Memorial Gymnasium was built in the early 1950s. It was dedicated as the campus memorial to students and alumni killed in World War II; a
plaque commemorating these people is displayed in the lobby. At the time of its construction, there was a serious discussion within the Vanderbilt
community about whether the school should de-emphasize intercollegiate athletics. As a compromise, the gymnasium was built to hold only about
8,000 seats, and it would be readily adaptable to other uses. Consequently, the gymnasium floor was built up above its surroundings, more in the
nature of a stage. The areas out of bounds along the sidelines were very wide, in contrast with the small facility which it replaced, where the walls
were right along the sidelines and players could scrape their shoulders bringing the ball up the court. This necessitated the placement of the
benches at the end of the court, which was not highly unusual at the time. In addition, each goal is anchored by two far-reaching beams attached
to support columns, with extra support coming from cables stretching all the way to the gym's ceiling. In the case of a backboard shatter or beam
fracture, replacing these goals would be highly difficult, compared to the usual goal setup at most venues.
Memorial Gym is well-known for its unusual design. The end-of-the-floor bench location is now unique in major college basketball, and said to
give Vanderbilt a tremendous home court advantage, since no other facility in which opponents play is arranged in such a way. After then Florida
State coach Pat Kennedy complained long and loud about the arrangement after his team lost a first-round NCAA Tournament game there, and
the opening of Sommet Center (formerly the Gaylord Entertainment Center), a far larger, more modern facility, the NCAA chose to move to that
venue for NCAA Men's Tournament games. The interior walls were unpainted cinder blocks until very recently. The middle of the three decks has
a low ceiling and when the house lights are turned off during game play gives the distinct impression of watching a Cinemascope movie of
In 2006, the NCAA Women's Basketball Championship held first and second round games at Memorial Gymnasium.