A Look Back: Lansing gymnasium history
A week or so ago Rusty Wynkoop, a graduate of Lansing High School in 1966, asked me exactly where the gymnasium floor was in 1949 and 50, the years our team went to state. He remembers going down a steel trap door underneath the classrooms because they had stored their football equipment in that area below the classrooms. In later years the first Lansing Library was located in those same rooms on the main floor. I reassured him that underneath those rooms was part of the original basketball gymnasium. The hardwood floor was removed but the east concrete bleachers and concrete steps are still there.
Both the grade school and the high school were built in 1923. Both schools had very small gymnasiums. The grade school’s gym was the smallest and the players had to put their backs against the walls on three sides in order to be out of bounds. The high school gym was that way too on the west side. The ceilings in both gyms were so low that the players had to learn to shoot without a high arch otherwise the ball would hit the ceiling. When my brother Bill played for Ottawa University after graduating from Lansing, his coach asked him “where in the world did you learn how to shoot like that?” That did not have an effect on his shooting ability because if you check the records, after 61 years, he still holds the number four scoring record at Lansing High School.
I asked Bill what the difference was when he played at State in 1949 and 50 in a much larger court. He said it was not the size of the court, it was the space above and around the court that gave him problems. It was easier to get out of bounds because there was no wall to stop them. One time at another larger gymnasium with no walls, he was dribbling three feet out of bounds and couldn’t figure out why the whistle blew.
When the gym that is now at the Activity Center was built in 1950 it was a separate building. The two buildings were joined at a later time and is how you see it now. I realize it has to be hard to visualize what it was like to have the basketball court with the stage on the south end all below ground under the original building. The rooms on both sides of the stage served as the locker rooms for the home and visiting teams and also served as dressing rooms for the school plays.