Jacks Say Farewell To East Gym

Mar 04, 2008

ARCATA — More than a place to practice and play, Humboldt State's East Gym has been a true home for hundreds of Lumberjack basketball players who spent much of their college life dribbling down the venerable facility's hard court.

Tuesday, March 4th's, first round game of the California Collegiate Athletic Association Men's Basketball Championships will likely be the final intercollegiate contest competed on the East Gym court. Following 51 years of occupancy, the HSU intercollegiate athletics program, along with the kinesiology program, are scheduled to move into their brand new facility across Union Street in the late spring.

Humboldt State head men's basketball coach Tom Wood has perhaps spent more time in the East Gym than any other individual. His first experience with the structure came as an opposing player on the UC Davis varsity during the late 60s, and he's been a fixture pacing the sidelines for the past 26 seasons in charge of the Jacks' program.

"I can remember the bad lighting, the dark floor, the old bleachers and the wood side backboards," Wood said. "There's been quite a change over the years. But the Marching Lumberjacks (band) has been one constant that has been there almost every game."

Legions of fans have also spent their share of hours supporting the Lumberjacks, filling the stands on a regular basis. That's one element Wood hopes to transfer from the old facility when the Jacks christen their new home next November.

"The packed houses I'll always remember," Wood said. "The community support and how we continuously filled (the East Gym) up. The fans created the atmosphere, and hopefully we can take that across the street."

After playing most of its games in a small facility constructed in 1931, the Humboldt State University basketball program officially took up residence in the East Gym in the fall of 1957. The gymnasium and accompanying lockerroom, classroom and office facilities were part of a three-stage building plan for physical education and athletics that also included construction of a pool and fieldhouse. The gym was the first stage to be completed.

Official dedication of the East Gym, along with four other recently completed buildings on campus, was held on Oct. 18, 1957, though classes had been held in the facility for two weeks prior. The gym itself was originally called the “HSC Gymnasium”, with the designation “East Gym” originating when construction on the Forbes Complex addition, including the “West Gym” was completed in the mid 70s.

The first basketball game played in the East Gym was an exhibition matchup between the Lumberjacks and the traveling Harlem Clowns on Dec. 10, 1957. Humboldt State dropped that contests, 72-64, despite 22 points from Jerry Hathaway. In their first official intercollegiate contest in their new home, the Lumberjacks defeated Central Washington, 51-49, on Thursday, Dec. 19, 1957.

Joining the men's program as an official intercollegiate program in 1973 was the women's basketball team. A year later, the Lumberjack volleyball squad played its inaugural match in the East Gym.

The first official contest for the new facility has yet to be scheduled. But while the East Gym's history of intercollegiate excitement comes to an end Tuesday, a new era of Lumberjack action will certainly begin across the street in September.

For more athletics at HSU, visit the Jacks' homepage.