stadium_name = The Palestra| nickname = "The Cathedral of College Basketball"

location = 215 S 33rd St
Philadelphia, PA 19104
broke_ground = 1926
opened = January 1, 1927
closed =
demolished =
owner = University of Pennsylvania
operator = University of Pennsylvania
surface =
architect = Charles Klauder
former_names =
tenants = Penn Quakers (basketball, volleyball & wrestling) (NCAA Division 1) (1927-present)
Philadelphia Big 5 Basketball (La Salle, Penn, Saint Joseph's, Temple, Villanova) (NCAA Division 1) (1955-present)
Saint Joseph's Hawks (basketball) (NCAA Division 1) (2008-2009) [ [ St. Joseph's to call Palestra home in '08-09 | Philadelphia Daily News | 01/09/2008 ] ]
seating_capacity = 8,722

:"For the Greek and Roman sports arenas, see Palaestra"

The Palestra, also known as the Cathedral of College Basketball, is a historic arena and the home gym of the University of Pennsylvania Quakers men's and women's basketball teams, volleyball teams, wrestling team, and Philadelphia Big 5 basketball. Located at 215 South 33rd St. in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, near Franklin Field in the University City section of Philadelphia, it opened on January 1, 1927.

The arena originally sat about 10,000, but now seats 8,722 for basketball. The Palestra is famed for its close-to-the-court seating with the bleachers ending at the floor with no barrier to separate the fans from the game. The gym is the oldest major college arena still in use.Fact|date=September 2008

At the time of its construction, the Palestra was one of the largest arenas in the world. `It was one of the first modern steel-and-concrete arenas in the United States and also one of the first to be constructed without interior pillars blocking the view.


The building was completed in 1927 and named by Greek professor Dr. William N. Bates after the ancient Greek term "palæstra", a rectangular enclosure attached to a gymnasium where athletes would compete in various sports in front of an audience. Penn's Palestra was built adjacent to and today is connected to Hutchinson Gymnasium.

The Palestra hosted its first basketball game on January 1, 1927. Pennsylvania defeated Yale 26-15 before a capacity crowd of 10,000, then the largest crowd ever to attend a basketball game on the East Coast.

For many years, the building shared the same management as Madison Square Garden in New York City. Teams wishing to play at the Manhattan venue were often required also to schedule a game at the Palestra, which thereby hosted several very high-level sporting events that it might not otherwise have. Many professional games were played at the Palestra before the completion of the Spectrum in 1967.

College Basketball at the Palestra

The Palestra has hosted more regular season or post-season NCAA men's basketball games, more visiting teams, and more NCAA tournaments than any other U.S. arena [ Virtual tour of Penn's campus] . It is often called "the birthplace of college basketball". It has hosted the East regionals six times (most recently in 1980), and the sub-regionals ten times (most recently in 1984). In total, 52 NCAA Tournament games have been played at the gym since it first came to Penn's campus in 1939.

The Philadelphia Big 5 (Penn, Saint Joseph's, Temple, La Salle, Villanova) originally played all of its games at the Palestra. Today, the intra-city conference still plays about half of its round-robin games there. St. Joseph's hosts its Big 5 games at the gym (which is larger than its own arena, Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse). Recently, St. Joseph's has hosted games against large-drawing opponents at the Palestra. During the 2007-08 season, St. Joseph's played some of their games at the Palestra. Also, due to construction in their home arena, Saint Joseph's will play all of their home games at the Palestra in the 2008-09 basketball season [ [ St. Joseph's to call Palestra home in '08-09 | Philadelphia Daily News | 01/09/2008 ] ] .

In addition, parts or all of the 1989-95 Atlantic Ten Conference men's basketball tournaments were contested there. The gym has also served as the site of many Philadelphia and PIAA championship games.

Palestra 2000

In 2000, a $2-million renovation to the gym added a museum celebrating the history of Philadelphia basketball in the building's main concourse. Near the main entrance to the gym is a section recognizing the St. Joseph's legendary Hawk mascot who made its first appearance at the Palestra on Jan. 4, 1956. At the other end of the concourse, by the ramp to sections 211 and 210, a scoreboard lists the all-time record of the Penn-Princeton rivalry.

Each decade from the 1950s on has its own exhibit in the concourse. The 1970s section, "A Decade of Prominence," celebrates the Final Four runs by Villanova (1971) and Penn (1979).

Documenting the Cathedral of College Hoops

In summer 2007, ESPN Classic broadcast a one-hour documentary on the historic arena, entitled "The Palestra: Cathedral of Basketball." This feature-length documentary traces the evolution of college basketball through the rise of this most storied arena, exploring how it became the stomping ground for the game that captured the heart of America, and how its majesty diminished as the sport it nurtured blossomed into lavish and high-priced popularity. Eight decades in the most hallowed halls of college hoops is illuminated through never-before-seen historical footage; voiceovers by NFL Films' Harry Kalas; and interviews noted figures in college basketball such as NBA great Bill Bradley; Naismith Hall of Fame Coaches Chuck Daly, Jack Ramsay and John Chaney; best-selling sports author John Feinstein; and CBS/ESPN analyst Bill Raftery.

The film was written, produced and directed by former Penn Women's Basketball player Mikaelyn Austin (founder of Philly Philms). Local PBS telecaster WHYY has used the film during pledge drives.


External links

* [ The Palestra: Cathedral of Basketball - documentary on historic gymnasium, premiered on ESPN]
* [ The Palestra - Penn Athletics]
* [ Five we like, Five we want to see]
* [ 'Nova should play at the Palestra]
* [ Palestra named one of the Top Ten College Sports Venues by Sports Illustrated]

succession box
title = Home of the
La Salle Explorers
years = 1955 – 1989
before = Wister Hall
after = Philadelphia Civic Center

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  • Palestra — Pa*les tra, n.; pl. L. {Palestr[ae]}, E. {Palestras}. [NL., fr. L. palaestra, Gr. ?, fr. ? to wrestle.] [Written also {pal[ae]stra}.] (Antiq.) (a) A wrestling school; hence, a gymnasium, or place for athletic exercise in general. (b) A wrestling; …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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