The 53-year-old landmark of North Grounds, U-Hall, will fall under the wrecking ball in 2019 and be replaced (at least initially) by grass fields.
Best known as home to Cavalier men’s and women’s basketball until 2006 (as well as some outstanding concerts), the 8,392-seat building is simply too costly to either maintain or renovate, the University says—citing roof issues, asbestos and other needed fixes. Costs are estimated to reach $12 million to $14 million for demolition, asbestos abatement and relocation of facilities.
Before U-Hall, the men’s basketball team played home games in Fayerweather Gymnasium (1906-24) and then Memorial Gymnasium. U-Hall was built in 1965 at a cost of $4 million. Its domed roof eliminated the need for column supports that would block views, according to Jerry Ratcliffe, executive sports editor for The Daily Progress.
In spring 2006, the men’s and women’s teams played their final regular-season home games there—each dubbed “the last ball in U-Hall”—before heading over to John Paul Jones Arena.
Before the walls come down, here’s a look back at a few highlights:
From the beginning: U-Hall’s first event is not a sporting event but a concert. On Nov. 13, 1965, UVA hosts the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. Three weeks later, on Dec. 4, Virginia plays its first U-Hall match-up under head coach Bill Gibson—losing to Adolph Rupp’s Kentucky Wildcats, a.k.a. “Rupp’s Runts,” a team that features future NBA coaching great Pat Riley.
Musical interludes: Dionne Warwick, known for such hits as “Walk On By” and “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” performs at U-Hall in 1966.
National audience: In the first television broadcast of a game from U-Hall, on Feb. 15, 1969, the Cavaliers beat Maryland 84-78.
AP Top 20: On Jan. 11, 1971, UVA’s men’s basketball team enters the Associated Press’ Top 20 rankings for the first time, with a 50-49 victory over second-ranked South Carolina featuring a baseline jump shot in the final seconds by sophomore guard Barry Parkhill. The win is one of four over eight days.
Single-game record: The ’Hoos finish the 1971-72 season at 21-7, their first 20-win season in 44 years. “Those games were standing-room only,” says veteran sports reporter Doug Doughty (Col ’74). Parkhill’s 51 points in a victory over Baldwin-Wallace College at U-Hall sets a UVA single-game record that stands today.
Women in the house: Basketball is one of the three first women’s club sports to be accorded varsity status. Their first game, on Nov. 30, 1973, is a win against Mary Washington College: 37-32. Their first home game at U-Hall is also a win: 46-40 against Old Dominion University on Dec. 12.
Ralph Sampson’s recruitment: As the legend goes, when head coach Terry Holland is recruiting Sampson in 1979, he takes him on a helicopter tour of Grounds; while flying over U-Hall, Sampson sees a message painted in large letters on the domed roof: “Ralph’s House.” (Rumor has it that player Tommy Hicks is the artist.)
Home-game win record: With a win over 10th-ranked Duke on Feb. 6, 1980, UVA men’s basketball starts a program-record 34-game home winning streak.
Ralph Sampson’s tenure: In Sampson’s four years at UVA, he leads the team to a remarkable 50-2 record in U-Hall. One of his more memorable performances comes in January 1981, when the Cavaliers face Ohio State University. Four minutes into the game, Sampson is injured, and “no one knew if he’d come back into the game,” the sports writer Doughty remembers. But Sampson returns, scoring 40 points and grabbing 16 rebounds, to lead the team to an 89-73 win before a national TV audience.
Tickets, tickets: Sampson’s tenure is also defined by the fact that it was “always impossible” to get seats, said Jeff Lamp, an All-American guard on the 1980-81 team and six-year NBA player, in a 2006 article in The Hook. “People were waiting outside for tickets. It got really rabid.”
Shakin’ the Hall: The Grateful Dead performs at UVA in September 1982. According to Corks & Curls, “Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, and the rest played before a 60 percent Wahoo, 40 percent Dead-Head-groupie audience. U-Hall shook for four hours.”
