The conclusion of the 2014-15 high school basketball season in Illinois brought about the end of an era for one of the state most historic and scenic gymnasiums.
When the 2015-16 school year rolls around, Paris High School students will be attending school in a new state of the art building on the town’s northwest side, which includes a new gymnasium.
The school’s current downtown campus is home to Ernie Eveland Gymnasium. Paris High School played its first game in Ernie Eveland Gymnasium on Thanksgiving day in 1943 (Thursday, November 25, 1943). It was known as the “New Gym” at the time, but its eventual namesake was already on the bench as the head coach. Eveland was hired as the school’s head basketball coach prior to the 1935-26 season and he ushered in the golden area of high school basketball in the town located 30 miles east of Charleston, about 10 miles from the Indiana border.
Eveland’s 29-year coaching career consisted of a record 793-178 (.815) and two IHSA state championships (1943, 1947), in addition to pair of runner-up finishes (1939, 1942). Overall, he had 11 teams make the state finals, including seven in a row from 1938 to 1944. In addition, Eveland also coached the Tiger Boys Cross Country team to three straight state titles from 1946-48. The New Gym was renamed to honor Eveland on December 9, 1977.
Ernie Eveland Gymnasium, which seats around 3,000, will remain standing for the time being, with plans to play one high school home game each season in the works. Additionally, the basketball program hopes to bring the old gym full circle with a Thanksgiving Tournament in 2016, which would also mark the final day games in the gym’s history.
A look at the iconic high school gymnasium: