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Doug's Diggings: 'New' gym opened Feb. 21, 1975

The 1974-75 Raider basketball team played the first game in the “new” high school gym on Feb. 21, 1975. Team members were, front from left, manager Bob Wetzel, head coach Bob Heidenreich and assistant coach Larry Parfitt; back, Mike Richie, John Nickleby, Mark Hayday, Nate Shubat, Jack Marshall, Lon Gilbertson, George Madson, Scott Snyder, Jerry Barr, Les Gilbertson, Randy Conom and Buzz Mellum. (Hudson Star-Observer archives)

A couple of months ago I received an email from “Buzz” Mellum, a 1975 graduate of Hudson High School.

He reminded me that it was Feb. 21, 1975, that the first basketball game was played in the “new” Hudson High School gymnasium -- exactly 39 years ago.

In doing some research, I discovered that the move to the new high school actually took place in February of 1975. The official move day was scheduled as Wednesday, Feb. 19. It must have happened quite quickly with the first basketball game set that Friday night.

Buzz said the original schedule had Hudson playing at River Falls that evening, but somewhere along the line the schedule was changed and the teams flipped the schedule so Hudson could have a home game on the new floor before the regular season ended.

The Star-Observer, before the game, was full of praise for the new school and the new gym. The local sports columnist, who happened to be Doug Stohlberg (Straight From The Dougout), said: The most spectacular high school gym in this part of the state will be unveiled Friday night when Hudson hosts River Falls in an 8 p.m. basketball game in the new Hudson Senior High School (note the later start time in ’75).

Then-Athletic Director James Luedtke said architects listed the seating capacity at about 1,950 or 1,975. He said, however, that 2,100 to 2,200 could easily fit into the facility. The columnist went on to say that “It is hard to describe the magnitude of the place because there is nothing around to compare it with. In fact, it is much nicer than many college gyms I’ve seen. But, seeing is believing, so don’t miss the opener against RF.”

Hudson won the first game in the new gym, 69-53. The Star-Observer reported that “the game itself was almost overshadowed by the excitement and glamor of Hudson’s new gym.” Luedtke reported that 1,800 fans were in attendance. The paper reported that the crowd was the biggest ever to watch an indoor athletic event in Hudson, although I’m not sure that is true when looking at the history of the old boxing arena on First Street.

River Falls was in the midst of a down year and didn’t bring too many fans to the game. Most of the crowd was from Hudson. The game was the regular season finale and Hudson finished with an 11-3 mark, good for second place in the old Middle Border Conference. New Richmond won the title with a 14-0 record.

Leading scorer in the contest was Lon Gilbertson with 26 points. George Madson added 14 and Jerry Barr 10. The paper didn’t publish box scores in those days so I’m not sure what Buzz’s total was for the game.

The last game played in the old Oak Street gym was on Feb. 11, 1975, when Hudson defeated Ellsworth 62-49. That gym, of course, is now part of Willow River Elementary.

The Oak Street gym opened during the 1953-54 season. The gym was part of an expansion project – the original school was built in 1919. Ironically the first game in the Oak Street gym was also against River Falls. Hudson also won that game, 52-37. The Raiders were coached by Carver Fouks.

At that time, the gym was also considered one of the best in the entire area. Looking back, the Oak Street gym had a life of only about 20 years as a home for high school basketball – about half of the current gymnasium.

Buzz Mellum, by the way, lives in Hamel, Minn.

Doug Stohlberg

Doug Stohlberg has been part of the Hudson Star-Observer since 1973 and has been editor since 1987. He worked at the New Richmond News from 1971 to 1973. He holds a bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota.

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