By John Ring
Published March 10, 2022 in The Burg
I had a debate with a friend the other night about high school basketball gyms and which were some of the best in the State of Illinois and some that, well, were not so good.
For venues such as this, it’s not just about the amenities or the freshness of the paint or the quality of the hardwood floor. It’s about history, quirks and memories. You may remember a special game there, a special player, a freakishly great play or a power house team that played there.
And, of course, the Gym itself has novelties both by design and intangibles such as public
address announcers or traditions done at that specific school. That’s what makes things special.
During the heyday of John Thiel himself, the Silver Streak pregame performance was one of a kind. Other teams would routinely stop and watch the Streaks perform in front of a sellout crowd and the GHS Band playing Sweet Georgia Brown.
And while Thiel Gym has physically changed with new seats (several times) a new light system that allows the instant turning on and off of the lights and now there’s banners, photos and, of course, advertising, the physical layout is roughly the same.
The Band is now in the upper balcony and farther east than they were in the old day. The cast of characters in the Gym are sometimes stable but more often than not changing. Bill Allison has been doing the PA chores for girls basketball since at least 1995 and probably earlier. The GHS student season migrated with the Band to the east but the kids now are more vocal and active than in years past (which is good.)
The uniforms for the Streaks have changed over the years to varying degrees. The classic
lightning bolt ones of the ‘60s were the best but there were some hideous ones worn during the late 70s. It would be awesome for a “throwback” jersey night during a home game against Quincy or Rock Island. Too bad this couldn't be marketed to help pay for that and to sell T-Shirts with the design on it as well.
One huge upgrade were the videos created and the big screen TV used for both the Streaks girls and boys teams this season. They were an incredible blend of history and tradition with the insertion of the current team members. Kudos to whoever created and executed those videos.
But back to the original topic: favorite Gyms in Illinois.
Here are five:
Wharton Field House (Moline)
John Thiel Gym (Galesburg)