From its dedication as the Field House in 1928 to its remodeling and re-naming as Williams Arena in 1950 to today, “The Barn” has held a special place on campus. The beloved raised floor has been home to Gopher basketball greats such as Mychal Thompson, Rachel Banham, Kevin McHale, Lou Hudson, Janel McCarville, Trent Tucker, Lindsay Whalen, and many more.
As a gathering place, Williams Arena has hosted special guests, campus events, and noted speakers. The Barn saved the day in May 1956 when demand for tickets to hear T.S. Eliot, Nobel prize-winning poet, critic, and playwright, surpassed the capacity of the then 7,000-seat Northrop Memorial Auditorium. Of the 16,000 reserved tickets, 13,700 people attended the event in Williams Arena in what was called by the University’s director of concerts and lectures the “largest audience in the United States, we think, to ever hear a literary speaker.”
Happy 90 years, Williams Arena!
—Erin George is the University Archives Research Services Archivist. To learn more about the University of Minnesota Archives, please visit www.lib.umn.edu/uarchives.