War Memorial Gym – San Francisco Dons
Photos by Andrei Ojeda, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.14
War Memorial Gymnasium 2335 Golden Gate Avenue San Francisco, CA 94118
Year Opened: 1958 Capacity: 5,300
When people talk about hoops in the Bay Area, much of the focus is on the Golden State Warriors, who will soon call San Francisco home.
The University of San Francisco has a reputable basketball history, with the likes of Bill Russell, K.C. Jones and Bill Cartwright putting on the Green and Gold of the Dons before reaching NBA stardom. The Dons have appeared in NCAA Tournament play 16 times, winning the National Title in successive seasons in 1955 and 1956.
Built in 1958, War Memorial Gym, known locally as The Hilltop, is a tribute to the USF alumni who died during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. In addition to hosting both men and women’s athletic events, The Hilltop briefly hosted the San Francisco Warriors during the 1966-67 season.
Food & Beverage 2
Nothing beyond your basics, Don’s Dog, Bratwurst, Corn Dog, Round Table Pizza, Nachos for $6, sweet treats such as caramel corn, candy and It’s It Ice Cream for $4, Coke products or Dasani Water for $3.
Unusual for a college venue is the availability of alcoholic beverages. Lagunitas and Trumer $8, Bud Light or Red/White Wine for $6.
The main food stand is located in the south end of the gym however mobile carts are located in the upper level ends as well.
When packed to the rafters, The Hilltop can be a loud and raucous place. For such a small venue, the USF does a nice job of displaying both men’s and women’s conference and national titles as well as the numbers of former USF hoopsters from Bill Russell, K.C. Jones and Bill Cartwright.
Inside the foyer on the north end is a mini hall of fame that displays trophies and other memorabilia from USF’s athletic history.
The location of the campus is a short walk from some of San Francisco’s famed attractions such as The Haight, where the intersection of Haight and Ashbury was made famous during some Summer of Love. Also nearby is Alamo Square, where the world-famous Painted Ladies are located. If the Painted Ladies look familiar to you, chances are you’ve seen them in a production or two or maybe during an intro to some late eighties sitcom.
Golden Gate Park is also a short walk from campus with trails, picnic groves, playgrounds and numerous other cultural attractions including the De Young Museum and the California Academy of Sciences.
The Golden Gate Bridge is a short drive away from the USF campus. A nice way to explore your way to the Golden Gate Bridge if you have the time is to walk the three-mile span of the bridge.
With Gonzaga as the evening’s opponent, as expected, the gym was filled up to the rafters. Though the visitors brought along a heavy contingent of fans, the support from the USF fans would not be outdone. Because of the level of interest, aisles along certain areas of the upper level as well as the corners of the north end were used to accommodate the overflow crowd.
From out of town the USF campus is not too convenient to get to because of the lack of freeways within city limits. Several SF Muni public transit lines run within the vicinity of the campus with the 5-Fulton and 31-Balboa having direct access. As with any neighborhood in San Francisco, parking can be difficult to navigate so you will want to plan ahead.
Return on Investment 3
Lower reserved tickets along the baselines for most home games go for $20 while general admission seating is available for $15. The quality of play has been exciting with the home five very much in contention for some March basketball.
Wherever you’re seated inside the gym you’re never far from the action. Don’t expect any bells and whistles when you attend a game here. Maybe the sound of a foghorn after each trey made by the home five but that’s all.
Banners honoring the team’s conference championships as well as their three NCAA champion teams are hung. In the main concourse in the gym’s north end is a mini hall of fame with trophies and other athletic memorabilia.
The level of play has the fans excited about this year’s (2018-2019) team. Attending a game at The Hilltop is a trip back in time, where there is not much inside the venue to distract you from the action on the court.
Plans are currently underway to upgrade the existing lobby as well as adding a VIP Club on the west side of the gym. If you’re looking to catch some quality hoops while in the Bay Area while not burning a deeper hole in your pocket, a game at The Hilltop should be on your agenda. With this year’s team, you just may be previewing some pre-March Madness.