Photos by Gregory Koch, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.29
210 Emmett Street S
Charlottesville, VA 22904
Capacity: 1,500 Year Opened: 1924
Volleyball at Historic Memorial Gym
Memorial Gymnasium first opened on the campus of the University of Virginia in 1924 as the home of the Cavaliers' basketball program. The team played here for 42 years before moving into University Hall, and later, John Paul Jones Arena. Today, Mem Gym, as it is known to students, is home to UVA's volleyball program. It also hosts the wrestling team and intramural sports, and there is a small workout facility on the lower level.
Food & Beverage 2
One concession stand at Memorial Gym is located to the right of the main entrance. Hot dogs, soft pretzels, and candy are the main food options, with water and soda also available. As is the case at all public universities in Virginia, the water is sold in aluminum cans rather than plastic bottles to be more environmentally friendly. Prices are affordable, with nothing costing more than a few dollars, although this is not posted anywhere so you will have to ask.
Walking through the front doors of Memorial Gym will put you in the main lobby, with the arena straight ahead through another set of doors. There are plastic bleachers on each side of the court as well as behind the baselines.
The bleachers on one side have wooden backs, the others do not. There are only a few rows so any seat will put you very close to the action. There is a scoreboard on each sideline that also shows detailed player and team stats, as well as a hype video before the game. One thing to note is that the small number listed next to "score" is the number of sets each team has won, while the larger number indicates how many points a team has won in the current set. It can be confusing at first, but will soon become obvious once the game has started.
The atmosphere at a Virginia volleyball game is extremely lively. The PA announcer shouts "Point, Hoos!" after every UVA point about the school's unofficial nickname. Occasionally he will mix it up, shouting "It's a Block Party" after a block by a Cavaliers player. Before the match, the Cavaliers' players will toss miniature volleyballs into the stands.
If the match goes to a fifth set, staff will toss t-shirts into the stands after every Cavaliers point. Between the low ceilings, frenzied crowds, and bold PA announcer, it can get extremely loud in here at times. It is a great atmosphere for a volleyball game, even if the setup feels more like a high school gym.
Memorial Gymnasium is located on the campus of the University of Virginia, which is one of the most beautiful campuses in the country. Once you get off campus and into the city of Charlottesville, there is plenty else to do. Boylan Heights is a popular bar just off campus and serves up good food as well. It is just one of many places to eat, drink, or have fun along University Avenue ranging from bagel bakeries to bars to sushi restaurants. History buffs may also want to check out Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson.
Although the Cavaliers only average about 500 fans a game according to the official attendance numbers, this is a small gym so it feels like a lot more. As mentioned above, the fans are raucous, and the low ceilings and tightly packed bleachers make it even louder. Many of the fans come dressed in Virginia colors, and it is clear this is not just a friends and family crowd like you would see in some places at more "minor" sports.
Everyone from young families to lifelong UVA fans turns out to cheer on their team. Even if the match goes the full five sets, most fans will stay until the end, shouting and cheering on the Cavaliers. While the numbers may not be as high as in some other places, the passion of the fans at Memorial Gymnasium is a large part of why the experience is so great.
If you come to Charlottesville from the east or west, you will likely take Interstate 64. If coming from the north or south, you will take U.S. Route 29. Although both are major roads, Route 29 has a few traffic lights along the way, so you won’t have as good a time as you would on the highway. Still, you should be able to make reasonably good time if you head that way – the lights are for the most part few and far between.
Once you get on campus, you have several options to park. The Central Grounds Garage is right next to Memorial Gym, but you will have to pay to park there. This will cost you between $1.50 and $3 per hour, depending on the time of day, except on Sundays when it is free. You can also park in the Culbreth Garage about a five-minute walk away. This is free all day on weekends and after five on weekdays, which should cover all home volleyball games except an early season tournament or two if you want to catch the first game of the doubleheader as well.
The restrooms in Memorial Gym are on the lower level, downstairs from the volleyball arena, and are awkwardly located inside the locker rooms (the main ones for students working out - the players have their own.) There is a single-person gender-neutral restroom downstairs if you do not want to deal with that.
Return on Investment 5
Admission to all Virginia volleyball games is free, with the possible exception of ACC and NCAA Tournament events. Concessions are affordable, and there are options for free parking for most games if you are willing to walk a few minutes. Given the electrifying atmosphere in Mem Gym, that makes this an outstanding value.
Look for the trophy case in the lobby with Virginia's volleyball accomplishments—a second star for the marketing table by the entrance with free posters and roster cards.
Although many people don't pay much attention to college volleyball, Memorial Gymnasium proves the naysayers wrong. With raucous, passionate crowds in a historic venue, a trip to a University of Virginia volleyball game can be an exciting experience for any sports fan.