Generations of UConn success stories have been launched at Gampel Pavilion over the past three decades – not only among UConn student athletes, but also tens of thousands of Huskies who’ve participated in orientation events, career fairs, and their Commencement ceremonies there.
And while legends of all kinds of have had their start crossing that storied court, the 33-year-old wood floor is reaching the end of its useful life and will be replaced after spring semester with a new maple surface.
The floor was installed shortly before Gampel opened in January 1990 and has been sanded and refinished annually to keep it in playable condition — even as UConn teams have garnered 15 national championships between the men’s and women’s basketball teams, and two Big East championships for UConn volleyball.
However, the court has reached the end of its useful life and cannot be further sanded, and needs to be replaced before the 2023-24 basketball and volleyball seasons begin next autumn.
The Board of Trustees recently approved the project, which will entail removing the wood flooring, inspecting and repairing the subfloor, installing the new maple floor, and finishing it with sanding and final painting.
Playing courts in athletics facilities like Gampel include special features such as a certain amount of “give” in the subfloor to prevent overly jarring impacts on athletes’ joints and muscles. They also must have the appropriate markings, approved school logos, and other NCAA-compliant standards.
“Gampel Pavilion is one of the great college basketball venues in the country with so many Husky greats having taken that court, creating countless signature moments during the last 33 years,” UConn Athletic Director David Benedict says.
“The time has come for that legendary hardwood to be replaced as we continue to keep our focus on maintaining our facilities at the highest level so we can provide our coaches and student-athletes the tools they need to compete for championships,” he adds.
“There is no better time to be a part of UConn Nation, as our nationally ranked men’s and women’s basketball programs are in the midst of great seasons and looking to close out this era of the historic Gampel Pavilion court with a few more championship memories.”
With its distinctive dome and its storied history in the center of the Storrs campus, Gampel Pavilion has been part of the UConn landscape since it opened on Jan. 27, 1990, when the men’s basketball team defeated St. John’s.
Several maintenance and upgrade projects have been done at Gampel over the decades to ensure it retains its unique character while also adding modern touches appropriate to the “Basketball Capital of the World.” One of the largest – replacement of the iconic triangular interior roof dome panels, many of which had become faded and peeling – was conducted in 2017.
The work to replace the playing court will begin later this spring after Commencement. And what’s to become of those iconic wooden planks once they are removed to make way for their replacements?
That’s yet to be determined, but one thing is certain about the court: “It will not be thrown in the garbage, let’s put it that way,” UConn Board of Trustees Dan Toscano ’87 (BUS) said at a recent meeting.
Given the playing court’s symbolism and significance to UConn Nation, athletics division officials are brainstorming with others on ways to make pieces available to people, likely as part of a fundraising initiative. Details are still being worked out and will be announced when available.