—-Swanson gym takes on the classic pit style gymPart of the photo series Illinois’ Best High School Gyms; Argo High School’s Swanson Gym, in Summit, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022. (Photo copyright of Vincent D. Johnson)

A Gladiator Pit

Calling a gym “a pit” sounds like it would be a bad thing, but for Argo and a few similar gyms it offers a unique way to watch and play a basketball game.

Built in 1953, the Swanson gym was named after the Board of Education president at the time Herbert C. Swanson. It was designed by Burnham and Hammond, a firm who also designed the gym at Thornton Township High School in Harvey. Unlike Thornton’s U-shaped gym, Argo has seating seating completely around the court, and now court level bleachers.

Argo’s Swanson Gym, with its seating 10 feet above the court, gives off a mini-Roman Colosseum vibe.

The gym has seen some updates since 1953, though the majority of the look and feel remain. A center court scoreboard was replaced as volleyball programs were incorporated into the school’s athletics. Retractable bleachers ran the length of the court and tucked away under the permanent cement balcony seating. They have since been removed and the space under the balcony on the east side was converted into a girls locker-room (remember this facility was built 20-years before Title IX) and the space on the west side is used for equipment storage.  Along the south baseline is a modern athletic trainers’ room.

The Argonaut fans react as Argo’s Davonte Evans dunks during a game against Kennedy in the Swanson Gym, on Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022.(Photo copyright of Vincent D. Johnson)
This wall used to be where retractable bleachers went into, but they were removed and the space was converted into a girls locker room. The old logo at center court hangs on the wall and the cheerleaders tend to stand in this area, Feb. 9, 2022.(Photo copyright of Vincent D. Johnson)
The Argo poms team performs at half-time of a boys basketball game on Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022.(Photo copyright of Vincent D. Johnson)

Not A Bad Seat In The House

One of the forward thinking features of Swanson Gym was the concession stand was incorporated inside the gym, this line of fans has a perfect view of the game while waiting for food, Feb. 9, 2022.(Photo copyright of Vincent D. Johnson)

One of the drawbacks of some of the larger capacity gyms prior to the 1950s was beams for supporting the roof often lead to multiple poor sight lines. Argo’s roof is completely suspended with its beam system horizontal to the court.

Even in the walkway around the top of the gym’s seating area, there are no vertical beams supporting the roof, Feb. 9, 2022. (Photo copyright of Vincent D. Johnson)
Look mom, no vertical beams, Feb. 9, 2022.(Photo copyright of Vincent D. Johnson)

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