Historical Kenney Gym, one of the university’s oldest and most revered buildings, houses a unique training atmosphere and represents over a century of exercise tradition at the University of Illinois.
H.E. Kenney Gym was built in 1902, in the Renaissance Revival style. Originally the building was named the “Men's New Gymnasium” until Huff Hall opened in 1925, at which time it’s name was changed to the "Men's Old Gym" then, in 1974, the Board of Trustees named it after Harold Eugene "Hek" Kenney (1903-72), who wrestled for the Illini from 1923 to 1926.
In 1929, after his Illinois wrestling career was finished, Kenney was named the wrestling coach. During his tenure, 1929-1943, his teams won 76.5% of their matches (91-28-2) and earned four Big Ten Championships. Kenney also served as a physical education instructor and an administrator working his way up the administrative ranks until he was appointed Assistant Dean of the College of Physical Education in 1963, retiring in 1967.
H.E. Kenney Gym is the only building DIA utilizes that is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, being added on December 18, 1986. It is listed as part of a "thematic" district of the architectural works of the architect Nathan Clifford Ricker, the first architecture graduate of the University of Illinois and the first architect "officially" registered in the State of Illinois. Ricker would later become the University's architect as well as a professor of architectural engineering at the University of Illinois.
The upper level of Kenney Gym, which has 49,072 gross square feet, houses the Illinois gymnastics workout facilities. In this extensive facility, both the men’s and women’s gymnastics teams practice in a harmonious environment.
Kenney Gym accommodates Illinois gymnasts with its large variety of FIG specification equipment. Men’s equipment includes two pommel horses, two sets of still rings, three sets of parallel bars and two high bars. While the women’s equipment includes four balance beams and two sets of ELITE uneven bars. The teams share two vaulting horses, a Palmer spring floor and a 40 foot long tumble track. The historic building also features a weight room, running track, swimming pool, locker and shower facilities as well as basketball and volleyball courts.
Kenney Gym has long been a focus of innovative techniques and equipment in gymnastics training. The world’s first foam-lined, in-ground “pit,” developed for added safety in the instruction of tumbling and vaulting, was built here in 1963. Since then, another pit has been installed for vaulting, tumbling, high bar and beam work. The Kenney Gym pit structure provides dismounting capabilities for most men’s and women’s apparatus events, as well as tumbling and vaulting.
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