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Official Review by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Frankfort, Indiana is a small town of 18,000 residents located roughly 50 miles northwest of Indianapolis. Like most small towns in Indiana, Frankfort has a downtown square complete with a town hall and a passion for the game of basketball. The history of the game in Frankfort can be traced back to the earliest part of the 20th century, and like so many other communities in the state a magnificent arena was constructed to house the hysteria that is on display in the Hoosier state during the fall and winter months of basketball season.
Everett N. Case Arena is the 23rd largest high school gymnasium in the world. Known throughout the state of Indiana for its architectural design and dome roof, there is not a bad view from any of the 5,000 plus seats in the home of the Frankfort High School Hot Dogs, a rather curious, but definitely fun team nickname.
Opened in November of 1963, the arena was built to attract the regional tournament back to town after a neighboring high school built a larger arena a few years earlier. Frankfort built a luxurious gymnasium that would rival no other in the state. It was named in honor of Everett Case who coached the men’s basketball team for 17-seasons between 1922-1942 compiling a record of 385-99-1. Case won 14 Regional Tournaments and four state championships (1925, 1929, 1936, and 1939). The legendary coach put Frankfort on the national map with innovations to the game that include the 10-second rule, cutting down of nets after tournament wins, playing of music before games, inviting the pep band to play at games, placing numbers on players jerseys, and introducing the time clock.
Case would leave Frankfort in 1942 and coach North Carolina State for the next 18 seasons. Case would bring his fevered passion of basketball from Indiana and inject into North Carolina by leading the Wolfpack to 10 conference championships and one Final Four appearance in 1950. Case also become a legend in North Carolina and is regarded as the Father of the ACC.
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Surprisingly, concession choices are not that much different than some of the major Indiana universities. The food is inexpensive, all items are $1.50-$2, and are served efficiently in the main lobby. Hot dogs are topped with chili or cheese for no additional charge, and nachos, pretzels, candy, and cookies round out the munchies at the arena. Pepsi products are served in 20 ounce bottles and cost $2.
It is a spectacle walking into one of the larger gymnasiums in the state of Indiana, and Case Arena does not disappoint. The facility could easily serve as a college facility or home to minor league basketball. The highlights include the main lobby, wooden seats, and the banners that hang in the rafters above the court.
The arena is separated into two sections. The court is on the ground floor with the lobby entrance that houses the concession stand, trophy case, and entrance to the auxiliary gym. The accolades on display in the lobby include the school's four state championship plaques that are elegantly designed, commemorative plaques dedicated to Case, and various other trophies and photographs from years gone by. The original center court is on display as a mural near the staircases to the second level; it served as the floor until 1991.
The second level features the original wooden grandstand at both ends of the court, while in the middle, there are modern blue plastic and aluminum bleachers. The wooden seats display two sets of numbers, one for regular season games and the other for tournament games. There are various banners that hang commemorating past high school glory, including the four state titles. The names of the schools that compete within the Sagamore Conference are painted on the walls in school colors and a centered, standard electric scoreboard with the school's iconic Hot Dog logo is in view.
It should be noted that Hollywood once ventured to the arena to shoot Blue Chips starring Nick Nolte and Shaquille O'Neal during the summer of 1993. Sadly, there is not one iota of evidence on display that would remind or teach someone that a motion picture had been filmed here more than 20 years ago. Unlike Bosse Field down the road in Evansville that still displays 1940's era ads from the film A League of their Own, there are no longer banners, photos, or any visuals from Blue Chips on display inside Case Arena.
Various national chain restaurants are within walking distance of the arena; they have become the popular meeting grounds for after game chatter by students and fans. These establishments include Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald's, Wendy's, and the local place to congregate after the game, Applebee's. A little less than a mile down the road is the town square featuring more places to enjoy a meal or a drink after the game. Main Street Pub, Arni's, and Pepe's Mexican restaurant are three nice choices set in a small town America atmosphere. Hoops Sports Bar is yet another local establishment worth visiting if you have some time after the game.
There are many fans during the game who remind visitors what a basketball game used to be like not so long ago. You would be squashed against your fellow Frankfort supporter as you rooted and cheered for the home team to win. With the exception of local rivals and regionals, the crowds are not as frenzied during the regular season as they once were at the arena. Some blame it on the introduction of class basketball to the state after the 1997 season. The state now divides schools into separate classes based on population size leaving many smaller schools that were once historical rivals off the Frankfort High School basketball schedule.
The arena is located on the grounds of the high school and offers free parking to all visitors during home games. The location of the school is on the main drag in town near many of the retail and chain restaurants. It is not hard to find, since the arena stands out predominantly for the passersby. The two levels of the concourse wrap around the building, allowing fans easy access to their seats, concessions, and restrooms. It should be noted that the two seating sections cannot be accessed unless you exit and use the staircase in the main lobby.
All tickets to Frankfort High School basketball games are only $5. The parking is also free outside of the gymnasium, making this a highly affordable night with family and friends watching great basketball in a fabulous our arena. The concessions are also inexpensive and can satisfy little ones who are in attendance craving a little sustenance.
One extra point for the impressive hardware that is on display in the trophy cases and the banners that hang from the rafters. The school's championship plaques are elegantly handcrafted and are worth studying for aesthetics. There is plenty of memorabilia to keep you busy while at the arena.
Another extra point for the friendly conversations that can be had during a visit to the game. Frankfort High School staff and parents can fill you in on many memories that have been created underneath the dome roof.
A third extra point for playing a prominent role as the home arena in the movie Blue Chips. During the summer of 1993 the arena was transformed into the "Dolphin Dome" named after the fictitious Western University Dolphins. There were 5,000 extras who packed the building during the four-game shoot. Up until recently, there was memorabilia and a "Let's Go Dolphins" banner hanging on the wall.
One final extra point for the overall design of the arena. The domed ceiling provides an ideal canvas to allow visitors unobstructed views from almost anywhere in the gymnasium. Case Arena feels more like a college basketball arena than a high school gymnasium.
Case Arena would be the largest high school gymnasium in all but four states in the country. There are 18 larger gyms in Indiana and each of them have their own sense of pride and nostalgia. In Frankfort, the arena has the historical significance of being named after Everett Case, who helped put the school and later NC State basketball on the map. His efforts would result in enshrinement into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.
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