Tennessee's Stokely Athletics Center closing down

This undated photo provided by the University of Tennessee shows the Stokely Athletics Center in Knoxville, Tenn., before a basketball game. The building that served as Tennessee's home basketball court during the 1960s and 1970s is about to close its doors. A full use for all the land currently occupied by Stokely hasn't been decided. (AP Photo/University of Tennessee)

Photo by AP Photo/University of Tennessee

This undated photo provided by the University of Tennessee shows the Stokely Athletics Center in Knoxville, Tenn., before a basketball game. The building that served as Tennessee's home basketball court during the 1960s and 1970s is about to close its doors. A full use for all the land currently occupied by Stokely hasn't been decided. (AP Photo/University of Tennessee)

This July 11, 2012 photo shows the front of the Stokely Athletics Center in Knoxville, Tenn. The building that served as Tennessee's home basketball court during the 1960s and 1970s is about to close its doors. A full use for all the land currently occupied by Stokely hasn't been decided. (AP Photo/Knoxville News Sentinel, Saul Young)

Photo by Saul Young

This July 11, 2012 photo shows the front of the Stokely Athletics Center in Knoxville, Tenn. The building that served as Tennessee's home basketball court during the 1960s and 1970s is about to close its doors. A full use for all the land currently occupied by Stokely hasn't been decided. (AP Photo/Knoxville News Sentinel, Saul Young)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The building that served as Tennessee's basketball court during the program's glory years in the 1960s and 1970s is about to close its doors.

Bernard King and Ernie Grunfeld, two of the greatest players in school history, performed at the Stokely Athletics Center.

So did Elvis Presley, Elton John, Janis Joplin and plenty of other famous recording acts. The Tennessee women's basketball team won its first national title in 1987, its final season using Stokely as its home court.

This old venue now is being prepared for demolition.

The bookstore located in Stokely is closing Saturday. All the university departments that have offices in Stokely are moving out by the end of the month, and the building will be demolished at a date to be determined.

A full use for all the land occupied by Stokely hasn't been decided, though Tennessee athletic department spokesman Jimmy Stanton said an extension of the football practice fields "will be a component of that."

"It's just a museum if you leave it up now," said Bill Justus, a two-time all-Southeastern Conference guard who played at Tennessee from 1967-69. "The memories will never be lost."

Those memories include plenty of victories.

The facility opened as the UT Armory-Fieldhouse in 1958, but its name changed after William B. Stokely Jr. helped fund a $2.6 million renovation in 1966.

The Tennessee men's basketball team played at Stokely from 1959-87 and went 321-69 in home games during that stretch for an .823 winning percentage. The Tennessee women's basketball team went 137-18 at Stokely from 1976-87 for an .884 winning percentage.

Tennessee had outstanding basketball teams during that era. The men's team finished lower than third place in the SEC just one year from 1963-64 to 1976-77.

Pat Summitt took over the Lady Vols in 1974-75 and wasted no time making Tennessee one of the nation's premier programs.

But the Stokely atmosphere also played a part in Tennessee's home-court advantage. That was particularly true of the men's teams under Ray Mears, who coached Tennessee from 1962-77 and posted a 278-112 record.

Mears fired up the fan base with unique pregame ball-handling drills that featured as much showmanship as you'd see at a Harlem Globetrotters exhibition.

"At most places, people would get there maybe five or 10 minutes before the game," said Grunfeld, a four-time all-SEC selection from 1974-77 who is now president of the Washington Wizards. "At Stokely, a half-hour before the game ever started, all the people were in the seats."

The proximity of the stands to the Stokely court made the arena particularly friendly to the home team.

"If you went out of bounds, you could almost touch the people," said Larry Robinson, who played at Tennessee from 1971-73. "You got to know them over a period of time, through the games. They got to know you. You could sit there actually before a game and communicate with them."

Tennessee women's basketball coach Holly Warlick experienced Stokely as both a player and a spectator.

Warlick, the first Tennessee athlete in any sport to have her number retired, was a three-time All-America guard for the Lady Vols from 1976-80. She also remembers attending Elvis Presley, Elton John and Whitney Houston concerts at Stokely.

"They used to seriously have the best-smelling popcorn," Warlick said. "You walked in the door, and all you could smell was great popcorn."

Although both basketball programs left for the Thompson-Boling Arena after the 1986-87 season, Stokely served as the home court for the women's volleyball team from 1998-2007.

More recently, Stokely has been a training facility for the track and field teams while also housing offices for the athletic department and ROTC program. Those offices will be moved to other campus locations by the end of December.

"It served its purpose in its time," Justus said. "It was a great place to play and a great place to practice. ... It's got its place in history."

___

AP Sports Writer Joseph White of Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

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Comments » 49

underthehill writes:

Hard to believe UT wouldn't have a use for dear ole Stokely..

