Webster Roberts Gym

Webster Groves High School's Roberts Gym

By David Kvidahl

Maybe it’s the balcony. Or maybe it’s those iconic green seats that ring it. Maybe it’s the way the sun shines through the windows during the winter. Maybe it’s the championship banners on the walls. Whatever it is, Roberts Gym has it. You can feel it when you walk through its doors. Constructed in 1946, the home to the Webster Groves boys’ and girls’ basketball teams wears its age well.

It is named for Charlie Roberts, who coached for 39 years at Webster Groves. He guided the Statesmen in football, basketball, baseball, and track and field. He was among the first great athletic pioneers in Webster’s storied history. He never got to see the gym open. Roberts died in 1944.

Roberts Gym was supposed to be built before ’46. But the steel needed to complete the job was used in America’s World War II efforts. When it was finally completed, Webster Groves celebrated with more than one dedication ceremony.

Roberts Gym was dedicated on Dec. 8, 1946. Webster Groves hosted its first basketball game on Dec. 12. The Statesmen’s opponent was neighbor and rival Maplewood-Richmond Heights. MRH graciously allowed Webster to use its gym to practice and play games during the years Roberts Gym was under construction. As a thank you, Webster scheduled MRH as its first opponent. MRH wasn’t a kind guest, as it walked off the court with the victory. But it didn’t appear to spoil the mood. At halftime, there was another dedication ceremony and there were more than 1,000 people in attendance.

The gym wasn’t just used for basketball. It hosted the Missouri State Wrestling Championships in 1947, a little known fact dug up by former principal and Webster Groves High historian, Pat Voss. Voss, who was principal for 17 years and retired in 2002, says she was researching something else when she stumbled across that tidbit.

Roberts Gym and Webster Groves High went through a renovation in 2009. Among the amenities, the school built was an auxiliary gymnasium and a hall of fame.

Among the things that didn’t change during the renovation (which cost the Statesmen their longtime locker room) were the green seats that ring the balcony of Roberts Gym. Completely unique to any high school gym, those green seats have seen their share of games. Actually, they’ve been there for every single one. “They are original and they are in excellent shape,” Voss says. There was talk of replacing them during the renovation. But the seats were up to code, met every standard on the books and passed every test. The seats stayed and so did that sense of history.

Truth be told, Roberts Gym would be unique regardless of the quality of the teams that play in it. But when you consider that the boys’ basketball team has been so impressive at home, it takes the place to another level. The Statesmen have run off 73 consecutive Suburban South Conference victories. They won 53 straight home games from December of 2003 until December of 2008. The team that broke that winning streak was none other than Maplewood-Richmond Heights.

As the winter season begins, Roberts Gym will be hopping as the weather goes cold. It will host the 12th annual Webster Classic on Thursday, Dec. 8. The three-day tournament is one of the early season highlights and provides an impressive field of teams. Among the participants are Webster, SLUH, MRH, Oakville, Marquette, Miller Career Academy, Lee’s Summit North of Kansas City and Belvidere North of Illinois.

It’s a great way to kick back, in those green seats, and watch some basketball—just like they did when it opened its doors.