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Official Review by Benjamin Evensen, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Historic War Memorial Gymnasium sits right in the middle of the University of Idaho campus in Moscow, Idaho. Built in 1928, the gym has been used for many different Idaho sports throughout its 86 year history. In fact, the gym was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. Today though, the only permanent tenant is Idaho Vandals women’s volleyball. The men and women’s basketball teams use Memorial Gym during the early parts of the season, but once the football season ends they move into the Cowan Spectrum. The Cowan Spectrum is a makeshift court built inside the Kibbie Dome a few blocks away, but only can be constructed when the home football games end for Idaho and the turf can be rolled up and stored away.
While that seems like a lot of work with a gym right there on campus that can be used year round, Memorial Gym really does feel like you still are in the early 20th century. The age is everywhere and it is in no way a suitable venue for sports. Cobwebs can be found in the upper levels, seats are wooden benches bolted to the concreate floor, and some seats are just concrete blocks. There is a stage at one end of the court that the band plays on.
While plans have been made to build a new arena on campus for basketball and possibly volleyball, they are far off from being built and Memorial Gym continues to be home for Idaho volleyball and part time home for basketball.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
There is very little to offer at Memorial Gym for concessions, but the basics are there. Pepsi products and water bottles are available, along with candy and popcorn. Unfortunately, that is it. The good news is that the prices are very fair, with drinks and popcorn only costing $3.
With such a small venue, the crowd is very intimate and into the game when the Vandals are doing well, and they can make a lot of noise. However that is about the only good thing about this dated gym. While age and history is good, renovations still need to be made.
To start, the bleachers are just concrete blocks that for whatever reason are very wide and look more like large steps. The bleachers on the side of the court are wooden benches that look very, very dated and are bolted into the concrete. One end of the court isn't even bleachers, but is rather just a stage. The stage is a very unappealing aspect and gives the feel of playing in a middle school gym.
The end of the court opposite the stage are some of the worst seats I have ever seen in a venue. Not only are they the concrete blocks that are hard to believe are actual seats, but sitting in them prevent you from seeing part of the court.
The court itself looks very amateur and old. Covered in red, blue, and green lines, the basketball lines are semi-recognizable and the court looks cluttered. A dated logo sits at the middle. For volleyball at least, they sometimes bring in a makeshift floor that lays over the hardwood, which is a lot more visibly appealing.
If you find yourself at the upper levels, watch out for cobwebs. Seriously, the windows are full of cobwebs at the upper level.
Moscow is your quintessential college town, and while walking to downtown from Memorial Gym is a hassle, a short drive brings you to Moscow's great food and bar selection downtown. Safety around the gym on campus is never a concern, and finding places to eat and drink before or after a volleyball or basketball game is a breeze. It would just be nicer if there were selections within walking distance.
At the game I attended, while the gym was only about 60% full, the crowd was very into the game and were very loud at times. Everyone seemed very into the volleyball game.
Getting to Moscow in the winter can be a difficult task, as the city is very isolated and not around a whole lot aside from Pullman, WA. There is a small airport, and some highways that come into the city. The highways can be a dangerous drive in the winter though.
When you get to Moscow there is some parking right behind the gym, and across the street as well for free.
Getting into the game is very cheap at just $6 per person and free to students. For what you get the price is fine, especially with the cheapness of food too.
There really isn't much extra things to speak of, aside from the architecture of the building. It has a very historic look to the outside and entrance and is a great site to see on campus.
While the historic-ness of Memorial Gym is nice and some may appreciate it, at a certain point it just becomes too old. For basketball it is not a suitable venue for a D-I or even D-II team. Even for volleyball it is not a suitable venue. Hopefully for the university the plans for a new arena can move forward and it can be built soon, putting Memorial Gym to rest at last.
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