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Houston Field House

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Contrary to popular belief, it was not a former airplane hangar. The Houston Field House began life as a Navy warehouse in Davisville, Rhode Island. Following World War II, RPI applied to the Veterans Education Facilities Program for permission to move the warehouse to Troy. The school had originally sought a hangar to convert to a field house, but none were available. The VEFP, formed to help colleges build facilities to handle the increased enrollment of veterans, absorbed the cost of transporting and reconstructing the building. RPI paid $500,000 for the interior renovations necessary for athletic contests.

Construction was planned for completion in June of 1948, but owing to inclement weather, the building was not finished until October 1949. On the thirteenth of that month, RPI President Livingston W. Houston dedicated the RPI Field House as part of a ceremony honoring the 125th anniversary of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Houston stated the building "will be a benefit to the City of Troy as well as to our students and faculty." The following day, the Prime Minister of Canada, Louis St. Laurent, gave an address and received the honorary degree Doctor of Laws.

Through the last completed season, the RPI men's hockey team has a 643-395-66 (.612) record playing at the Houston Field House.

A list of "firsts" for the Field House:

  • Event: Interfraternity Ball on November 12, 1949 (music performed by Elliot Lawrence and his Orchestra).
  • Sporting Event: December 3, 1949 as RPI defeated the New York State Maritime Academy 55-43 in basketball.
  • Hockey Game: January 10, 1950 as RPI lost to Middlebury 8-2.
  • Commencement: January 27, 1950 (General Omar N. Bradley delivered the commencement speech).

The building was originally called the RPI Field House. Following the death of Livingston Houston, it was announced at the 1978 Commencement (May 26) that the building would henceforth be known as the Houston Field House, in honor of the man who brought the building to the RPI community.

1983 brought many changes to the Field House. It was the year of the renovation, in which a $2.5 million face lift gave a new look to the interior of the building. All but four of the columns (whose obstruction of fans' views gave rise to the popular hockey line) were removed, the center scoreboard was removed and two new scoreboards installed, one at each end of the building. The ice surface was lengthened, making it a standard 200' by 85' size. The ice was sunk down two-and-a-half feet and now was atop a new concrete surface housing more efficient tubing and a new roof installed, removing the girders cluttering the heights. These improvements allowed the Field House to remain a modern facility, hosting trade fairs and concerts in addition to sporting events.

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