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Indiana's Basketball Cathedral
|Former names||Butler Fieldhouse (1928–1966)|
|Location||510 West 49th Street|
Indianapolis, IN 46208, USA
National Historic Landmark Plaque
|Architect||Cannon, Fermor S.|
|NRHP reference #||83003573|
|Added to NRHP||December 22, 1983|
|Designated NHL||February 27, 1987|
|Opened||March 7, 1928|
($10.9 million in 2018 dollars)
|Architect||Fermor Spencer Cannon|
|Butler Bulldogs (Big East) (1928–present)|
Indianapolis Jets (BAA) (1948–1949)
Indianapolis Olympians (NBA) (1949–1953)
1987 Pan-American Games
Hinkle Fieldhouse is a basketball arena located on the campus of Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana, United States. When built in 1928, it was the largest basketball arena in the United States, a distinction it retained until 1950. It is the sixth-oldest college basketball arena still in use, and it is a U.S. National Historic Landmark. It is among the earliest of the major college fieldhouses, which, along with rules changes that made for a faster game, transformed college basketball in the late 1920s and 1930s.
Hinkle Fieldhouse is nicknamed "Indiana's Basketball Cathedral" due to the rich history it has played in the development of basketball in Indiana, also to distinguish it from The Palestra, known as "The Cathedral of College Basketball."
Hinkle Fieldhouse and the 36,000-seat Butler Bowl football stadium were two of the first buildings erected when the university moved to the Fairview campus. The facilities were promoted by a corporation of 41 Indianapolis businessmen who viewed it as a prize for the city as well as for Butler. When Butler signed a lease with the Indiana High School Athletic Association to host the high school state tournament, the corporation agreed to finance the building at a cost of $1,000,000.
In 1933, the interior was reconfigured, moving the court from an east–west orientation to a north–south position. In the initial arrangement, over half of the seats were at the ends of the court, while event viewing is typically better from the sides. Butler hosted the high school tourney from 1928 to 1971, except for 1943–1945, when the building housed the US Army Air Forces and US Navy as a barracks during World War II.
Hinkle Fieldhouse hosted the annual state high school basketball championship games, including the Milan Miracle, the memorable 1954 victory of tiny Milan High School over the much larger Muncie Central High School. The film Hoosiers is loosely based on that event and used Hinkle Fieldhouse and the memorable voices of original announcers Hilliard Gates and Tom Carnegie in filming the climactic game of the popular movie. Ralph Underwood was the radio announcer. With the exception of an occasional high school showcase, high school basketball games are rarely contested at Hinkle Fieldhouse any more, and Indiana High School Athletic Association state basketball tournament games are played elsewhere.
A major $1.5 million facelift in 1989 reduced the seating capacity from 15,000 to 11,043, as well as renovating the main reception area, basketball offices, film rooms and team locker rooms. The other athletic and physical education offices, sports locker rooms, and fitness facilities at the fieldhouse were renovated as well in 1992. Hinkle Fieldhouse hosted the entire 1994 Horizon League men's basketball conference tournament as well as parts of the 2004, 2008, 2009, and 2010 Horizon League tournaments.
The fieldhouse was originally called Butler Fieldhouse, but was renamed in 1966 to honor Paul D. "Tony" Hinkle (1899–1992), who was basketball coach at Butler for 41 seasons ending in 1970. In 1983, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and on February 27, 1987, it was designated as a National Historic Landmark in recognition of its role in transforming college basketball. It also inspired the design of Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
In 2006, to celebrate Butler University's 150th anniversary, a documentary about Hinkle Fieldhouse aired on ESPN entitled Indiana's Basketball Cathedral.
In 2011, Butler University began the first phase of a renovation and restoration project. Capacity has been cut from 10,000 to 9,100. The gym that once held bleachers now has about 4,500 chair back seats and handrails line the aisles. That includes nearly all of the lower two levels except for some bleachers reserved for student seating. Small scoreboards occupy each of the four corners in addition to the main video board above midcourt.
A pool was attached to the west end of Hinkle, but the university closed it in 2002 due to the high maintenance costs. The athletic department had been using it since then as a storage area. During the renovation, the pool was converted into a three-level facility that includes a workout room on the first level, an academic center and a training facility on the second floor that is six times larger than the previous training facility, and Butler's athletic administrative offices and coaches' offices on the top level.
The men's and women's basketball offices are adjacent to their respective locker rooms just off the Hinkle floor, but they have been upgraded. The men's basketball locker room has been expanded and Butler has a separate video room for the first time. Former Butler standout and current Boston Celtics player Gordon Hayward donated the funds for the renovation.
"The scoreboards on the side are new, but it still has a historic feel," Butler senior guard Alex Barlow said. "It still has a lot of modern upgrades that fans like to see. If you see the locker room and the weight room and the training room, it's come a long way since I've gotten here."
The Bulldogs still play on the original floor, which has been used longer than any playing surface in Division I.
The Fieldhouse has hosted to U.S. presidents (Herbert Hoover, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton), Evangelist Billy Graham, ice shows, professional basketball teams, Olympic basketball trials, the first USSR-USA basketball game, all-star basketball games for the NBA, ABA and the East-West College All-Stars, national indoor track events, tennis matches of both Bill Tilden and Jack Kramer, national equestrian events, the roller derby, a six-day bicycle race, a three ring circus, as well as the volleyball matches during the 1987 Pan American Games. The 1940 NCAA Basketball Tournament East Regionals were held there, won by the eventual national champion Indiana Hoosiers. Until 1978, those games were the only NCAA tournament games held within the city. With 15,000 spectators, the volleyball match was the highest-attended volleyball match ever held in the United States.
- National Park Service (2006-03-15). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
- "Butler Fieldhouse". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Archived from the original on 2009-01-14. Retrieved 2008-10-18.
- Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Community Development Project. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved January 2, 2019.
- James H. Charleton (October 1985). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Butler Fieldhouse / Hinkle Fieldhouse". National Park Service. and Accompanying photo, exterior, undated
- Branch, John. "It's the Bricks That Make Butler Basketball Special," The New York Times, Wednesday, March 17, 2010.
- Rabjohns, Jeff (November 6, 2009). "Conseco Fieldhouse an Indiana Shrine By Design". The Indianapolis Star. p. A1. (Subscription required (help)).
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