To encourage the development of the Physical Education and Athletic Departments the University of Tennessee began construction on the Physical Education Building in late 1929. When the building opened its doors in 1930 it was considered to be the most modern facility of its type in the state. For thirty-three years the gym served as the offices, classrooms and gymnasium for the junior college's Physical Education Department. It also hosted the basketball games, student dances, annual Carnicus events, and commencements. During World War II the gym was the center for physical conditioning during 1943-44, when a branch of the Navy's V-5 flight training program operated on campus. During this time it was temporarily renamed the Tennessee Barracks.
When the new Physical Education and Convocation Center opened in the summer of 1963, the structure became the Women's Physical Education Building. When those programs moved to the new Elam Center, the aging facility became the offices and gymnasium for varsity-level athletic programs and was the home of the University football program.