Memorial Gym & Nameless Field
The athletic facilities at the University of Virginia encompass a number of buildings and fields, including Memorial Gym (also known as "Mem Gym"). Mem Gym houses intramural sports in addition to other recreational activities. This structure was designed as a memorial to the 2,700 University students and alumni lost in World War I. Between the gym and Alderman Library is an expanse of grassy turf, once an ice-skating pond, called Nameless Field.
Backstory and Context
At the time of its completion, Memorial Gym was the third-largest gymnasium in the eastern United States. The gym opened in 1924 and was used for a variety of sporting and social activities, such as boxing, concerts, dances, and registration. The basketball program was housed at Mem Gym for 42 seasons until the opening of University Hall in 1965. On June 10, 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his famous "Stab in the Back" speech at Memorial Gym in which he denounced Italy's declaration of war on France. President Roosevelt was in the process of giving a commencement address to graduating students when he was informed of the alliance between Italy and Nazi Germany.
Today, Mem Gym hosts the Cavaliers' wrestling and volleyball teams. It functions as an intramural sports facility and features amenities such as a weight room, boxing practice space, and an indoor wooden jogging track on the second floor. It also once housed a swimming pool, which closed in 2007 upon the construction of the Aquatic and Fitness Center. The pool was converted into an indoor soccer ground.
Adjacent to Memorial Gym is a grassy area known as Nameless Field. This field has its own interesting history. During the summer of 2010, U.Va began construction on two sand volleyball courts east of the Lady Astor Tennis facility (located on Nameless Field). An archaeological excavation of an exposed concrete and stone structure uncovered during the work revealed that the structure was a 19th-Century dam. The dam was built across Meadow Creek in order to form an ice pond. Its use declined following the availability of refrigeration in the early 20th Century, though it continued to be used as an ice skating pond until the early 1920s.
Alternatively known as the "skating pond," "ice pond," "university pond," or "the pond," Nameless Field was once U.Va's largest pond and an "an integral part of the 19th-century landscape of the university."1 The pond, fed by Meadow Creek, is the subject of numerous tales from campus lore. For example, in 1864, Union troops led by General George A. Custer met with University administrators after crossing the creek at the bottom of the pond. Following the construction of Memorial Gym, however, much of the excess dirt was packed into the pond. This process turned the pond into a small reflecting pool. By 1952, effluence from the gym showers and swimming pool had transformed the pond into a polluted, "shrunken mire."2 It was ultimately filled in to serve as a parking lot and athletic field.
Barefoot, Coy. "Then and Now: An illustrated journey through time." University of Virginia Magazine (Charlottesville), Spring 2010. Accessed April 4, 2017. http://uvamagazine.org/articles/then_and_now1.
"Memorial Gymnasium (Virginia)." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed April 4, 2017. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memorial_Gymnasium_(Virginia).
"U.Va. Web Map: Memorial Gymnasium." The University of Virginia. Accessed April 4, 2017. http://www.Virginia.edu/webmap/popPages/157-MemorialGym.html.
University of Virginia. "Archaeological Field Report RAS 2010 - 2: Archaeological Documentation of an Unearthed Section of the University Ice-Pond Dam." University of Virginia Non-Major Projects Archaeological Report, November 2010.
Football and Basketball Facilities at U.Va; image by Greenstrat - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4520561.