The Payne Whitney Gymnasium is the gymnasium of Yale University. Built in the prevailing Gothic architecture style of the campus in 1932, it is a remarkable building, possessing a Gothic tower, a third-floor swimming pool, a polo practice room, and a rooftop running track. It is the second-largest gym in the world. The building houses the facilities for the basketball, fencing, gymnastics, squash, swimming, and volleyball teams.
The building was donated to Yale by John Hay Whitney, of the Yale class of 1926, in honor of his father, Payne Whitney. One myth holds that Mrs. Payne Whitney wanted Yale to build a great cathedral with her money, but that the University preferred a gym. Since she was getting old, the story goes, administrators thought they could get away with a bit of subterfuge. They instructed architect John Russell Pope to design a gym that could pass for a cathedral. Then, when it was completed, the President drove Mrs. Whitney past the finished building. She died not long after, content in the knowledge that she had given Yale such a grand house of worship, and not what came to be known as "the cathedral of sweat."
For the design of Payne Whitney Gymnasium, architect John Russell Pope was awarded the Silver Medal at the 1932 Olympic Games Art Competition
The basketball team plays in the John J. Lee Amphitheater, which was named in 1996 for John J. Lee, '56 M.Eng., a star basketball player and benefactor in restoration projects; the volleyball and gymnastics teams also compete in the Amphiteater. The wing opposite the Amphiteater houses the Robert J. H. Kiphuth Exhibition Pool (6 lanes, 25 yards), where the swimming teams compete. The pool is named for Yale's legendary swimming coach and athletic director.
A series of three crew tanks runs along the back of the gym, providing training facilities for the crews. Above the crew tanks is the Practice Pool, one of the world's largest suspended natatoriums (5 lanes, 50 meters, 2 bulkheads). Above the Practice Pool are recreational basketball courts.
On the wings, the Adrian "Ace" Israel Fitness Center is located above the Kiphuth Exhibition Pool, and the Brady Squash Center is located above the Amphitheater. The Squash Center, one of the world's premier competition facilities, is also home to the U.S. Squash Hall of Fame. The roof of the Squash Center has a small outdoor running track.
The tower itself contains the Kiphuth Trophy Room (where mementos from Harvard-Yale game balls to Olympic gold medals are displayed), several multi-purpose recreational areas, the fencing salon, and the gymnastics studio.
The newly-built Lanman Center, located behind the Amphiteater wing, provides a vast spread of additional flexible floor space, with a balcony running track ringing the facility.
The William K. Lanman Center was added in 1999 as a new wing, with additional courts for basketball and volleyball, and an indoor running track. This was the first phase of a $100 million renovation program.
In 2006, the building is having external work done to repair flashing and stop leaks. Other work includes the purchasing of banners and benches for the Kiphuth Exhibition Pool, the resurfacing of the floor in the Lee Amphitheater, and the upgrading of the Practice Pool's filtration system (see Pool Closure below).
The pool reopened on November 27, 2006 after the installation of an ultraviolet filter, which has greatly improved the water quality (and consequently the air quality). See Yale Daily News article
Before coeducation, the third floor pool was strictly "no suits," i.e. nude. Freshmen at that time had to undergo a questionable series of "posture" tests that involved nude photographs. They were instructed that if they had an excessive lordotic curve, remedial exercises would be prescribed, although it seemed no one ever was so required.