For more than 100 years Columbians have enjoyed playing and watching basketball. Here’s a quick look back at historical basketball venues in Columbia.
Around 1901 the first basketball teams in Columbia were organized by the Y.M.C.A. Soon after the South Carolina College (now USC) formed teams for both men and women. Those early basketball games were played in the Gymnasium, which is now Longstreet Theatre. Fans sat in wooden rows of bleachers and probably had to dodge loose balls since they were only a few feet away from the action.
In 1927 the Carolina Field House was built and hosted Gamecock and regional championship basketball games. The Field House could hold thousands of fans at once and served to increase exposure to the game of basketball. As basketball grew in popularity new venues popped up around town at local schools, colleges and churches. But for large-scale basketball games, something big was needed in town. The Field House burned down in 1968, but luckily a new facility was already on its way.
Coach McGuire and the Carolina Coliseum
In 1969 the University of South Carolina proudly cut the ribbon on the newest addition to its campus with the opening of the Carolina Coliseum. The Coliseum would provide both the University and the city of Columbia with its first large-capacity arena in which to hold events. The Coliseum’s 12,000 seat venue helped Columbia draw some large entertainment acts like the Ringling Brothers’ Circus, The Jackson Five, The Eagles, Bruce Springsteen, and Elvis. But over the years it was basketball that brought most fans to the Coliseum. The era of renowned USC basketball coach Frank McGuire began and ended in the Coliseum. Coach McGuire’s success helped to increase local interest in basketball. During his tenure many top-talent players met on the court at the Coliseum.
March Madness at Colonial Life Arena
The Coliseum arena, though designed as a truly modern facility, became outdated as teams began to draw even larger crowds and fans began to expect newer amenities. In 2002 the Colonial Life Arena opened and offers an updated facility with an enlarged 18,000 seat capacity. Today fans come to the Colonial Life Arena to cheer on the men’s and women’s Gamecock teams coached by Frank Martin and Dawn Staley.
Thanks to two competitive programs and a national title from the Lady Gamecocks, the first and second rounds of the NCAA championship will be held at the Colonial Life Arena in March 2019.
With such a rich history and a promising future, Columbia basketball fans certainly have a lot to cheer about. 📚
Local History Librarian