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time tracks The Snake Pit by Robin Fletcher


The Snake Pit

Snake Pit photos

Down the Corridor


UNT's infamous Snake Pit came alive once again when the Mean Green men's basketball team opened the season there Nov. 14 against Cameron.

The Snake Pit — also known as the Pit, the Men's Gym and today the Ken Bahnsen Gym — was the home of the basketball team from 1950 to 1973. It was built to replace the Beulah Harriss Gym, a creaking U.S. Army surplus building that had served as the campus gymnasium for decades.


The Snake Pit once featured seats on the floor just feet from the players and thunderous noise from enthusiastic fans.


The Oct. 6, 1950, Campus Chat reports that the new gym was "spacious, modern, beautiful." The newspaper also raved that there were no posts to obstruct fans' view and that it had removable goals with glass backboards. It had a seating capacity of 4,500 at a time when student enrollment was about 5,000.

"The fans gawked at the size and beauty of the huge $300,000 structure and marveled at the immense seating capacity," the Chat reports.

"Comfort is the latest word. ... It has a galaxy of 132 lights. ... It has a public address system with 10 large loudspeakers."

But for opposing teams and coaches, the building was far from comfortable. Eagles fans packed the Pit and their enthusiasm was high. Seats on the floor were only a matter of feet from the players, and the acoustics were not particularly good.

Fred Graham ('57), former sports information director, writes in the March 1971 North Texan that the noise was "almost constant, always thunderous."

Joe Hamilton, a star guard for North Texas from 1968 to 1970, told the 1973 Yucca, "When I played there, the place was always packed. Sometimes you might feel kind of down and not ready to play, but when you walked into that little gym and it was so noisy, your adrenaline really got to flowing."

The fans, and their noise, helped build the Pit's lasting reputation. Its evolution to Snake Pit was cemented during a game played Feb. 10, 1970.

After his nationally ranked Drake Bulldogs lost to North Texas in double overtime, coach Maury John was quoted as saying, "This is the worst damn place in the world to play basketball, and these are the worst fans. This is a snake pit."

Three years later, the Snake Pit surrendered to the Super Pit — the new 10,000-seat Coliseum across the street. But this November, the noise returned to the little gym, and the Mean Green beat Cameron 87-66 amid the din.



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