Bear Down

approximately 1,200 students with disabilities at 11 locations across campus, including its remote testing facility in the Arizona Stadium skyboxes.

At this point, says Kloepping, there is administrative support for the concept at least. Monday morning Kloepping met with Provost Paul Sypherd to discuss the project. In what Kloepping described as "a really positive meeting," the Provost voiced support for the idea. Kloepping says Sypherd understands the need for a centrally-located facility, rather than a "ghetto," to house services for disabled students.

But where that facility will be and what it will look like is still up in the air. Sypherd told him that the university could not commit right now to any particular site for the project, because the university wants to keep its options open.

Shuffling for Bear Down space is nothing new. It has, in a way, become a university tradition.

From the day it was completed in July 1926, the 24,000-square-foot "Men's Gymnasium and Armory" has housed an eclectic assortment of people and departments. As the name indicates, the building, which cost $166,000 to build, served multiple purposes from the start.

Along with basketball courts, space for gymnastic sports, athletic offices and showers, the Department of Military Science and Tactics also had its headquarters there.

Today, the ROTC still maintains offices and a shooting range on the lower floor of the building.

For two months during World War II, the Naval Training Indoctrination School took over Bear Down and its surrounding athletic fields, cramming 500 bunk beds onto the basketball courts for recruits' sleeping quarters.

In the fall of 1946, the gymnasium was again packed with bunk beds, this time double-decker ones for students. It became a temporary men's dormitory for the semester.

In addition to the sports facilities and ROTC offices, Bear Down is now home to the Chicano/Hispano Student Resource Center, the Campus I.D. Service and a bicycle-repair shop.

But students and staff remember not bunk beds but sporting events when asked about Bear Down. William Hanemann has worked for the Registrar in the Campus I.D. Service office for five years and fondly recalls coming to the gymnasium with his father when he was four years old to watch the Harlem Globetrotters.

Those who were at the UA in the1920s might also remember the gymnasium's dedication game, which took place on January 21, 1927. About 3,000 spectators, about half the gym's capacity, gathered there that evening and watched the UA defeat Tempe State Teachers College, now Arizona State University, 29 to 18.

The gymnasium's nickname originated before that first game was even played. In October 1926, "Button" Salmon, the UA's student-body president and a member of the football team, was fatally injured in a car crash on the old Phoenix highway. While he lay dying in the hospital, Athletic Director J.F. McKale visited him, asking if he had any message for the team. Whether truth or legend, Salmon reportedly replied, "Tell them ... tell the team to bear down."

At a university lacking space, it is no surprise that room at Bear Down Gym has so long been coveted.

But competing forces have tugged at Bear Down for 70 years, and it has survived those tug-of-wars.

And once again, the future of the gym is unclear.

One thing that is clear, however, is that over the years, Salmon's words have taken an ironic twist. Perhaps if "Button" were alive today, he might advise that heavily haggled-over gymnasium that it should also "bear down."

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