The Stokely Athletic Center is a historic on-campus facility at the University of Tennessee.
Prior to the opening of Thompson-Boling Arena in 1987, it was home to the men’s and women’s basketball teams and the Lady Vol volleyball team. It replaced Alumni Gymnasium, a 3,200-seat arena-auditorium built in 1931 which had hosted the SEC basketball tournament four times (1936, ’37, ’39 and ’40).
Originally named the Armory-Fieldhouse, Stokely was built in 1958 to accommodate larger on-campus crowds. It originally housed 7,800 people in the elongated building, with permanent seating in the west end and temporary seating lining the rest of the arena, which was also used for the ROTC, indoor track, and other events.
However, by the mid-1960s the fieldhouse was already becoming obsolete for its size. A $500,000 gift from industrialist William B. Stokely was the impetus for an expansion to the final size of 12,700 in 1966, when the building was renamed for Mr. Stokely and his family.
Stokely was the home of many great UT teams, including several SEC titles. It also served as the home of the women’s basketball team from midway through the 1976-77 season until the end of the 1986-87 season, which was also the year of their first NCAA women’s basketball championship. The NCAA Mideast regionals were also hosted in the arena.
Probably one of more memorable basketball games played at Stokely didn’t even involve a Tennessee team. The NCAA Mideast Regional Final (AKA “The Dream Game”) was played there on March 26, 1983, with Louisville beating Kentucky 80-68 in overtime. It was the first game between the two since the 1959 NCAA tournament.
Stokely was also one of Knoxville’s premier concert venues during its heyday. The “King” Elvis Presley appeared at Stokely on April 8, 1972, March 15, 1974 and May 20, 1977.
Send in your fondest memory of Stokely for a chance to win a Stokely Single Arena Chair.