A reader from Eugene wrote to question my description of Gill Coliseum as "the state's most historic athletic building" in this past Sunday's story on the restoration of the picture windows at the venerable arena.

He contended that McArthur Court, the quaint but soon-to-be-mothballed firetrap in Eugene, is "more historic than Gill" simply because it's about 20 years older.

To that we reply, with an incredulity happily pilfered from tennis great John McEnroe: "You cannot be serious!"

Webster's defines "historic" and "historical" as "famous in history," or "serving as a source of history." And when it comes to our state, no other location - certainly not McArthur Court, or the essentially-abandoned Memorial Coliseum - can match the number of superb collegians who called Gill Coliseum their home court, or the amount of significant athletic events that transpired at the concrete pillbox on the corner of NW 26th Street and Washington Way.

The place absolutely reeks of history. Why do we say so? Let us count the ways.

• Nine Pacific-10 Conference championship men's basketball teams played there.

• Beavers who combined for 39 all-league awards played there.

• Fifteen first- or second-round NBA draft choices played there.

• Olympic gold medalists Gary Payton and Carol Menken played there.

• Two Final Four teams played there.

• Terry Baker, the only man to win a Heisman Trophy and play in a Final Four, played there.

• UCLA's record Pac-8 winning streak ended there.

• Payton scored 58 points against USC there in 1990; Pete Maravich shot 30-for-31 from the foul line at Gill in 1969; Swede Halbrook grabbed his Pac-10 record 36 rebounds there in 1955.

• San Francisco started its 1955 and 1956 NCAA championship runs there, as did UCLA in 1964 and 1967 and North Carolina State in 1983. Many other NCAA regionals were staged there throughout the 1950s and 1960s, when it was the biggest college arena on the West Coast.

• Pac-10 Players of the Year Steve Johnson, Lester Conner, A.C. Green, Jose Ortiz, Gary Payton, Tanja Kostic and Felicia Ragland played there.

• Olympians Ron Finley, Jess Lewis, Henk Shenk, Les Gutches and Oscar Wood wrestled there. Olympian Selena Scoble played volleyball there.

• NCAA champions Lewis, Gutches, Don Conway, Roger Weigel, Greg Strobel, Larry Bielenberg, Howard Harris and Dan Hicks wrestled there.

• The 1980 NCAA wrestling championships, and the 1990, 1993 and 2006 NCAA gymnastics championships, were held there.

• Joy Selig and Amy Durham won NCAA individual gymnastics championships there. Chari Knight, the greatest gymnast in our state's history, competed there.

• Hall of Famers Slats Gill, Ralph Miller and Dale Thomas coached there.

• Broadcasters Bob Blackburn, Darrell Aune and Mike Parker, three of the most recognizable voices in our state's sports radio history, work(ed) there.

That's just off the top of my head; I'm sure there are athletes, coaches and events I've overlooked who also made their mark there.

Gill Coliseum celebrated its 60th birthday last December. With the recent renovations and future TLC, it's probably good to go for another 40 years or so, if not longer.

They'll still be staging basketball games, wrestling and volleyball matches, and gymnastics meets there long after McArthur Court is razed for a parking lot, long after the Memorial Coliseum is retrofitted into an entertainment zone, velodrome, Nike museum or a community recreation center.

Years from now they'll be making more sports history in the campus icon that's already our state's most historic athletic venue.

Brooks Hatch can be reached at brooks.hatch@lee.net. Read his blog at

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