Indiana is home to the country’s largest high school gyms — at one point 12 of the nation’s 13 largest were here. Everyone has a favorite. We asked preps reporters from Gannett’s Indiana newspapers for their picks and why.
Kyle Neddenriep, IndyStar
Oof. I love and hate this question — too many great choices. My go-to pick is Southport Fieldhouse. I have probably covered as many games there as any venue since I have been working at IndyStar and I love that it feels both modern and old-school (it was built in 1957). With a capacity of 7,124, it can host big events like the regional, Marion County tournament semifinals and championship and this year, for the first time, the Indiana All-Stars. Like any venue, it is best when it is filled with fans like it was in February of 2015 when Southport defeated No. 1 and previously-undefeated Evansville Reitz. But even when it is not filled, it is a great place to watch a game. Also, high honorable mention to these three: Tech, the Hatchet House in Washington and New Castle Fieldhouse. Tech was built in 1929, but renovations make it feel much more modern. The Hatchet House and New Castle Fieldhouse are immaculate huge venues for big games. Carmel is underrated, especially for a big sectional game. I could go on … and on …
Sam King, Lafayette Journal & Courier
In a state spoiled with unique high school basketball venues, Case Arena in Frankfort offers something that sets it apart from others. Call me biased. After all, I am a Frankfort graduate. But the dome-shaped arena gives a much different backdrop than most gyms. Plenty of shooters will tell you how tough of a place it is to play because the depth behind the goal is so different than other high school gymnasiums. When packed, the noise level is deafening. Case Arena has hosted several big tournament games and was home to the fictional Western University Dolphins for the filming of “Blue Chips.” Strike my vote due to biases and I’d likely choose Bill Green Arena in Marion based on the preserved history that is welcoming when roaming the halls to the seats on the lower concourse.
Robby General, Muncie Star Press
Muncie Fieldhouse. (And I’m not just saying that because I live in Muncie and might be run out of town if I didn’t select it). I’ve had the pleasure of visiting a handful of the biggest and most historic gyms in Indiana — the North Side gym in Elkhart, Lafayette Jeff’s Crawley Center, New Castle’s Fieldhouse, Richmond’s Tiernan Center, Washington’s Hatchet House and more — but there’s just something about what the Muncie Fieldhouse means to the community. Inconspicuous from the outside, I could almost feel the history when I first visited the North Walnut Street Fieldhouse as a college student at Ball State. Seeing its transformation after the tornado tore through the roof in 2017, listening to the stories from current and former players, coaches and fans and feeling the atmosphere during the 2020 sectional championship — when Central lost to New Palestine 54-53 — the home of the eight-time state champion Bearcats is No. 1 on my list. My only wish is that I can travel back in time to see the last rivalry game between Muncie South and Muncie Central in 2014 or any number of the legendary games between Central, Northside and Southside.
Kyle Sokeland, Evansville Courier & Press
For me, it’s always the bigger the better. And very few can rival the Hatchet House in Washington.
The official capacity is north of 7,000. And when it gets full, notably for a postseason game … that hits the spot. The way the seats rise up from the floor. The bowl-shape design for the main seating. The sound seems to hit different. And the basketball in the area makes for some great regular season games too with Washington, Barr-Reeve, North Daviess and Loogootee all within 20 miles of each other.
Other gyms have a personal connection (Bedford, Seymour) with me, carry similar tradition (Loogootee) or are objectively pleasing to look at (Jasper). But I now contend the Hatchet House has the best of all worlds. It’s a stop I look forward to every season.
Hendrix Magley, Evansville Courier & Press
If you’re looking for a throwback vibe, Huntingburg Memorial Gymnasium is your place. This classic sunken gym has a welcoming aura of Hoosier basketball with an old-school feel. Historic photos of former legends and thrilling games line the walls, making you feel like you’ve entered a time machine back to some of those legendary moments.
Some of the best games to attend in Memorial Gym are the county rivalry contests. When Southridge faces either Jasper, Forest Park or Northeast Dubois the arena is packed full. It’s a flashback to memories of the single-class days when all four county teams were in the same sectional. The one that took place on the same hardwood.
Still today, the sectional that’s held at Memorial Gym is one of the best atmospheres you’ll find in Southern Indiana. Maybe the whole state. The soundtrack from “Hoosiers” blasting over the speakers. John Kendall singing “Back Home Again in Indiana” prior to tip-off. Doesn’t get much better than that.