TNORANGEDOGDAD writes:

What a piece of Vol basketball history. witnessed some of the greatest games in Tennessee basketball history, along with some of the greateat players and rivalry coaches. How bout those warmups a show within it's self. Who can forget the matches between Mears - Rupp, Skinner,Newton Maravich, and Durham. All of past Tennessee greats to have played there. Also, all of the Lady Vol teams to have played there as Pat built the Lady Vol brand. All of the fantastic concerts and even a boxing match I attended there in my younger days. Lots of memories, she will be missed.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

One of the greatest names on the hill and I remember seeing Ernie & Bernie kick tucky's arse in that building..I will definitely miss that grand ol' arena..Fond memories indeed.

kdaff51 writes:

Auction off seats, hardwood, et?

rabidvol1998 writes:

Sitting at court side you could "hear the players sweat". It was a great atmosphere. Times, they be a changin.

nocleats writes:

Use the building site and build the Taj Mahal of dorms that both students and players can live in... Make it so nice that it also becomes a huge recruiting advantage. Everything Tennessee does should have recruiting in mind. If they build a new parking lot, build one that recruits love!...etc...

GOJO writes:

******************

Your quote "Use the building site and build the Taj Mahal of dorms that both students and players can live in... " reminds me of the old stadium dorms under the bleacher seats. Although it was not a Taj Mahal when I lived there, both students & players did live there.

VOLinMAHWAH writes:

I attended many games there as a fan and later as a student. I also graduated in 1984 in that building!

John_10065 writes:

Dibs on the black curtains!

VolnTex writes:

I remember sitting in that building yelling "Sit down, Dale Brown" at an LSU game. That guy was one feisty coach.

sjagold#565602 writes:

Saw a lot of great Ernie and Bernie games there. Remember when ole Bernie got tagged leaving the building with a tv one night?

ncvol17 writes:

Saw many great games. Ernie & Bernie, Mike Jackson & grp fireworks. Fans pretending to read Daily Beacon when opposing team announced. Sat out front listening to Elton John & others cause had no $$$ to get in.

volfaninutah writes:

I saw a Three Dog Night concert back in their hayday. Man you look at that picture of the playing floor and you just think Justus, Hahn, England and Howard Bayne, and all the greats.

killdevil writes:

extensiopn of the football field what the world for-you guys have enough now-how much more do you need. I say make into a multi-sports plex for other sports such as volleyball and indoor track and field.

TrackVol1975 writes:

I won a number of races in that venue both in high school and at UT. It was 10 laps to a mile and a flat floor, which meant tight turns. You had to know how to properly negotiate them, but it was a blast and some of us managed to run some pretty fast times there. I always loved to race on that track, and I also saw a lot of basketball games, as well as attending those famed Elton John concerts, James Taylor, and others.

dlobh writes:

Len Kosmalski, John Snow, Mike Edwards, Lloyd Richardson (shoutout to the "Rogersville Rifle", as nicknamed by the Voice), Larry Robinson, Rodney Woods, Bernard King, Ernie Grunfeld, Mike Jackson, Dale Ellis, Pete Maravich, Robey, Phillips, Joe B. Hall, Elton John, the Eagles, 7 foot Russian woman . . . and Roger Peltz on a unicycle.

Got to enjoy some great memories in that building.

orangecountyvols writes:

Vols,

All of you reflect on great memories and bring out some equally great points.

It has definitely been a true landmark.

Now, the greatest storm will be the traffic situation in that area once it all starts to be demolished and new construction takes place. My old favorite parking places all along Volunteer Blvd, often right in the block beside Stokely..........have been non existent the last several years. Once they demolished the old music bldg across the street, that whole area was a no parking situation, even more puzzling was on football Saturdays...........with no construction going on, still.........no parking allowed.

Remember when you could double park on Volunteer Blvd, with only one lane of traffic moving toward the stadium? Were you there for the game when the helicopter crashed near Stokely? Also, parking down by the river on Neyland Drive? A house of horrors is parking for a football game anywhere near the stadium !

All memories. Also, look at the area down at the U T Center............the landmark bridge.......gone. More construction !

baldingalum writes:

in response to kdaff51:

Auction off seats, hardwood, et?

Yes! Great idea! They would definitely sell. I'd buy.

Smokey91 writes:

I loved going to games at Stokley when I was a kid. Great memories. Fav moment was Kinard hitting that long one from the corner to beat Pistol Pete and the LSU Tigers. UT always had his number like no one else did. And I really enjoyed that Hall of Fame was there and could be viewed during games. Great place to watch basketball.

LSG410EC83 writes:

in response to VOLinMAHWAH:

I attended many games there as a fan and later as a student. I also graduated in 1984 in that building!

