There’s no place like home, and when you step foot into Indiana University’s Assembly Hall, you will instantly feel like you are, “Back Home Again in Indiana.” Built in 1971, Assembly Hall is an arena that is so entrenched in Indiana Basketball glory that IU starts off every game with a video of the janitor lady singing the IU fight song.
Assembly Hall is one of those places that fans either love or hate, there really isn’t any gray area. Critics of Assembly Hall complain about the upper level balcony being too steep and too far from the court. They also complain that the arena’s time has come and gone, that its structure is getting old, and that its useful life is coming to an end due to its small seating capacity, its lack of revenue generating amenities, and its unique design being too expensive to renovate.
Supporters of Assembly Hall, like me, tend to be in the vast majority. They point out the uniqueness of the arena as a strong point for Indiana Basketball. With its iconic red stripes and championship banners hanging behind the student sections and both goals, IU is a very tough place for an opponent to pick up a win. It’s also a great recruiting tool due to its rich history of championship teams who played in this arena under the direction of IU head coach Robert (Bob) Montgomery Knight. Some supporters have also drawn up plans to renovate the structure.
As for who is right and who is wrong on the future on Assembly Hall, that’s a story whose ending we still don’t know. Several years ago, IU released a master plan for their athletic complexes and then voted to tear down Assembly Hall in favor of a new arena in its southern parking lot when proper funding is obtained.
Although renovating Assembly Hall is cheaper than building a new facility, it apparently wasn’t a big enough difference for IU to consider renovating it. Fortunately, it appears that IU is still a long ways off from coming even close to funding Assembly Hall’s demise making it safe for now.
In the meantime, Assembly Hall stands tall and proud for those who want to take in a piece of Indiana Basketball action. Its walls are decked from corner to corner in photos of legends who have called this place home. Whether you are a diehard fan or not, you can’t help but put this place on top of your sports tour list. As soon as you walk into this nostalgic facility, you will instantly feel the urge to start singing, “Indiana, Our Indiana.”
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The concession stands are located in very tight corridors and from what I could see they had basically the same items that Memorial Stadium had when I visited there last fall. Assembly Hall does have a few name brand food items, but if I had to sum up the food at Assembly Hall I would say that it is what it is; nothing better and nothing worse than the average arena. In the 40 + years of IU Basketball being played at Assembly Hall, I can't think of one person who went to a game for the food or didn't go to the game because they didn't like it.
I will say this for the concession stands in general - Make sure you visit the merchandise stands. The merchandise stand that I visited was a temporary game day stand, but it had everything I've ever wanted of Indiana Basketball. On this visit, I bought a panoramic photo of Assembly Hall. In previous visits, I've been able to buy team schedule posters from IU's championship seasons. Where else will you find something like that?
Anyone who has been to Assembly Hall knows that there are no words that will ever be able to describe the Assembly Hall atmosphere, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to try. As soon as the IU Men's Basketball Team runs onto the court with their candy striped warm-ups, fans of the game of basketball are instantly filled with emotions and memories of IU Basketball eras from the past.
Not only does the candy striped warm-ups with "Indiana" written in cursive on their backs give you the feel of historic and legendary Indiana Basketball, the rest of the arena does as well. As you walk around the arena, you will see IU staff workers decked out in traditional red (crimson) vests and you will also see plaques, trophies, and photos of IU Basketball Hall of Fame inductees inside the southern entrance.
One of the unique things about Indiana Basketball that was established when Bob Knight was coach was the back of the jerseys not having individual names on them. This was done to symbolize that those who put the IU jersey on play for the name on the front of the jersey, not the name on the back. When you walk through the doors, the tunnels, and the hallways of legendary Assembly Hall, that is the kind of basketball community you are surrounded by.
Bloomington and the area immediately around the Memorial Stadium/Assembly Hall complex is a textbook example of a college town. Small restaurants, shops, and offices adorn the streets of Downtown Bloomington and up to the edge of IU's campus. Bloomington is the type of town you could take a vacation to for weeks and weeks and still find unique things to do. With its college town life, Indiana Limestone industry, and heavily wooded surroundings, Bloomington epitomizes everything that makes Southern Indiana unique and great.
Moving forward, the only thing that I can see IU address about the neighborhoods, as they work on their master plan, is the fact that both IU and Bloomington currently have a small buffer zone that I would like to see eliminated. Don't misunderstand what I'm saying, both Memorial Stadium and Assembly Hall need parking spaces and tailgate lots. And maybe it's just the sports facility planner in me but when I look at what Bloomington, IU, and Assembly Hall stand for, I can't help but think that IU needs to incorporate a sports village into their sports complex.
