Ground was broken for construction of the gymnasium on May 20, 1950; the cornerstone was laid on October 14, 1950; the official ribbon cutting and opening was held December 8, 1951. When it opened, capacity was 4,000 for basketball and 5,500 for general events.
It was home to the Georgetown University Hoyas men's basketball team before they moved to Capital Centre. The team continues to play a handful of preseason and non-conference games at the gym against lesser-known opponents each year. Excepting NIT games in 1993 and 2005, no games against well-known opponents have been held at McDonough since 1983. Under the old sanction of the NIT, schools in the tournament were to play games on campus or at campus-owned facilities. Georgetown's men usually play at the Verizon Center, which is neither on campus nor owned by the school, so they would play such "mandated" games at the facility. Currently, the arena hosts the women's basketball and volleyball teams.
The building is named for Rev. Vincent J. McDonough, S.J., athletic director from 1916 to 1928. Legend has it that three days before his death on September 3, 1939, he was asked what he wanted for the twenty-fifth anniversary of his priesthood, to which he replied, "You give the boys a new gym and I'll be happy." Though he did not live to see it, the gym eventually was built after World War II.
McDonough Gymnasium hosting UConn versus Georgetown