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Official Review by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
When you think of watching a basketball game in Lafayette, Indiana, you assume it would be Purdue University. However, there is another prominent venue in town that is home to local basketball action-Marion Crawley Athletic Center.
The Crawley Center is the home to the Jefferson High School Bronchos basketball program. The 7,200 seat venue was built in 1969 and is currently the 9th largest high school gymnasium in the world.
Located in the “Cradle of Basketball” of the state due to the first 8 schools to win state championships were from a three-county, 30 mile radius. Lafayette Jefferson captured its first championship in 1916, but it wouldn’t be until a man name Marion Crawley came to town who returned the school back to its winning ways.
Crawley served as the coach of the basketball team for 24 years (1942-1966). He brought a strong man-to-man defense and ball-control to a Bronchos squad that had been a fast-breaking team with minimal success in tournament play.
Within five years of his hire, he guided the school to its first state championship, while adding another one in 1964. In addition, the Bronchos won 24 straight sectional games and posted a lifetime record of 458-146 and tourney record of 138-22 under Crawley.
Today, the massive venue hosts regular season high school games for both men and women, along with regionals and semi-state games during tournament time. Crowds for tournament games can swell near capacity, making the MCAC an ideal venue to watch exciting basketball.
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There are two main concession stands located inside the building. One is in the corner near the entrance and the other stands above the south end of the arena on the second level. The food here is typical of other high school gymnasiums: nachos, popcorn, hot dogs, chips, and candy. The lines do get long for highly attended events and during halftime, but the crew makes sure to expedite orders in an orderly manner.
The food here is to enjoy as a snack and sometimes the taste of a boiled hot dog in a soft steamed bun and nachos dipped into hot process cheese might bring back a few pleasant memories of years past. The prices are affordable, but grab something either after or before somewhere in the fabulous mix of chain or ethnic restaurants in town.
Lafayette Jeff's gym is large enough that it is able to host regional and semi-state games during tourney time in Indiana. When you are able to attract a large abundance of fans from two visiting schools to one building, the atmosphere is going to be amped up quite a bit higher than expected.
There is also a lot of history from Lafayette Jefferson's past including historic photos of team championships in the staircases, trophies on display near the entrance, and the old school gym that hangs proudly in the outer hallway. The school's championship banners are clearly visible above the south end of the gym above the concession stand.
The facility is large and fills in nicely with fans from rival and tournament games producing levels of noise that is louder than an exploding volcano. It is an exciting place to watch passionate fan bases painted in school colors, student sections that near the hundreds, and the winning side bursting upon the floor after a tournament victory.
West Lafayette is the home of Purdue University two miles away from the school. The Chauncey Village neighborhood features quite a bit of funky little shops and restaurants. Von's Shops offers an impressive array of new and used books, clothing, and other items in an eclectic building and storefront.
Next door is Von's Dough Shack in a former Burger Chef building; customers can choose their type of calzone and enjoy it fresh from the oven. If you are not the creative type, there are 34 varieties to choose from off the menu.
Just across the street is the famous Triple XXX Family Restaurant where one can enjoy a peanut butter burger or homemade root beer. Inside it's small, cozy, and has narrow booths.
If you are adventurous and want to expand your tastebuds, Shaukin Indian Fast Food might be just the place during your visit. This is not your standard Indian fare, but Indian street food that is lively in taste and spice. Most items are well below $10 and you can take it to go and enjoy it across the street at The Pint.
If you are craft beer fan, People's Brewing Company is located three miles north from the high school and is one of the better places for local beer in the state. Pints are $5 and are a dollar less on Wednesdays.
The fans of the Bronchos and the visiting schools who make the trek to the MCAC for semi-state games make it quite the spectacle. The student sections are packed with synchronized cheers and chants, while older fans also show school spirit in support in various fashion from team colored wigs, face paint, or by cheering as loud as they can.
Crawley Athletic Center has two main levels and access is simple to get up and down to all sections of seating. Concessions and bathrooms are clearly marked, and aisles are wide and reasonably spacious. Crowds do get large during halftime and arriving to a game is easy as the facility offers a large parking lot.
A ticket will cost you $5 for a regular season game, while a regional or semi-state game will cost $2 more per ticket. Parking is free and ample, food at the concession stands is affordable and tasty, and when the venue is packed, the sound is deafening.
One point for the old centercourt on display in the arena. This is common in many Indiana high school gyms, but it's always a plus to see artwork and design of Hoosier hoops past.
Two points for the layout of the venue, two massive sets of bleacher seats stretch up onto the air on both sides of the court.
Lafayette is known for Purdue basketball and its home venue Mackey Arena, but when the Boilermakers aren't in town, check out the Bronchos or perhaps a semi-state game over at the Marion Crawley Athletic Center. It should satisfy your need for basketball in the Hoosier State.
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