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  • Writer's picturePaul Baker

Merkert Gymnasium - Stonehill Skyhawks

Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.86

Merkert Gymnasium

Chapel of Mary

South Easton, MA 02356

Year Opened: 1973

Capacity: 1,500

We Are Stonehill

On April 5, 2022, tiny Stonehill College, a private Catholic school located in Easton, Massachusetts with an enrollment of 2,500 undergraduate students, announced it was moving all of its athletic teams to the NCAA Division I level, effective in the fall of 2022. Prior to 2022, Stonehill was a member of the Northeast-10 Conference in NCAA Division II. Upon its elevation to Division One, Stonehill joined the Northeast Conference.

Merkert Gymnasium, located in the center of the Stonehill campus, is home to the Skyhawks men's and women's basketball teams and volleyball teams. The court is dedicated as the Paula Sullivan Court in honor of the longtime women's basketball coach, who coached the squad from 1971-1996. While in Division II, the Skyhawks appeared in 15 NCAA Tournaments, reaching the Final Four twice (2006 and 2012). The women’s team has appeared in 26 NCAA D-II Tournaments, advancing to the Elite Eight three times.

Stonehill’s athletic teams competed for years as the Chieftains. In 2002 the school decided to change its nickname. After considering several options, Stonehill officially changed its nickname to the Skyhawks in 2005. This name has no connection to a bird or animal but does have a connection to the school’s history.

After the school’s property was purchased by the Congregation of Holy Cross, an airfield on site was leased to the Navy during World War II and to private companies afterwards. The airfield was closed in 1955 as the college grew, but the Navy continued to use the land for training exercises and would employ the Skyhawk aircraft between 1954–1995.

Food & Beverage 1

There is a small snack bar in the lobby. If you need a snack during the game, they’ve got you covered here with assorted chips and candy, along with cans of Coca-Cola products and bottled water.

Atmosphere 3

The game day atmosphere here at Merkert Gymnasium is typical of what you find in other small gyms across the country. The Stonehill crew does the best with the limited tools at their disposal to put on an entertaining production.

The key to the atmosphere in any bandbox gymnasium is the participation of the student body. Stonehill students turn out in good numbers to cheer on the home team. It’s readily apparent that if Merkert Gymnasium ever filled to capacity, there would be an impressive home-court advantage here.

All the elements you would expect to find are here, including the cheerleading squad, boisterous PA announcer, and music filling the gaps in play. One concern would be the quality of the sound system, as it can be difficult to understand the announcements at times. Scoreboards mounted on the walls at either end of the gym provide basic game stats. Fans of the color purple will love Merkert Gymnasium. It’s everywhere.

Neighborhood 3

Stonehill College’s suburban location and sprawling campus belie its location in a bustling area with many dining and lodging options for visiting fans. State routes 123 and 138 intersect at the southwest corner of campus. Both routes are pretty busy local roads, lined with strip malls filled with the usual national chains alongside a few local eateries in both directions. Stadium Journey recommends checking out Stoneforge Grill or Brach’s Grill and Tap for your pre- or postgame meal.

While you may not find many attractions in the immediate vicinity of Stonehill, Boston is located just a half-hour’s drive to the north. Visiting fans will find no shortage of things to do there. Fans looking for lodging options closer to school should check out the Residence Inn by Marriott right by Route 24.

More information about local accommodations, restaurants, and attractions can be found here.

Fans 3

As of Stadium Journey’s visit about midway through the 2022-23 season, Stonehill had only hosted six games in their D-1 tenure. Attendance has fluctuated wildly, from a low of 150 to a high of almost 1,200. Stadium Journey visited Merkert Gymnasium just as the semester break was ending, so all the students hadn’t yet returned to campus. Even so, there was a nice turnout from the student body, who filled up two sections of bleachers and brought a lot of noise and energy to the building. It’s pretty easy to see how Merkert would provide a great home-court advantage when filled.

Local hoops fans are thrilled to have a Division One option in southeastern Massachusetts and are turning out in solid numbers to catch the Skyhawks. It will be interesting to see how attendance holds up once the novelty of the new program wears off.

Access 4

Stonehill College is located in suburban South Easton, MA, directly to the west of the city of Brockton and 25 miles south of Boston. The campus is easily accessible, as both Interstates 495 and 93 lead to Route 24, which runs north-south just a mile from Merkert Gymnasium.

Merkert Gymnasium is located in the middle of campus, not far from some of Stonehill’s other athletic facilities, including W.B Mason Stadium, Lou Gorman Field, and the Sally Blair Ames Athletic Complex.

Fans will find ample parking in the McPhaidin Library parking lot located about a tenth of a mile from the gym. Walkways from the parking lot to the gym are wide and well-manicured, although not as well-lit as you might expect.

Fans will enter Merkert Gymnasium into a small lobby adorned with murals from the school’s various athletic programs. The ticket table, snack bar, and rest rooms are all located here. Fans will take a flight of stairs down to the gym floor. There are molded purple bleachers on either side of the court. There is no seating on either end of this cozy gym.

Return on Investment 5

Tickets for Skyhawks basketball games are priced at $12 for adults and $7 for seniors and students. Purchasing tickets on the day of the game increases prices by three dollars. Parking is free in the lots a short walk from Merkert Gymnasium. With inexpensive snacks available at the snack bar, a Skyhawks basketball game is an affordable entertainment option for southeastern Massachusetts sports fans.

Extras 1

Banners hang on the walls of Merkert Gymnasium honoring championship programs from the men’s and women’s basketball teams and the volleyball team. Stonehill had quite a successful resume while playing in Division Two.

Final Thoughts

An interesting trend in college sports recently is small schools like Stonehill moving their way up the ladder to compete in Division One. While local sports fans may tend to overlook small gyms like Merkert Gymnasium while chasing the bigger, more famous venues, these hidden gems make for wonderful Stadium Journeys.


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

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