Go Aztecs banner with Peterson Gym photo

Ode to Peterson Gym

Athletics championships, historic concerts and just hanging out — the venue is the scene of memories for many alumni.

By Lisa Haney and Emily Wenk

March 11, 2022

Opened in 1961 and named after the great C.E. Peterson, who had an impactful 37-year tenure as SDSU athletic director, coach and alumni executive secretary, Peterson Gym is now the beloved home of SDSU women’s volleyball. It’s also the former home of men’s and women’s basketball — and of men’s volleyball. In 1973, that team won an NCAA championship, with many of the tournament games played in the gym.

In the ’60s and ’70s, Peterson also played host to some of the most important concerts in university history, notably: Ella Fitzgerald in 1961 and Buffalo Springfield, the first big name rock show, in 1968. Bob Dylan, Ray Charles and Joan Baez all played there too.

As did countless students who snuck in throughout past decades for pick-up basketball games or just to hang out. “People would sneak in all the time,” says Mark Warner, who coached Aztec volleyball for 27 years. After daytime PE classes, students would stick cardboard in the door, so that it wouldn’t lock, he says. That trick no longer works but the memories remain.

Coach Warner played in Peterson too — as a volleyball player for San Diego State and, before that, as a Crawford High School basketball player at a tournament in 1965. “Man, we thought we were at the Taj Mahal,” he says, noting how rare glass backboards were at the time. That was one of his favorite wins in Peterson. The other was in 1995 when women’s volleyball upset Long Beach State to go to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. “That was a special time,” he says.

Joan Baez plays Peterson Gym.
Joan Baez performs at Peterson Gym on Feb. 29, 1964.