Hamline is known as the birthplace of intercollegiate basketball, and the university recently celebrated a significant milestone in that history. On January 4, 1937, Hamline’s basketball facility, now known as Hutton Arena, was dedicated to former chairman of Hamline’s board of trustees Matthew Norton with an inaugural game against the Stanford University. The 80th anniversary of Hutton Arena was marked with a basketball game and alumni reunion.
Coaches, basketball alumni, and Piper families filled the lobby of Walker Fieldhouse within the hour leading up to the anniversary game. Among the alumni celebrating Hamline’s rich basketball history were Rollie Seltz '46, a basketball hall of famer, and Tom Hutton Sr '62, legendary coach Joe Hutton’s last living son.
“I came here today to see Rollie Seltz. Rollie was my late father's best friend. He was the best man at his wedding and best friend throughout life,” said Howard “Skip” Schultz, Jr. ’72 at the event.
Norton Field House was first conceived in the 1930s, nearly four decades after the world's first intercollegiate basketball game was played in the basement of the Hall of Science. As Patrick Reusse noted in the Star Tribune, there was little going on in the Twin Cities when it came to sporting events when the field house was designed. The need for a community athletics team made it possible though for our Pipers Basketball team to gain an exceptional fan base and lots of support.
It was in 1932, thanks to the coaching of Joe Hutton Sr., that the Pipers began winning Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletics Conference (MIAC) titles. Due to growing interest in Hamline Basketball, the field house was built under the ninth president of Hamline University, Reverend Charles Nelson Pace. Although losing the inaugural game against Stanford 58-26, Hamline was still a MIAC powerhouse and would soon win NAIA tournaments in 1942, ‘49, and ‘51.
Hamline embraced the Norton Field House since its dedication 80 years ago. Pictures from 1937 show students lined up in desks on the court taking a quiz. Just months after the game against Stanford, Pipers wearing caps and gowns walked across the floor in the first of many commencement ceremonies held in the field house.
In the ‘40s, the balconies in Norton Field House were added due to the overflowing crowds that flocked to see the Pipers play. In 1967, there was a $800,000 remodel which went towards new fluorescent lighting, a new tartan floor, roll away bleachers, and six motorized backboards. Finally, in 1986 it was renamed Hutton Arena in honor of legendary coach, Joe Hutton Sr.
The 80th anniversary celebration and game against St. Olaf only adds to this rich history. With a shot made by Zach Smith in the last few seconds of the game, the Pipers celebrated a victory over the Oles with a score of 60-58. It was a game that would have made Joe Hutton proud.
For more information about this story, contact Gail Nosek, the director of public relations and social media, via e-mail or at (651) 523-2511. Further history of Hamline basketball in St. Paul is also available in a Star Tribune story by Patrick Reusse.