Graduated in 83 from dear ole Stokely. Watched many a basketball games there. Campus will not look the same without her. Too bad they could not have played some of the early games each year there. Remember how loud it could get when people would start stomping their feet. Been up top many times and see the dust start falling from the rafters from the noise. Soon will be gone, but will never be forgotten by those of us lucky enough to get to enjoy the games there. Would not hurt to make some parking for the students, not the staff here. I did see someone here mention the dorm rooms in Neyland. I remember those and they even had classes in some of the rooms. My first year Biology was there. Oh the memories. IT IS GREAT TO BE A TENNESSEE VOL. GO BIG ORANGE.

BxVol writes:

As a student in the 60`s and into the 70s saw some great basketball games.I pretended to be a recruit and wore a suit to Pete Maravich`s first varsity game.Sitting courtside I got to see one of the greatest players ever held in check to about 21 points by a great Tennessee defense.Seem to recall Bill Justus in a game against Florida hitting a jumper to give the Vols the win in a game that had a final score something like 13-11 due to both teams holding the ball wih no 24 second clock.In that game Coach Mears called a time out on purpose to force a technical but gave Tennessee the opportunity to get the ball back on a jump ball, which the Vols did.The move by Mears was so brilliant that the NCAA had to change the rule the following season.Kentucky games were great against Rupp and the Wildcats.

tensie2004 writes:

I was eleven years old when I saw my first game at Stokley. Every football game that I attended for over four decades, I would always go in Stokley, use the bathroom, and look at the pictures on the walls. One of my first dates with my wife of 39 years was at Stokley. I sure do wish they could have saved this historic building. It holds alot of personal memories for me as well.

RomanRoomRegular writes:

Was there the night Johnny Majors was introduced at halftime.

pms151 writes:

I got appointed as a second luey in that place. We had the greatest Army ROTC program in the country there. I had an office there my senior year as a top officer in the cadet program. I love that place.

tensie2004 writes:

in response to sjagold#565602:

Saw a lot of great Ernie and Bernie games there. Remember when ole Bernie got tagged leaving the building with a tv one night?

I believe it was at the U C and not Stokley where he got the t.v.

BobbyJones writes:

in response to volfaninutah:

I saw a Three Dog Night concert back in their hayday. Man you look at that picture of the playing floor and you just think Justus, Hahn, England and Howard Bayne, and all the greats.

I was at that show too. Saw James Taylor there when he had his first album out. In 1972, Leon Russell blew the doors off the place; maybe the best show I ever saw. Oh, forgot that Sly Stone "no showed" there around '71 also. We were pissed.

pms151 writes:

When I was a kid at a West Knox high school one of my best friends Dad was in charge of maintenance at the facility. He got us in many times to shoot baskets on the Tartan. It was a fantastic experience. Also watching the Mears show and the unicycle antics were great. Best thing I ever saw there was Pistol Pete.

pms151 writes:

My wife reminds me that the best thing I ever saw there was her cleavage, Thanks Honey, LOL.

LSG410EC83 writes:

in response to titletownz:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I see you snuck away from mommy's skirt tail and got on the computer. OK, I gave you a little attention. Feel better now.

sjagold#565602 writes:

in response to tensie2004:

I believe it was at the U C and not Stokley where he got the t.v.

I lived at Gibbs it was stokely

GreerVol22 writes:

If you knew which door to slip in you could sneak in and watch practice for about 15-20 minutes before anyone got wise. Only worked on the mens program...too many lookouts to watch the ladies. My big brother took me to my first game there when i was around 11. 20 rows back just off center court. 10 times better atmosphere than TBA ever thought of being. Good times.

cltvol writes:

boo'ed joe b hall like crazy in that building!!!

voloffaith writes:

Saw James Taylor, James Gang, Leon Russel(Jumpin'Jack Flash)...oh yeah Graduated 1976 ....memories of Vol bball with my parents...met Tom Boerwinkle with Stu Aberdeen....the memories are full of great games vs the kittens...johnny neuman...mister floppy hair and socks...yes Pete Maravich...remember the minute he crossed mid-court fans yelling shoot Pete shoot! New both Ernie and Bernie..Ernie better..we live today and not in the past...but there are memories worth calling up....

volfan4life73 writes:

awesome, thanks guys for sharing your memories.im a younger fellow 40 years old never got to attend anything in the facility.i do remember listning to john ward do b-ball games from there with greg bell"bell tolls" and dyron nix who is still my all time favorite.wish i coulda been there, sounds like it was great venue.

volfan73120#211815 writes:

No one mentioned seeing Rupp there, but I saw him several times. I was a Orange Tie Club member and a season ticket holder. I saw the first game played there against Wyoming. My two favorites were seeing Elvis Pressley and Bob Hope perform there.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to volfan73120#211815:

No one mentioned seeing Rupp there, but I saw him several times. I was a Orange Tie Club member and a season ticket holder. I saw the first game played there against Wyoming. My two favorites were seeing Elvis Pressley and Bob Hope perform there.

