Hinkle Fieldhouse would be an impressive facility on any campus across the nation. Nestled into the tight confines of city neighborhoods in Indianapolis, it is even more luminary. The 11,043 seat arena is regarded to many as “Indiana’s Basketball Cathedral” and in 1928, was one of the first major college field houses. There has been a lot that has changed with basketball venues in 85 years of construction, but there have not been too many changes with Hinkle Fieldhouse.
The arena debut in March of 1928 as Butler Fieldhouse and was the largest basketball arena in the country until 1950. It was renamed Hinkle Fieldhouse in 1966 after legendary coach Tony Hinkle who coached basketball, baseball and football between 1926-1970. Its history goes beyond the university basketball program; it has been home to the Indianapolis Jets (BAA) and Olympians (NBA), Indiana Legends (ABA) and was the site for the annual state basketball championships and was featured in the classic movie “Hoosiers” in 1986.
Inside the arena, there is a wealth of information that will both educate and entertain visitors. You will see early designs of the buildings, game day programs, ancient basketballs, and other memorabilia. It is a building that is worth a look regardless if a basketball game is taking place. However, watching a Butler game is definitely worth the price of admission.
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There is plenty of food available inside the Butler Fieldhouse that includes Penn Station and Chick-fil-A sandwiches, along with the usual array of stadium cuisine. The food is all served on either the main ground level concourse or the upper level corners of the field house. In some areas of the building, there is roughly 12 feet of space that creates long lines and narrow room to wait. It is not uncommon to miss a few minutes of the 2nd half of the game waiting patiently for a pretzel, hot dog or soda pop. As with the access to the stadium everything runs orderly and smoothly.
The Bulldogs recent success as a national powerhouse and two Final Four appearances have created a surge in popularity with the school. Along with the move from the Horizon League to the Atlantic 10, and ultimately into the Big East, fans are able to witness high caliber basketball universities like Villanova, Georgetown, Marquette and many others at home on a regular basis.
There is not a bad seat in the house and a majority of the best seats are on top of the action that includes a porch on both ends of the playing court.
There is a lot to take in at a game at Hinkle Fieldhouse that includes a multitude of banners from both men's and women's programs, hand painted directions to seats and restrooms, beautiful brick interiors, ramps, narrow railings, the pep band, and perfect acoustics created by the arched hanger design. They do not build them like this anymore and it is great to see the old lady still smiling proud after more than 86-years of service.
There is a lot of history crammed into the arena that is on display on the main concourse and features a quite interesting interactive exhibit that shows highlights of legendary coach Tony Hinkle, the building of the arena and memorabilia that includes trophies and basketballs. You may want to break away from the basketball action and take a walk around to soak up some of the nostalgia. There is definitely a lot here and the arena would be a treat even without an event taking place.
Butler Blue III is the official mascot of the university and he can be seen being walked on a leash around the arena during the game. Hink the Bulldog is the man made mascot who parades around the court during contests and helps wave flags along with the cheerleaders during timeouts and breaks in the action.
It is an old-time atmosphere, and a nod to basketball past. It is also a great place to watch a game and an atmosphere that defines the meaning of Indiana basketball. The upper level seats are wood bleacher varieties, but there is enough room to keep you comfortable during the game. The lower section features chairback seating that creates a little more comfort for the fans. However, there is truly not a bad seat in the venue.
The campus is located within walking distance of Broadripple which is a great place to dine during the evening hours and party at night with the younger crowd. Stay along 54th and College Avenue of SOBRO (South Broadripple) and you will find a few great places that you will enjoy.
Twenty Tap offers distinctly different craft beers that are unavailable throughout the city and offers eclectic menu options like vegetarian banh mi sandwiches, fried cheese curds, and recently added poutine.
Next door is Fat Dan's which specializes in Chicago style foods of hot dogs, Maxwell Street Polishes and Italian beef. His smoked chicken wings are great to smell and even better to eat.
