance to officially raze a place steeped with so much history.
Perhaps someday Gill Coliseum will stand lonely like McArthur, pushed aside in the name of progress. Until that day, though, Beaver fans will continue to pile in, adding to the history of the building.
Follow Christopher Keizur on Twitter @chriskeizur
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