It Happened at Michigan — ‘The finest sports building in the country’


The captain-elect of Harvard’s football team was impressed.

“Your new intramural building is the greatest thing of its kind in the promotion of athletics for everybody that I have ever seen,” declared Arthur French on a visit to Ann Arbor in early 1928.

With a $745,000 price tag, Michigan’s intramural sports building was rising along Hoover Avenue. When it opened later that fall, it became the first such building on an American college campus and accommodated the growing popularity of intramural activity at U-M.

A photo of Intramural Sports Building
The Intramural Sports Building opened in 1928. (Bentley Historical Library)

“The finest sports building in the country is at Ann Arbor, Michigan, and houses all the intramural activities,” wrote J.E. Rogers of the American Physical Education Association. “If anyone is contemplating the building of a field house, gymnasium or sports building for college or university, they should see this one at the University of Michigan.”

The Intramural Sports Building stretched 415 feet along the street and featured a gymnasium with four basketball courts; 14 handball courts; and 13 squash courts. There also was a swimming pool lined with green tile, boxing and wrestling rings, gymnastics equipment, and 2,500 lockers.

A photo of a diver
The new building featured a 150,000-gallon pool for students. (Bentley Historical Library)

“This structure is an addition to the athletic plant that makes Michigan stand above any other college or university in the country, not only in the possession of physical equipment but in attainment of a program of athletics participation for all,” read a Michigan Daily editorial.

“Participation for all” was a bit of a misnomer. The IM Building was open to male students. At the other end of campus, women students used a new athletic building constructed as part of the Palmer Field development.

The men’s and women’s facilities came a year after the opening of the 75,000-seat Michigan Stadium and echoed athletic director Fielding H. Yost’s philosophy of “athletics for all.”

“Our programs serve the needs of students of all departments, as well as those of our faculties, all through the various seasons of the year,” Yost said.

Women were allowed to use the building at limited times, starting in 1934. The Women’s Athletic Building was demolished in 1974 to make way for a new Central Campus Recreation Building, the second iteration of which is now under construction.



  1. Daniel Graustein
    on November 7, 2023 at 6:39 pm

    I spent a lot of time playing paddleball at the “Old IM Building”. The court walls were wood planks and some were loose. On occasion a ball came back faster than it went in. And then there were the lights that were tucked into the upper side wall/ceiling line and covered with a metal screen/fence to add another dimension to the game.

    While in high school, we would run indoor track meets at Yost Field House (Prior to it being converted to an ice rink.) and going into IM Building. Seeing the four (4) full basketball courts in the contiguous arrangement was, and still is, impressive.

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