• Search by team or stadium name:

Buy the latest issue of Stadium Journey Magazine - Subscribe Today!

Stadium Journey Sports Magazine Subscriptions

War Memorial Gym

San Francisco, CA

Home of the San Francisco Dons

3.1

3.0

War Memorial Gym (map it)
2335 Golden Gate Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94118


San Francisco Dons website

War Memorial Gym website

Year Opened: 1958

Capacity: 5,300

There are no tickets available at this time.

Reviews

Local Information

Share
this

The Hilltop

Situated on the "Hilltop" high above the downtown skyscrapers, University of San Francisco's War Memorial Gymnasium is a piece of history. Made possible by the excitement surrounding the NCAA championship seasons of 1955 and 1956, War Memorial Gymnasium was built in the middle of USF's campus, at 2335 Golden Gate Ave, and is named in honor of USF students who were lost in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

There were many changes and upgrades to the gym since my last visit two years ago. To me, some of the changes were welcomed while others had their drawbacks. I’ll address each “upgrade” in the appropriate section but the first thing I noticed was the new, spacious and convenient entryway.

Though the gym missed out on the Bill Russell era, it has seen Bill Cartwright, Phil Smith and Quintin Dainley walk through its doors. In fact they, along with Russell and K.C. Jones, have their numbers retired alongside banners for coaches Pete Newell and Phil Woolpert. The Dons won the 1949 NIT Tournament and NCAA Tournament Championships in 1955 and 1956.

The 2012-13 season for the Dons looks to be a tough one as they are dressing several freshman. Prior to this season, they have enjoyed a few seasons in the top half of the West Coast Conference (WCC).

3.1

What is FANFARE?

The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:

  • Food & Beverage
  • Atmosphere
  • Neighborhood
  • Fans
  • Access
  • Return on Investment
  • Extras

Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".

Food & Beverage    3

Expect the normal fare when heading to the Hilltop. There's nothing too spectacular but you can grab a bite to eat and it won't break the bank. A "Don Dog" or a slice of pizza will run you $4 and you can wet your palate with a bottle of water or soda for $2.50 and satisfy your sweet tooth with $1.50 candy bars. Of course you can find popcorn, peanuts, nachos, etc at the South entrance to the arena.

There are also small carts set up in the upper level corners that have some essentials and drinks so you don't have to go all the way downstairs.

Atmosphere    3

War Memorial Gym is special in that USF does a great job to accentuate the history of the basketball program, as well as many of the other sports. Plaques line the hallways and trophies and busts the entry.

The gym is separated into two sections. The lower level is equipped with chair-backed seats on both sidelines and the upper level (general admission) is bleacher seating. There is a clear half-wall along the walkway in front of the general admission seating for safety, but can still be seen through.

USF updated the facility with high-definition video panels on the sideline between the two benches and near the ceiling, opposite each general admission section. These panels would update with advertisements and scheduling announcements throughout the game. Unfortunately, it wasn't a scoreboard so you had to look for the smaller scoreboards in each corner or the one for upper level, with its back to the court.

While the new panels are nice, I thought they were more of a detriment than a benefit. First, they just seemed a little too bright for the gym. It was almost as if there was a constant glow on the court. Second, because of the new video panels, they have moved their NCAA Championship banners from center court, hanging from the middle of the ceiling over the floor, to the corners of the gym. San Francisco is one of just a handful of teams to win back-to-back championships and those bad boys need to be front and center!

Finally, the public address announcer is one of my favorites at any venue.

Neighborhood    5

This is the neighborhood you think of when you close your eyes and think of San Francisco. It's beautiful. Old Victorian-style homes cramped together, shoulder to shoulder, along the rolling hills make for a perfect setting for the gym. There are plenty of places to eat and shop in the neighborhood and most of the storefronts are full and vibrant. It's a good mix of residential and commercial buildings, less than two miles from downtown. If you have time during the afternoon, explore Golden Gate Park, Alamo Square and the Haight-Ashbury District all within walking distance to campus.

