A journey through the history of Women's Basketball
Chances are if you’ve driven through Downtown Knoxville, you’ve seen a larger than life spherical object on the horizon. From a distance it looks like it’s sitting on some type of steel structure just ready for Godzilla to grab. I’m not talking about the Sunsphere, the signature structure of the 1982 World’s Fair. No, this giant Baden basketball clings to the side of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, a fixture in the city since 1999. According the the WBHOF website, the basketball is the largest in the world weighing 10 tons and measuring 30 feet in diameter. And the stories inside are even bigger.
The Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame sits on a high bluff near the Tennessee River not far from the campus where Lady Vols Coach Pat Summitt brought home 8 National Championship titles. While the WBHOF is a place dedicated to the history and accomplishments of women’s basketball, you don’t have to love the game to enjoy a visit.
Just inside the entrance, a 17-foot high bronzed sculpture stands at the center of a rotunda named after legendary coach, Pat Summitt. With women basketball players from different eras, the sculpture illustrates the WBHOF’s theme, “honor the past, celebrate the present, promote the future.”
The journey begins with a 17-minute film taking you through the evolution of women’s basketball, a look at the key players, coaches and a bunch of redheads, that you’ll learn more about later. Down the hallway, you can test your knowledge at an interactive timeline, pose for a picture with one of the first women’s basketball stars, and listen in on a locker room talk led by some of the best coaches in the sport.
Just before you head into the Hall of Honor, a stretched out white station wagon is sure to catch your eyes. For many years, it carried some of the most famous women in basketball. The world famous Redheads played from 1936 to 1986, winning 500 out of 642 games against men’s teams. Today, their legacy (as well as some members of the team) are enshrined in the WBHOF.
The largest part of the hall is also the most fun. Sitting beneath the big basketball on the outside is an atrium and stairwell connecting an expansive exhibit area up top with basketball courts below. In this section of the museum dozens of jerseys representing championship women’s teams from colleges and high schools across the country hang from the rafters. Together they make up the Ring of Honor. Mixed in with all the displays and jerseys are banners and posters from Women’s Final Four Jerseys representing championship teams from the world of college and high school basketball hang from the rafters. There is also a big collection of Women’s Final 4 banners and posters.
Down the stairs, and past a larger than life guitar from the Final Four in Cleveland, three half courts sprawl out on the floor. Visitors can test their playing skills here as well as learn new ones. This is definitely taking the hands-on museum experience to a new level.
Admission to the WBHOF is about $8 for adults and a few dollars less for children. The gift shop, which is off to the right of the statue at the entrance, is where you pick up your tickets. From now through April 30th, the Hall is open Tuesday through Friday. To learn more about this unique attraction visit www.wbhof.com .