July 2, 2013
By John Hirn
Ram Alumni Athletes Association
It has stood along College Avenue for 87 years as a majestic building made of blond bricks and red tile roof shingles. Its history is as long and storied as any building on the campus of Colorado State University. The building known today as the Glenn Morris Field House and commonly known as the South College Gym, has been one of the single most-used buildings in the history of CSU and Fort Collins. Although it is out-dated today, the gym and field house is a shrine to over 114 years of athletic history.
Known only as the "Men's Gym" for decades, the building replaced the tiny and cramped Old Main Gym that was located in the last addition of the school’s original classroom building. By the early 1920s, students were vocal about their feelings of how much they wanted a new gym. The State Board of Agriculture and Aggie Athletic Department tried for years to replace the Old Main Gym and finally in 1924 the wheels began to turn toward a new building.
In the fall of 1924, Harry Hughes and Dr. Charles Lory presented their plan to build a new gymnasium, field house and swimming pool complete with locker rooms and athletic offices. The State Board of Agriculture demanded that their plan would cost no more than $220,000 and that all "frills and ornate things be taken out of the plan." In January 1925 the revised blueprint was accepted for the new gym and later that spring construction began.
Despite opposition from Harry Hughes, who wanted the new gym located west of Colorado Field, the site location for the new gym was to be where Durkee Field had been located from 1899-1911. Since the opening of Colorado Field in 1912, tennis courts and practice fields were on the site. Harry Hughes wanted to reserve the space for a new football stadium to be built someday; he was over-ruled by the Board of Agriculture.
In the fall of 1925, the cornerstone was laid and one year later the new facility opened for business. Inside the building was a swimming pool, with the main gymnasium in the north wing and the field house in the south wing of the H-shaped building. The athletic offices were moved into this building and locker rooms for all athletics were moved to the new gym too. The field house had a large indoor track with dirt floor able to accommodate the football team for practice in bad weather. When it opened, the facility was the most state of the art building for multiple athletic events in the state of Colorado.
The gym and field house became more than just a venue for athletics for the Colorado Aggies. By the mid-1930s, a Collegian article labeled the facility as the "most-used building in Fort Collins." Everything from car shows to formal balls and dances were held in the building. Each academic quarter and semester, the gym became the site of registration for classes. Although done online today, until 1990 students registered, in person, for all classes in either the South College Gym or Moby Arena.
During WWII, the gym was converted to sleeping quarters for military men that trained on the campus and after the war the overflow of new students forced freshmen in the facility as a make-shift dormitory until long-term housing could be found. Every day, spring, summer, winter and fall, the gym, field house or pool saw some kind of use. It was even the unofficial home of Glenn Morris while he trained for the 1936 Olympics.
In 1949 and 1952, the gym hosted the NCAA National Wrestling Tournament. During the 1949 NCAA Wrestling Tournament, both Don “Tuffy” Mullison and Fum McGraw placed third in the nation on their home mat.
By the late 1940s it became apparent that the gym was going to be too small for the continually growing college. Fewer students were unable to watch basketball games inside the building. Although the track team still saw its usefulness, other parts of the facility began to show their age and inability to accommodate the school.
By the late 1950s and early 1960s the problem became worse as basketball coach Jim Williams' teams won more games than ever in the school's history. When Colorado A&M College transitioned to Colorado State University, money for athletic facilities became scarcer. Not even one quarter of the students enrolled in the school could attend basketball games to see All-American Bill Green show his amazing basketball talents in 1963.
Finally, when CSU was not allowed into the Western Athletic Conference in 1962, the alarm bells went off and Dr. William Morgan realized the gym and football stadium needed to be replaced. In 1966, Moby Gym (later re-named Moby Arena in 1988) opened on the west end of the campus. All athletic offices, with the exception of track, moved into the new building and the South College Gym became a practice facility. Only the track team remained where they still practice today.
On April 22, 2011, the old gym and field house was re-named the Glenn Morris Field House in honor of the great 1936 Olympic Gold Medalist in the Decathlon. Morris trained here and it is only appropriate that his name is on the historic athletic building.
Today, the varsity track team is still based in the Glenn Morris Field House which makes this spot on the CSU campus the longest continuous location where athletics have taken place. From Durkee Field in 1899 to the track team in 2013-14, this small piece of land and grand old building continues to serve Colorado State University for athletics.
The Glenn Morris Field House is a true shrine to CSU athletics.