Williams Arena History
Construction on what is now known as Williams Arena was started in 1927 and completed in 1928, when it was dedicated as the University of Minnesota Field House. It cost $650,000 and initially had a seating capacity of 14,100 with bleacher and standing room expansion to 16,000. The original building housed basketball and winter football practice facilities. When the basketball season was completed, the portable floor was taken out and replaced by a pair of tennis courts and an indoor track.
The building was remodeled in 1950. Renamed in honor of Dr. Henry L. Williams, U of M football coach from 1900 to 1921, it was divided into a hockey arena on one end and a basketball arena with a seating capacity of 18,025 on the other. From 1950 until 1971, it had the largest capacity of any collegiate basketball arena in the country. The capacity has been reduced to 14,625 in recent years due to renovation, fire-code restrictions and handicapped-seating construction. Following the 1991-92 season, the renovation of Williams Arena began as part of a $41 million project for on-campus sports facilities. The first phase was completed in time for the 1992-93 season opener. The Golden Gophers’ locker room, training room, weight facilities, spacious offices and team meeting rooms were updated. The locker room was named in honor of former Golden Gopher coach Ozzie Cowles through the more than $100,000 in gifts from many of his former players.
The east end addition is highlighted by the Williams Arena Club on the third floor. The Club overlooks the floor and can hold parties of up to 200 fans, adding another touch of class to an already classy arena. The second phase of the renovation project was completed during the summer of 1993. It included the installation of theater-style seats, the widening of concourse areas and the addition of both concession areas and women’s restrooms.
A large portion of the renovation was financed by private gifts, including those to the successful $5.5 million sports-facilities campaign, and by the generous participation of fans through the assured-seating program.
In the summer of 1997, 21 barn lofts above the second deck were built. The lofts offer a spectacular birds-eye view of the court with luxury amenities. The $2.3 million project added 304 seats to the capacity, raising it to 14,625.
Most recently, the women's basketball team has moved into Williams Arena and with that, both locker room and team areas for both the men and women have been remodeled. With the move over to Williams Arena, the facility has been the site of the 2004, 2005 and upcoming 2007 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Tournament First and Second Rounds.