Wow, that's impressive..I only saw Joe B. Hall, a slight dip from Adolph Rupp..lol.

tkm11#613304 writes:

I remember going to Stokley as a elementary student, and when the players would run through the "T" all the kids would go down and get some of the orange paper that ripped off. Then we would wait around and get some of the players to sign the paper ... awesome. I think I still have some of the paper

bobvolfan writes:

I remember the rubber floor or whatever that stuff was.

eduardo writes:

in response to bobvolfan:

I remember the rubber floor or whatever that stuff was.

Tartan Turf. Stuff was like an old school tempurpedic surface. It literlally gave when you ran and dribbled a ball on it.

eduardo writes:

I salute you Stokely Athletic Center! Saw many great games and performances in your surroundings. I was with my dad and uncle when Gary Carter threw up the prayer against American U in the Vol Classic. Speaking of which wouldnt it be great to revise THE VOL CLASSIC! What a great idea to bring the top 4 programs in the state into this tourney. Would be outstanding for the Univ as well as the city. Would be a great idea to bolster the economy in this town!

volfaninutah writes:

in response to BobbyJones:

I was at that show too. Saw James Taylor there when he had his first album out. In 1972, Leon Russell blew the doors off the place; maybe the best show I ever saw. Oh, forgot that Sly Stone "no showed" there around '71 also. We were pissed.

B jones... I did see Sly and the Family in the Civic Auditorium around that time too... It was cool, they hit the first notes on the first song and they disappeared. The crowd rushed the stage and was dancing all around the band. It was "FONKY" to say the least..

snafu14u#241639 writes:

It was a Holy House of Sweat...but what a lot of memories. I got to UT in 1975 and never missed a game.Reading all the names and the images just run through your mind and you smile at the fun and the friends and general nonsense and history that flowed through that venue. TBA is a great place but Stokley was a treasure.Bonzaivol

gwh_1947 writes:

I remember when UT remodeled the field-house and nearly doubled the capacity. Saw some great games, including Bill Hahn (who Maravick could not score against), Dave McIntosh, Tom Boerwinkle, Ron Widby, Bobby Croft, Coach Mears, Adolph Rupp, and many more memories.

BillVol writes:

I loved going to games at Stokely but I will not miss that dump. We can find better use for that property than Stokely.

VolzsFan writes:

in response to RomanRoomRegular:

Was there the night Johnny Majors was introduced at halftime.

ah yes, the guy that had a 62% winning %, had 2 - 10 win seasons in 16, let Bama kill him, what 4 losing seasons and basicly a laughingstock that UT fans have seem to forgotten. Losses to Army, Duke, Rutgers etc. Had some gut sitting on a bill board when they went 0-6. Oh yes, the memories.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_M...

voloffaith writes:

in response to VolzsFan:

ah yes, the guy that had a 62% winning %, had 2 - 10 win seasons in 16, let Bama kill him, what 4 losing seasons and basicly a laughingstock that UT fans have seem to forgotten. Losses to Army, Duke, Rutgers etc. Had some gut sitting on a bill board when they went 0-6. Oh yes, the memories.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_M...

Hey skippy, momma said,"Children should be seen ,but not heard." Modification, you as a chomper should not be heard as you have NOTHING constructive to offer to the conversation. Differing is ok if you can convey your thoughts in an a adult meaningful manner. In otherwords don't be the tick on the dog who is only a parasite. If this is too difficult for you try staying on the chomper site....if they allow you....

rbwtn writes:

I saw many games in Stokley when I was a kid. I was blown away. I remember it now and always will but look what we have now and imagine what we will have in the future.

1998 writes:

Ahhh, Stokely. What memories! Met so many wonderful people at Stokely---Phil Fulmer, David Cutcliffe, Larry Marmie, Don DeVoe, Stu Aberdeen, Al Saunders, Ron Zook, Reggie White, Bill Bates. Bud Ford, Tim Kerin, Zibbe Kerin, Johnny Jones, Pat Head Summit, Peyton, Charles Davis, Haywood Harris, Randy Sanders, Mel Foels, Willie Gault, Craig Colquit and so many more. Great people; great ol' building.

volfaninutah writes:

in response to 1998:

Ahhh, Stokely. What memories! Met so many wonderful people at Stokely---Phil Fulmer, David Cutcliffe, Larry Marmie, Don DeVoe, Stu Aberdeen, Al Saunders, Ron Zook, Reggie White, Bill Bates. Bud Ford, Tim Kerin, Zibbe Kerin, Johnny Jones, Pat Head Summit, Peyton, Charles Davis, Haywood Harris, Randy Sanders, Mel Foels, Willie Gault, Craig Colquit and so many more. Great people; great ol' building.

and John Ward... the best there ever was.

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