Saying goodbye to No. 50: On March 6, 1983, a standing-room-only crowd bids farewell to three seniors, including Sampson, a three-time National Player of the Year. During the nationally televised game, he knocks down the game-winning shot over Maryland. Afterward, his jersey is hung in the rafters and his number is retired
Music to our ears: In a string of powerful concerts from 1983 to 1985, Wahoos rock U-Hall to groups such as Kool & the Gang, R.E.M., the Beach Boys, The Ramones, Elvis Costello, and Bruce Hornsby and the Range.
Attendance record: Eight or nine hours before tip-off on Feb. 5, 1986, a long line of fans starts growing outside U-Hall, stretching to Emmet Street by noon. The women’s basketball team, at 20-0, is about to go up against the North Carolina Tar Heels. At tip-off, attendance is announced at 11,174—more than 2,000 above capacity and setting a record for the largest Virginia basketball crowd ever to fill U-Hall.
Presidential address: In 1989, President George H.W. Bush hosts an education summit in U-Hall with the governors of all 50 states—including Bill Clinton of Arkansas.
Coming home: The Allman Brothers—known for hits such as “Ramblin’ Man”—perform at U-Hall for the Nov. 3, 1990, Homecomings Weekend.
Final Four: From 1990 through 1992, Debbie Ryan’s teams make three consecutive appearances in the NCAA’s Final Four and compile an overall record of 92-11. In 1991, UVA goes all the way to the national championship game, losing to Tennessee in overtime, 70-67.
Perfect seasons: In 1995, the Virginia women record their fifth perfect season at home: 1986-87 (14-0), 1987-88 (14-0), 1992-93 (15-0), 1993-94 (16-0) and 1994-95 (14-0).
Triple OT: March 15, 2000, marks the longest game in U-Hall history as the Virginia men lose to Georgetown in triple overtime: 115-111, with four UVA starters each reaching 20 points.
600 wins: Debbie Ryan achieves her 600th victory in a Dec. 29, 2004, game against James Madison University—the 11th women’s coach in the nation to reach that pinnacle and just the fifth in NCAA Division I to achieve all the victories at the same school.
Final victories: The UVA men’s final win at U-Hall occurs on Feb. 21, 2006—a 72-58 victory over 11th-ranked Boston College. The women’s final win is a post-season defeat of Miami one month later: 83-72.
Winning memories: From 1965 to 2006, Virginia women finish with a 373-81 home record (.822 winning percentage). Virginia men compile an overall record of 402-143 (.738 winning percentage) in U-Hall.
Just Some of the Greats Who Graced U-Hall
All-Americans and retired jerseys/numbers
- Val Ackerman (Col ’81)—two-time Academic All-American, Academic All-America Hall of Fame
- Jenny Boucek (Educ ’97)—two-time Academic All-American
- Heather Burge (Col ’93)—two-time Academic All-American
- Dena Evans (Col ’93)—Academic All-American
- Cathy Grimes (Col ’85, Law ’88)—two-time Academic All-American, retired number (25)
- Donna Holt (Educ ’88)—two-time Kodak First-Team All-American, retired number (11)
- Jeff Lamp (Col ’81)—two-time All-American, retired number (3)
- Wendy Palmer (Col ’96)—two-time AP and Kodak First-Team All-American, retired number (31)
- Barry Parkhill (Educ ’73)—two-time All-American, 1972 ACC Athlete of the Year, retired number (40)
- Tammi Reiss (Educ ’92)—All-Time Academic All-American, Kodak First-Team All-American
- Ralph Sampson (Col ’83)—four-time All-American, three-time National and ACC Player of the Year, retired number (50)
- Sean Singletary (Col ’08)—three-time first-team All-ACC honors, Third-Team All-American, retired number and jersey (44)
- Dawn Staley (Col ’92)—three-time Kodak First-Team All-American, several national Player of the Year honors including Sports Illustrated Player of the Year, retired number (24)
- Curtis Staples (Col ’98)—one of the top 3-point shooters in NCAA basketball history, retired jersey (5)
- Bryant Stith (Col ’92)—Most Valuable Player of the 1992 NIT, ACC Rookie of the Year, retired number (20)
- Wally Walker (Col ’76)—ACC Tournament’s Most Valuable Player, retired number (41)
Sources: Virginia.edu, virginiasports.com, Corks & Curls, the Daily Progress, The Hook and interviews.