Further down the road is Mama Carolla's and Taste, two local establishments that are often busy, and never a disappointment. If you want a drink or typical bar food, Moe & Johnny's is the traditional Butler hangout any time of the week.
The fans are rowdy, loud and boisterous during the games. The noise can be heard blocks away from the building. The program has been extremely successful for the past decade and with two Final Four appearances, it is easy to understand the excitement. Then again, these fans are loyal regardless of how the team is performing on the court. Many alumni young and old stay in the city after college and continue to spend their seasons watching basketball at the Hinkle Fieldhouse. Even if you are not a fan of the Bulldogs or the opposing team, the fans are respectful.
There is a small lot adjacent to the arena for season ticket holders and there are lots throughout campus, however, these are not necessarily places for visitors to park. Your best bet is arriving early and finding a spot on the street for free. There are enterprising homeowners who may charge a small fee of $10 to park on their lawn and sometimes the narrow streets can become congested with cars looking for an opportune space. It may also be fun to walk the streets with both students and alumni on your way to the fieldhouse. It is orderly and functional.
There are different price points for games that can range from $12 for upper level seats to $47 for low level seats. This is not surprising, since many other athletic and professionals began this price point a few years ago. The arrival of the team into the Big East in 2013 affords the patron to witness games against juggernauts from the east like Georgetown and Villanova instead of Cleveland State, Wright State and Green Bay. Sexier teams mean higher prices for tickets, but this venue is still well worth the price of admission.
Hinkle Fieldhouse is a great looking venue that is even better when it is packed during a basketball game. It is impressive how easily the crowd and traffic disperses before and after the game. If you get the chance, walk around the campus and visit some of the historic buildings, gardens and canal walk. The campus is small and the grounds are kept in beautiful condition.
A final extra point is awarded for the tie-in that this arena has with the movie Hoosiers. The film is undoubtedly one of the best sports movies of all times, and it is highly recommended to watch it the night before you make your first trip to Hinkle Fieldhouse.
When Hinkle Fieldhouse (then known as Butler Fieldhouse) opened in 1928, it was the largest basketball arena ever built. With a capacity of just over 11,000 it seems cozy by today's standards.
It doesn't get much better than basketball in the state of Indiana, and a trip to Hinkle may be the best way to experience that tradition.
In 1928, the Butler Bulldogs defeated Notre Dame 21-13. At first glance, you might think that Butler had a darn good football team that year. However, this instead was the score in the first basketball game played in Hinkle Fieldhouse. Today, Butler’s basketball (and volleyball) teams are still playing at Hinkle. At the time it was built, Hinkle Fieldhouse (then known as Butler Fieldhouse) was the largest basketball arena ever built. Today, with a capacity of just over 11,000 it would be described as “intimate” for many major programs.
The thing is Butler isn’t really a “major” program. Moving for the 2012-2013 season from the Horizon League to the Atlantic 10 was a major step for this “mid-major” basketball program. Recent rumors of a move to a realigned Big East continue to add prestige to the program. However, after appearances in the title game in 2010 and 2011, Butler swiftly became a national power, and the darling of college basketball.
Originally known as Butler Fieldhouse, the facility was renamed in 1966 to honor Paul “Tony” Hinkle, who coached the Butler basketball, football, and baseball teams over a career that spanned from 1926-1970.
A game today at Hinkle Fieldhouse remains as a time machine into an earlier era. Even the modern amenities like the center hung scoreboard and corner scoreboards with individual player information are a bit outdated by today’s standards. But that’s exactly why Butler basketball is such a beautiful thing to see live, and an absolute must pilgrimage for college basketball junkies and arena travelers. Currently, Hinkle Fieldhouse is the 6th oldest college basketball arena still in use (Fordham’s Rose Hill Gym is the oldest).
Basketball in the state of Indiana is always special, but there is no better venue in the Hoosier state than Hinkle Fieldhouse on the campus of Butler University.
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