Whenever a town has accomplished high school sports programs, including multiple conference titles as well as multiple state titles in several sports, it seems that there is well-used gym not too far away.
That is the case for Havre High Blue Ponies and the Havre High gymnasium.
The HHS gymnasium has been the home of some of the best Montana prep athletes. That is fact, not opinion; there is just no way around it. When you take a look at the history books and see the HHS names that have used the gym for boys and girls basketball, wrestling, volleyball, tennis, track and field, cross country and softball, the Havre High gymnasium is well worth every penny it cost to build.
When the new Havre High was built and opened in the early 1960’s, it was also a new beginning for an extremely dominating force in Montana athletics.
The dimensions of the hardwood floor sits at about 100 feet by 115 feet and is still the original flooring. And though the walls have seen several new coats of blue and white paint over the years, and the Blue Pony changed and evolved, the history remains the same.
Other changes have also occurred over the years, including new bleachers in the late 1980’s and upgraded scoreboards in 2004. And the massive Blue Pony statue standing above the floor on the south end of the gym (moved from the original Havre High, and restored by the class of 1984), the gymnasium is enriched in pride and success.
The HHS gymnasium has become a mecca for success. And moving forward, the only thing that Havre High really wants to do is expand the gym to fit more fans. With the way the gym is structured, this isn’t a possibility at this time, but doing so would bring a lot more events to the Hi-Line. The extra room would allow Havre High to host the Central A basketball tournaments as well as other big basketball tournaments like the Class 1B and 2B.
A total of 1,834 people can be seated in the HHS gymnasium. But in Dennis Murphy’s (former Activities Director, current HHS Principal) time at Havre High, he has witnessed a crowed of nearly 2,100.
It was standing room only as the Pony girls basketball team battled the Browning Indians in a 1997 challenge game. The only parts of the floor that weren’t occupied by fans were the small portions just under each basket. And with almost 400 people still trying to get in after the fire marshal shut the doors to the gym, even the HHS students stood sideways to fit even more students in the student section.
“I was fortunate to be coaching in that game,” Murphy said. “But I also remember in the early 90’s when we were packed into the gym when the boys were playing the Great Falls High Bison. I think we were close to having 2,000 fans again.”
It is no secret that the Havre fans are faithful, but the HHS gymnasium has also brought in fans from all over the state. Havre has hosted numerous 9C basketball tournaments that have had capacity crowds, as well as volleyball and wrestling tournaments that bring in quite a few fans.
But while the fans are faithful, the skills and success of the Havre athletes are what draw in the local fans.
The gym is primarily used for basketball, volleyball and wrestling, but with the harsh Montana spring seasons; tennis, softball and track have also had their fair share of gym usage. And a lot of that time in the gym is what started many successful seasons, including a span of six straight Class A state titles for the boys tennis team. The girls tennis team also won a state titles in 2006 and 2009.
“Our spring sports have always used our gym in preparation for their seasons,” Murphy said. “And there have been many tennis balls hit in that gym.”
The HHS gymnnasium has also spawned state championship seasons in all the major winter and fall sports. All of Havre's girls basketball state champinships were won when girls hoops was still in the fall. HHS also has three volleyball state titles from the 1990's (when volleyball was still a winter sport) and a 1994 state boys basketball championship. Then there's wresting. The Ponies have had quite the wrestlng dynasty over the last two decades and a lot of that began with hard work in the gym. “There have been a lot of state champions that have rolled through those doors and called that gym their home,” Murphy said.
Indeed. The HHS gym has stood for over four decades and its home to the Blue Pony Nation. And all you have to do is look at the banners on the wall to know the gym has been part of a true sports success story.