If you're in the area before the 7:30 tip, I recommend going to one of the many pubs or restaurants in the area. The Pig & Whistle is located on Geary Blvd just west of Masonic and you can hunker down and enjoy calamari rings or beer battered mushrooms with a pint. Normal pub beers include the European imports as well as some local craft draughts.

Kezar Pub (770 Stanyan at Waller) is another warm pub option that has a bit of history to it. It sits across the street from the Kezar Stadium (former home of the 49ers) and Gymnasium (home of the USF Dons prior to moving into War Memorial). Both of these pubs are within walking distance to USF.

If you're looking for something a little nicer than typical pub fare, check out the Divisadero corridor where you can go to Nopa, Bar Crudo or Fly. Whatever your interests, there is something to appeal to you in this neighborhood.

Fans    3

Though the gym was probably only a quarter full, the fans were loud enough to create a fun and exciting atmosphere. This is an experience good for families too as kids were all over the upper-level. It's safe and spacious enough for them to walk around with friends while the parents enjoy the game.

The majority of the spectators were older alums from USF. They filled up much of the lower level and were certainly the most vocal of the fans at War Memorial.

The small crowd size was due in part to the game against San Diego was held at the tail end of the the winter break. There was no student section to speak at of all.

Access    3

From out of town the USF campus is not too convenient to get to because of the lack of freeways within city limits. It is only served by public transit that already runs within San Francisco by MUNI so coming from out of town will require a transfer. You can ride the 31-Balboa, the 5-Fulton or the 43-Masonic for $2 and that will drop you off within two blocks of the gym. If driving, the neighborhood is one of the easier ones to navigate by car in San Francisco but parking can be an issue. There is a limited parking lot available as well as street parking (check the restriction signs) within a block of the gym.

In a great change from my last visit, the box office has moved from the right side of the front entryway to outside the west end of the gym. If you have a lower level seat you enter from the main entrance and get to your seat that way. If you have a general admission seat you enter from the other end of the gym. Since the building is built into a hill, there aren't any stairs to navigate, as you enter at the same level as you'll be sitting.

The main entrance was the major bugaboo from my last visit because of the chaos of entering there. USF has done a great job of alleviating all the traffic there while updating the aesthetics of the trophy case.

Return on Investment    2

This is a no frills experience. You receive a good product on the court in a beautiful neighborhood. Perhaps it is because of the recent upgrades, but general admission tickets have gone up 100% in two years, from ten to twenty dollars. It's a minimum of 45 dollars to get downstairs and have a back on your chair.

With USF having many freshman, only the diehards will be out for the next year or so. I'd certainly pay 20 bucks and up for a full-house rivalry game in a beautiful old gym but the less than 1,000 spectators was lackluster.

Extras    3

I love the old memorabilia from all sports down each hallway and the "Legends of the Hilltop" busts. They also have banners for all the accolades from men's and women's basketball which is a great feeling in a college gymnasium. The upgrades are certainly extra but it sure seems like the consumer is paying for it.

Pure

Spot on review. 100% correct on lobby, ticket line, concessions, smallish but enthusiastic die-hard fans, classic PA Announcer in Joe Hallasy, to the many kids, traditional old-school college gym. Also completely correct on the "cheesy DJ". This is a first-year experiment that many hope ends soon. One caveat to the solid review. Portland is always letdown in terms of crowd - to their team's advantage - since their travel partner is Gonzaga, the general public tends to look past Portland to attend the Gonzaga game two days later. Also the students were still on Christmas break for the Portland game, returning on the weekend of the Gonzaga game in this case. Two days later War Memorial Gym was packed and the atmosphere was rockin! This 52-year-old gym is a throw-back traditional basketball gym and when it's full, it's hot and loud and fun.

