Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

What’s in a name: Harry L. Crisp Court


It’s December 1, 1964, the roar of the crowd echos through the Banterra Center as you hear the swish of the net after the first point of the game is scored with a free throw by George McNeil. The buzz of the time clock chimes down on Harry L. Crisp Sr. Court.

It’s the first game for the Salukis Men’s Basketball team in the new complex, where they would go on to beat Oklahoma State 78-55.

Since those early days, the court has hosted hundreds of basketball games, free tuition raffles and hundreds of other events.


Opened after two years of construction, the court was home to the class of 1964’s graduation commencement.

The court was funded by the founder of Pepsi Mid-America, Harry L. Crisp Sr. He was born in Aiken, Illinois, about a six-hour drive from Carbondale. He graduated from Benton High School and attended Southern Illinois University.

From a young age, he was an avid businessman, starting his career in his father’s general store back in Aiken and then starting his own poultry and hatchery’s business in 1926, located in Marion, Illinois. He and his wife ran the hatchery until 1935, when he worked his way into the soft drink bottling business with Pepsi Mid America.

“We started out in 1936 with Pepsi Cola… we’ve added flavors and Dr Pepper, and in one territory we have 7up,” Crisp Sr said.

By 1970, Crisp Sr.’s firm had control of Pepsi Cola franchises in five different states, along with a few other soft drink franchises.

“We operate only in Illinois in 23 counties. We’ve added many more in Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas,” Crisp Sr. said.

Having 41 different competitors in the Pepsi Mid America territory, Crisp used his skills to grow his business to make it the company that many people know and love today.


“We could see that we had a good future in the beverage business, but we didn’t dream that we would get up to four & five million cases which we do this year,” Crips Sr. said.

He was nominated for Marion’s Man of the Year in 1970; while he didn’t win the title, he was still thought very highly of in his community and his nomination showed that.

Serving 20 years on Marion’s City Council and holding the position of mayor for 12 years, Crisp was the first mayor to ever be elected to three consecutive terms.

In his time in these positions, Crisp assisted in campaigns to better the community and was a member of numerous organizations.

Crisp Sr. was honored as the “Top Banana” in 1974 at the international banana festival in Fulton, Kentucky. This demonstrated how communities that he was a part of thought of him and his activities with his businesses by recognizing him outside of the soft drink bottle in community.

During his time in politics in Southern Illinois, Crisp Sr. helped to promote the standing of Marion. He helped with campaigns that helped with the establishment of the Veterans Hospital and Marion memorial Hospital and the U.S. federal penitentiary.

Crisp Sr. was an active member of the Rotary Club and Elks Lodge No. 800, as well as the Williamson County Fair Board. He was even presented the Masonic 50 year pin by the Thompsonville Masonic Lodge.

Crisp died suddenly in his Marion home on November 30, 1975, leaving his children and wife in charge of his estate.

He was thought of as a hard working, self built, reliable person in the Southern Illinois community for the many years that he was a part of it.

Thanks to his donation, Southern Illinois University was able to start construction for Harry L. Crisp Sr. Court in 1962, and later open it in 1964.

Later in 2010, the basketball court went through a $30 million renovation, which was also sponsored by the Crisp family. This renovation consisted of new seating throughout all levels of the arena, new forms of accessibility to meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, new and improved concessions and a new scoreboard.

Not only is the court sponsored by the founder of Pepsi Mid America, all of the facilities around Southern Illinois University campus serve Pepsi products, because of the loyalty the community has to the Crisp family.

After Harry L. Crisp Sr.’s passing, the Pepsi Mid America was handed down to the chairman and CEO of the company, Crisp Sr.’s son, Harry L. Crisp Jr.

Thanks to years of working in the business with his father, Crisp Jr. was able to keep up the standards and relations of the company.

Crips Jr. was very much involved in his community, much like his father. Being in a leadership position in local, state and national organizations, Crisp Jr. followed closely in his fathers footsteps being named Marion’s Man of the Year in 1982.

Supporters say Crisp Jr. has upheld his reputation, maintained quality relationships, and given the community a reason to trust him, like they did his father for so long.

Crisp Jr. and his wife, Rosemary Berkel Crisp started a foundation in 1994 shortly after taking over Pepsi Mid-America. In the last two years, this foundation has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Bethel University, the Boys and Girls Club of Southern Illinois and St. Thomas More Church.

The court in Crisp Sr.’s name has become one of the best home court environments in the nation, hosting seven undefeated men’s basketball seasons. It was the first MVC court to host ESPN College Game Day, and has also welcomed some of the biggest names in music.


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