How Much To Own An Original Memorial Gym Wooden Chair?
As I was walking in Memorial Gym yesterday afternoon and admiring the new court and video boards for this week’s C-USA Women’s Basketball Tournament, I spotted a large number of wooden chairs on one end of the arena. After closer inspection, I realized that these seats were not part of the renovation and instead, they were the real deal. Only about 400 remain from the 64-year old facility, which opened its doors for the first time in 1960. However, the chairs are still in remarkably excellent condition and all have a polished-gloss to them. The company that manufactured them, the Arlington Seating Company (Arlington Heights, Illinois) is long since out of business. So, an idea for a UTEP fundraiser came to mind: sell all the seats to UTEP fans.
This idea is not original; in fact it has been around forever thanks to the memorabilia and collectibles business. Thousands of original wooden seats from historic baseball stadiums like Ebbetts Field, The Polo Grounds, Tiger Stadium, and the original Yankee Stadium have been sold from anywhere between a few hundred to more than a thousand dollars. Sports fans jump at the chance to put one or two original chairs in their home or business and proudly show them off to friends. Surprisingly, the wooden seats are one of the few items that UTEP has not tried to market from the 1966 NCAA Championship team. More than ten years ago, they sold cut up pieces of the Don Haskins Center court, and even had The Bear sign a limited edition of the hardwood pieces. So, it only makes sense that UTEP would remove the chairs from Memorial Gym and make them available to Miner fans everywhere.
How much money could the school raise from the sales of these chairs? Here is where it gets interesting. If they sold each chair for $250 or $500 a pair, the total money generated would equal $100,000. However, if UTEP was smart, they would bring every surviving member of the 1966 team into El Paso and hand sign a limited number of the chairs. Those chairs could sell for significantly more money with the National Champs’ signatures (and Mary Haskins) on it. I’ve mentioned this idea to UTEP Athletic officials over the years, but they have never seemed interested enough to seriously pursue it. In the meantime, fans this week will be to do the next best thing to owning one of these chairs: sitting in them and watching a C-USA women’s basketball tournament game. Maybe, they will hear the ghosts of the 5,200 fans that once made Memorial Gym one of the most intimidating venues in college basketball.