Assembly Hall isn't just an arena, a building, or even a set of walls like sports facilities are in other cities. Rather, Assembly Hall is a way of life. Many generations of IU fans and players have spent their entire life centered around center court in Assembly Hall. When I think of what Assembly Hall and the surrounding sports complex could do for the future of IU and Bloomington, I think of retail, hotels, condos, lofts, and museums all built around Assembly Hall.
Official capacity for Assembly Hall is listed at 17,472, but the noise, the spirit, and the enthusiasm of the crowd makes it feel like teams are playing in crowds greater than those found in your largest college football stadiums. The mental toll that the noise from Assembly Hall has taken on visiting teams over the years has been astounding.
When you factor in the dedication of the diehard IU fans with the design of Assembly Hall which is unique, intimate, and wrapped tightly around the court, there really isn't a place for all of that noise to go other than onto the court where hitting the game winning shot against Indiana may seem to be insurmountable.
The saying in the state of Indiana has always been the following: "In 49 states it's just basketball but this is Indiana." If you don't believe that, take a visit to Assembly Hall, sit next to any IU fan in any section, and then come back and tell me if you still don't believe that.
When you talk about "Access" to almost any other sports facility on this site, it's usually not a big deal. The facility either has it or it doesn't. In Southern Indiana, access to Assembly Hall and Bloomington in general has been a hotly debated issue since the Interstate Highway System came on board in the 40's.
On one side of the argument are those in the Evansville and Washington areas who complain that taking state back roads to Bloomington is dangerous and insufficient. They proposed constructing a new interstate, named I-69, which would come very close to the northwest corner of Assembly Hall. On the other side are people like me, the city of Bloomington, and almost all cities north of Bloomington including Indianapolis who say this interstate is too expensive, will destroy the heavily forested region, and/or could be achieved by simply upgrading State Road 231 or taking US 41 and I-70 instead.
As of right now, the situation boils down to this: I-69 from Evansville to Crane has already been constructed and is already open. If you take this route to Bloomington it is extremely important that you get gas before you get on it because I counted zero gas stations on my way up and this route is close to 100 miles long.
Once I-69 terminates just outside of Crane Naval Base, you must get on small county roads like State Roads 45 & 54. For native Hoosiers, this isn't too difficult, but if you're from out of state make sure you bring a map as yet another part of I-69 is under construction, and when it opens it will alter your route once more.
Once you get past the I-69 headache, parking at Assembly Hall comes down to one thing: Do you want to pay to park or walk for free? For those who don't mind paying to park, I believe there are a few lots around Assembly Hall where the general public can pay. With that being said, most lots around Assembly Hall are for season ticket holders who have passes so you might want to get there early if you plan on paying to park.
If you don't want to pay to park, my advice is that you park on one of the side roads just south of Assembly Hall. Yes, you will walk a considerable distance during the freezing winter, but it can be done and it's free!
When going to an Indiana Basketball game at Assembly Hall, the question is not whether you should go, rather it is if you can go. As I said earlier, Assembly Hall has a small capacity (by IU and Big Ten standards) with a devout base of season ticket holders. If you want to go to Assembly Hall, you better be willing to purchase tickets early or be willing to pay a fine penny. Although some tickets may not be cheap, I guarantee you they are worth it. Assembly Hall is a must for any basketball fan from any part of the country.
I understand that the Big Ten has basketball tradition rich schools like Michigan, Purdue, and Michigan State, and I would certainly pay them a visit if I were in their areas. However, there is no place in the Big Ten like Assembly Hall. You don't have to be a fan of Indiana Basketball to understand that either. The red and white stripes and banners on the wall can be found at no other place on earth than Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Indiana.
I give one point to Indiana University for keeping Assembly Hall well maintained all of these years. I know my opinion and a dollar will buy you a coke but I really hope that IU reconsiders their plan to tear down this arena that will never ever be replicated or duplicated again. IU has done a magnificent job maintaining and marketing this arena, now they need to preserve it.
I give one point to the fans of Assembly Hall. One of the greatest things about going to arenas with elite basketball teams is the noise from their fans. Having grown up on the border of Indiana, Kentucky, Louisville, and Purdue fan base territories, I value facilities that are the best of the best in college basketball. With the crimson crazies making noise that has nowhere to go but onto the court, I certainly felt the magic of the game of basketball at Assembly Hall.
One extra point for the 5 National Championship banners that hang at Assembly Hall, adding to the mystique. The pep band is also outstanding.
When Assembly Hall opened on the campus of Indiana University in 1971, there were two National Championship banners hanging from the rafters. Since that time, 3 more have been added during the Bob Knight era. The mere presence of 5 National Championship banners makes Assembly Hall a must see for college basketball travelers.
When you come to Assembly Hall, you see what college basketball is all about. IU gives over 6,000 tickets to the students. To say that the students and fans support IU basketball is an understatement. Assembly Hall has been sold out for years. There is a waiting list to buy season tickets.
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