Payne Whitney Gymnasium

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Payne Whitney Gymnasium
Cathedral of Sweat
Yale Cathedral of Sweat.JPG
Location 70 Tower Pkwy
New Haven, CT 06511
Owner Yale University
Operator Yale University
Capacity 2,532 (Lee Amphitheater)
2,178 (Kiphuth Exhibition Pool)
Opened 1932
Architect John Russell Pope
Yale Bulldogs
(basketball, fencing, gymnastics, squash, swimming, & volleyball)

The Payne Whitney Gymnasium is the gymnasium of Yale University. Built in the prevailing gothic revival style of the campus in 1932, the building has a Gothic tower, third-floor swimming pool, a polo practice room, and a rooftop running track. It is the second-largest gym in the world by cubic feet and the ninety-fourth largest in the United States by square footage.[1] The building houses the facilities for the basketball, fencing, gymnastics, squash, swimming, and volleyball teams.

The building was donated to Yale by John Hay Whitney, of the Yale class of 1926, in honor of his father, Payne Whitney. One possibly apocryphal story holds that Mrs. Payne Whitney wanted Yale to build a great cathedral with her money, but that the University preferred a gym.[citation needed] Since she was getting old, the story goes, administrators thought they could get away with a bit of fraud. They instructed architect John Russell Pope to design a gym that could pass for a cathedral. Then, when it was completed, the President drove Mrs. Whitney past the finished building.[citation needed] She died not long after, content in the knowledge that she had given Yale such a grand house of worship, and not what came to be known as "the cathedral of sweat".[2]

For the design of Payne Whitney Gymnasium, architect John Russell Pope was awarded the Silver Medal at the 1932 Olympic Games Art Competition.

The stuffed original Handsome Dan, the bulldog mascot of Yale and the first college mascot in the United States, resides in a glass cabinet near the entrance to the building.

Entrance to Lee Amphitheater (2008)
Interior of Lee Amphitheater (2008)


The basketball team plays in the John J. Lee Amphitheater, which was named in 1996 for John J. Lee, '56 M.Eng., a star basketball player and benefactor in restoration projects; the volleyball and gymnastics teams also compete in the Amphiteater. The wing opposite the Amphiteater houses the Robert J. H. Kiphuth Exhibition Pool (6 lanes, 25 yards), where the swimming teams compete. The pool is named for Yale's legendary swimming coach and athletic director.

A series of three crew tanks runs along the back of the gym, providing training facilities for the crews. Above the crew tanks is the Practice Pool, one of the world's largest suspended natatoriums (5 lanes, 50 meters, 2 bulkheads). Above the Practice Pool are recreational basketball courts.

On the wings, the Adrian "Ace" Israel Fitness Center is located above the Kiphuth Exhibition Pool, and the Brady Squash Center is located above the Amphitheater. The Squash Center, one of the world's premier competition facilities, is also home to the U.S. Squash Hall of Fame. The roof of the Squash Center has a small outdoor running track.[3]

The tower itself contains the Kiphuth Trophy Room (where mementos from Harvard-Yale game balls to Olympic gold medals are displayed), several multi-purpose recreational areas, the fencing salon, and the gymnastics studio.

The Lanman Center, located behind the Amphitheater wing, provides a vast spread of additional flexible floor space, with a balcony running track ringing the facility.


Lanman Center

The William K. Lanman Center was added in 1999 as a new wing, with additional courts for basketball and volleyball, and an indoor running track. This was the first phase of a $100 million renovation program.

In 2006, the building is having external work done to repair flashing and stop leaks. Other work includes the purchasing of banners and benches for the Kiphuth Exhibition Pool, the resurfacing of the floor in the Lee Amphitheater, and the upgrading of the Practice Pool's filtration system (see Pool Closure below).


Before coeducation, the third floor pool was strictly "no suits," i.e. nude.[citation needed] Freshmen at that time had to undergo a questionable series of "posture" tests that involved nude photographs. They were instructed that if they had an excessive lordotic curve, remedial exercises would be prescribed, although it seemed no one ever was so required.[4]


  1. ^ Siegel, Justin. "House of Payne gets ready for the new millennium". Retrieved 2 March 2010. 
  2. ^ Hillinger, Charles (30 December 1995). "For the Athlete, It's a Bit of Heaven : Yale's Gym Has 14 Floors of Wall-to-Wall Physical Fitness". Retrieved 20 October 2014. 
  3. ^ "Hall of Fame & Museum". Archived from the original on 20 February 2012. Retrieved 2 March 2010. 
  4. ^ Rosenbaum, Ron (15 January 1995). "The Great Ivy League Nude Posture Photo Scandal". New York Times Magazine. Retrieved 23 March 2014. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Jerome Schottenstein Center
Host of the Jeopardy! College Championship
Succeeded by
Petersen Events Center

Coordinates: 41°18′49″N 72°55′50″W / 41.31361°N 72.93056°W / 41.31361; -72.93056