Leo’s gym is one of the best high school gyms in Illinois

The chances of seeing Leo High School host a state regional or sectional in basketball might be a long shot, but if you had a March Madness bracket of the best gymnasiums in the state it wouldn’t be shocking to see it make the Elite 8.

—-The basketball gym at Leo High School in Chicago. (photo by Vincent D. Johnson)

Located on 79th & Sangamon Ave on Chicago’s south side, Leo is a small private Catholic high school of about 320 students (as of 2021-22 school year). The gym is small too. Probably one of the smallest gyms to get mentioned as one of the best in Illinois.

Located on the third floor of the school you’ll get your exercise in getting up there and be prepared to climb even higher if you show up after tipoff. Court side seating, and seating in general is very limited. The U-shaped gym has has 3 rows of bleacher seating on one side of the court, but with the sidelines running so close, the first row is typically empty. The other sideline is reserved for the scorers’ table and team benches. Both baselines end with a few feet to spare before running into padded walls. The balcony is where most people, and all students, typically view the games.

Only three rows of seating run along the sidelines court side at Leo. (photo by Vincent D. Johnson).
The view from the end of the Leo bench. (photo by Vincent D. Johnson).

The balcony level does have about 3-4 rows of seating lengthwise to the court and a wooden bleacher box that has another 5 rows above the north baseline. Beyond that it’s standing room only.

The view from the balcony section during a basketball game in the gym at Leo High School in Chicago.
—-Don’t forget to look up while at Leo, the ceiling is better looking than the steel beam rafters in most gymnasiums. (photo by Vincent D. Johnson).

The basketball banner at Leo is full of history, although surprisingly most of it from the modern era. A 1941 National Catholic Championship is one of the few pre-1970s accolades. All of the Lions IHSA Final Four appearances came in 1998 or later, including the school’s lone title (2016 class 2A). (photo by Vincent D. Johnson).

View this list of best high school gyms in Illinois | See the gallery of other high school gyms

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