As noted, no extra frills but fun and tradition-filled, is a perfect description. It's college basketball in its purest form in a traditional college "gym". No brain-dead NBA-type fabricated entertainment surrounded by luxury boxes. It's about student-athletes and college sports in a cozy setting at "The House That Russell Built". It can take you back to the way college sports used to be 50 years ago, and the way many of us love college sports still to be.

by Fuzz | Jan 27, 2011 07:12 AM

Thank you very much for the feedback. I greatly appreciate you mentioning Mr. Hallasy by name (he truly was great) and the information about winter break that I hadn't thought of. I struggled to judge certain categories in part because I felt the energy from my living room for the Gonzaga game. In the end, I decided to create a snapshot of my experience that particular evening rather than try to toe the line. The good news is there was nothing about my experience to keep me away and I hope to come back and enjoy a more typical game for this charming gym in the future. There's so much more to explore.

by ryannorris | Jan 27, 2011 11:29 AM

Solid review - just curious if the feel is any different for women's BB games?

by coppedgeb | Feb 11, 2011 12:34 PM

You must be a Stadium Journey member to post a comment.

Already a member? Sign in or Create a Stadium Journey Account

-- OR --

Crowd Reviews

No Frills on the Hilltop

Total Score: 3.00

  • Food & Beverage: 3
  • Atmosphere 3
  • Neighborhood: 5
  • Fans: 3
  • Access: 2
  • RoI: 3
  • Extras: 2

Situated on the "Hilltop" high above the downtown skyscrapers, University of San Francisco's War Memorial Gymnasium is a piece of history. Made possible by the excitement surrounding the NCAA championship seasons of 1955 and 1956, War Memorial Gymnasium was built in the middle of USF's campus, at 2335 Golden Gate Ave, and is named in honor of USF students who were lost in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

Entering the gym is hectic when so many people try to squeeze into a narrow lobby. The lines for tickets run perpendicular to the lines to enter the inner lobby creating intersecting lines for people to navigate. Once inside, there is a very impressive trophy case for individual and team awards as well as the USF Wall of Fame, complete with busts of the likes of Bill Russell and Bob St. Clair. Its old-timey feel is fun to experience and the scaled down experience makes you sit back and appreciate the game of basketball.

Though the gym missed out on the Bill Russell era, it has seen Bill Cartwright, Phil Smith and Quintin Dainley walk through its doors. In fact they, along with Russell and K.C. Jones, have their numbers retired alongside banners for coaches Pete Newell and Phil Woolpert. Hanging from the rafters, high above center court, are the two championship banners, a NIT championship banner and one to recognize the Dons' trip to the final four.

Nowadays, a general admission upper-level (there's probably only 15 rows in the lower-level) is ten bucks and you can sit anywhere unoccupied. For this contest, the sidelines filled up nicely while the baselines were left vacant on this particular Thursday night.

There hasn't been much to cheer for in recent years for USF as they haven't been big-time players in the West Coast Conference. Recent history aside, this was the home opener for the Dons, hosting the Pilots from the University of Portland and the players were excited to extend their win-streak in front of the hometown crowd.

Share your thoughts about War Memorial Gym

Local Food & Drink

Pig & Whistle  (map it!)

2801 Geary Blvd

San Francisco, CA 94118

(415) 885-4779

http://pig-and-whistle.com/

Bar Crudo  (map it!)

655 Divisadero St

San Francisco, CA 94114

(415) 405-0679

http://barcrudo.com/

Kezar Pub  (map it!)

770 Stanyan St

San Francisco, CA 94117

(415) 386-9292

http://www.thekezarpub.com/

The Corner Store  (map it!)

5 Masonic Ave

San Francisco, CA 94118

(415) 359-1800

http://www.thecornerstore-sf.com

Bistro Gambrinus  (map it!)

1813 Fulton Street

San Francisco, CA 94117

(415) 221-7777

http://www.beerandgrill.com

Genki Ramen  (map it!)

3944 Geary Boulevard

San Francisco, CA 94118

(415) 752-2663

http://www.genkiramen.com

Papalote Mexican Grill  (map it!)

1777 Fulton Street

San Francisco, CA 94117

(415) 776-0106

http://www.papalote-sf.com

Local Entertainment

California Academy of Sciences  (map it!)

55 Music Concourse Drive

San Francisco, CA 94118

(415) 379-8000

http://www.calacademy.org

Lodging

Hotel Kabuki  (map it!)

1625 Post Street

San Francisco, CA 94115

(415) 413-4709

http://www.jdvhotels.com/hotels/kabuki/

w

© 2014 Stadium Journey