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  • Writer's picturePaul Baker

Foley Gymnasium - Plymouth State Panthers

Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.86

Foley Gymnasium Fieldhouse Road Plymouth, MA 03245

Year Opened: 1969

Capacity: 1.600

What the Heck, Why not Plymouth State?

Plymouth State University, founded in 1871 as Plymouth Normal School, is part of the University System of New Hampshire. With an enrollment of under 4,500 students, the school is known for its education and business programs. Robert Frost once taught at Plymouth State.

The John C. Foley Gymnasium serves as home to the school’s basketball and volleyball teams. It is named in honor of the longtime English professor, basketball and baseball coach, Athletic Department chair and Dean of the College. Mr. Foley worked at Plymouth State College (as it was then known) for thirty years.

The Panthers compete in the Little East Conference alongside eight other teams throughout New England. Plymouth State has reached the finals of the Little East Conference Tournament seven times, losing all seven games. The Panthers have qualified for the NCAA tournament twice, most recently in 2004.

Food & Beverage 2

There is a small snack table in the lobby at Foley Gymnasium. It offers only a basic menu, with hot dogs, popcorn and candy sold here. Bottles of Pepsi products are also available here. While the menu isn’t extensive, it certainly isn’t expensive, with no item priced at over three dollars.

If you are looking to avoid the lines at the concession stand (there are rarely any lines here), or perhaps expand your selections, there are a pair of vending machines in the downstairs lobby that also offer cold drinks.

Atmosphere 2

You’re likely to have a standard small-school experience at Plymouth State. This is not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination. It’s just that at a small school in a small facility with a small crowd, there’s not going to be a ton of noise or extra activity going on here. It’s a bare-bones game day presentation where you can see some quality basketball played in an intimate setting.

The building has a certain old-school New Hampshire vibe to it, with a wooden finish and an old, inadequate PA system adding to its charm. Banners honoring championship teams and players hang around the facility.

Neighborhood 3

Plymouth State University dominates this small town of under 7,000 residents. Located near the summer attractions of Lake Winnipesaukee to the east and the winter attractions of the White Mountains to the north, there are plenty of touristy options for visiting fans. If you are in this area during basketball season, it’s likely you’re here to ski, not watch basketball.

Still, the town of Plymouth has some attractions worth checking out. The Museum of the White Mountains is located nearby, and poetry fans may want to check out the Robert Frost statue on campus (he taught at Plymouth State). Tenney Mountain Resort is a short drive from PSU for those looking to ski or snowboard.

As you might expect, there are some great craft breweries in the area. Check out The Last Chair for some quality beer, or simply take a walk down Route 25 next to campus to experience the best that small-town New Hampshire has to offer. There’s no shortage of shops or eateries along this old-timey road.

Fans 2

The crowds at Plymouth State are typical of other small schools in this part of the country. In other words, they are “friends and family” crowds. What a Panther crowd may lack in size, it makes up for in enthusiasm. Many of the fans in the stands have a personal connection with the athletes on the court, and are very invested in the action.

While there’s not a huge turnout by the student body, those students who do show up bring a ton of energy to the gym.

Access 4

The small town of Plymouth, New Hampshire is located in the White Mountains at the confluence of the Pemigewasset and Baker rivers. With a population of under 7,000 residents, Plymouth is located right off Interstate 93 about an hour north of Manchester and a half hour north of Concord.

Foley Gymnasium is located on the eastern side of the Human Performance Center building, which also contains a pool, weight rooms, and classrooms for those studying Health Science, Physiology, Physical Education and Public Health. It is located across the Pemigewasset River from the main campus adjacent to the school’s other athletic facilities.

Fans arriving for a basketball game will park across the street from Foley Gymnasium at the parking lot for the Ice Arena. There is some additional parking in a garage underneath the ALLwell Field House.

Most fans will enter the facility into a small lobby, which contains the PSU Hall of Fame and the concession stand. Restrooms are located downstairs in an alternate lobby, which also contains some Panthers memorabilia. The gymnasium will be on your right, with seating that consists entirely of wooden bleachers on either side of the gym.

Be warned that finding Foley Gymnasium isn’t as easy as it should be. If you park at the ALLwell Field House, you’ll enter the building on the west side. From there, getting to the Foley Gymnasium is like that scene from Spinal Tap where the band couldn’t find their way from the dressing room to the stage. You will roam the building looking for the entrance, traversing classrooms, labs, stairwells and unmarked corridors until you are (hopefully) fortunate enough to enter the lobby at the far end of the building. If you decide to walk around the outside of the building, paved walkways do not completely circle the building, meaning you will have to walk through snow and/or mud to get back to your car.

Return on Investment 5

Admission to a Panthers basketball game is very affordable, with tickets priced at only five dollars. Seniors are admitted for three dollars. Parking is free in the lots near Foley Gymnasium. If you partake from the concession stand, you won’t be spending much money, either, as all items are priced under three dollars. A visit to Plymouth State University for some hoops will certainly not break the bank.

Extras 2

The Plymouth State Athletic Hall of Fame is located in the lobby just off the entrance to Foley Gymnasium. Unless you are a part of the Panther community, you probably won’t recognize the names honored here.

However, readers of Sports Illustrated may remember the name Joe Dudek. SI featured Dudek on one of their covers as “the thinking fan’s choice for the Heisman Trophy” after he broke Walter Payton’s career touchdown record in 1985. Dudek finished that season’s Heisman balloting in 9th place, the highest finish ever for a non-Division One player.

Banners hang throughout Foley Gymnasium honoring Panther championship teams and 1,000-point scorers.

Final Thoughts

If you’re heading to northern New Hampshire in the wintertime, it’s highly unlikely that you are there for basketball. However, if you’re looking for an affordable alternative to hitting the slopes, you can do much worse than a trip to picturesque Plymouth and a Panthers basketball game.

Follow Paul Baker’s stadium journeys on Twitter and Instagram @PuckmanRI.


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