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Official Review by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Memorial Gymnasium in Rushville, Indiana has been home to high school basketball since 1926. It is now home to the Rushville Consolidated High School Lions basketball program and the small 2,600-seat facility is in pristine condition for its age. It has been preserved very nicely and ideal for the small town of 6,600 located 45 miles southeast of Indianapolis.
City boosters formed the Rushville High School Athletic Corporation in 1925 to raise money for a new gymnasium to house the basketball team. The corporation raised $27,000 through the sale of special bonds. The gym would be completed the following year at a cost of $80,000 and paid off from gate receipts in 1944. The original seating configuration was for 5,000, but renovations in 1988 cut it down to almost half its capacity.
The construction of Memorial Gymnasium kept it as the site of sectional play and brought regional play to the city. The gymnasium would host sectional (1926-1971) regional (1926-1958), and county (1926-1968) play through the years. The basketball programs would flourish for both boys and girls as various teams captured 77 sectionals, 30 regionals, and 5 semi-state championships combined. The boys team would lose a heartbreaker to Marion High School 82-76 in the 1976 state championship - their lone appearance.
The gym has served as a fully functional multi-purpose arena hosting a myriad of events that have included the circus, concert performances, county fairs, and high school commencements. It was the home of the 4-H Club, home economic, and garden exhibits. It also housed physical educational classes at a time when the original high school was six blocks away, making PE class quite an adventure. However, the most unusual use of the facility was as a rifle range underneath the north bleachers; participants would lie down on their stomachs and open fire at a target.
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There are two concession stands at the gym, a larger one in the facility's annex and a smaller at the rear entrance. Both locations offer hot dogs, freshly popped popcorn, nachos, and fresh slices of pizza from an Indiana staple, Pizza King. The thin, cracker style pizza is offered by the unusual slice, rather than the typical party square. Ask for it with crumbled pepperoni or sausage. Slices are $3, while hot dogs are $2.
What Memorial Gym lacks in size makes up nicely in charm and old-time feel. It is a classic study of facilities from this era that were once commonplace before the massive gyms of the 1950s and 1960s.
The small town atmosphere is alive and well before the start of the varsity game. The band lines up on the stage and fans slowly walk to their seats from the main entrance lobby. Pretty soon it will be game time.
The varsity squad runs onto the court followed by cheerleaders holding up flags. Everyone in the building is up on their feet clapping and rooting for the Lions The band gets into a frenzy and pretty soon players are introduced over the P.A system. Supporters fill up many sections of the arena, visitors are relegated to their own section of the stands, and the student section sits behind the nets opposite the large stage.
The stands are made of blonde wood that are in sterile condition forming a horseshoe 15 rows deep from the floor. The small seating area can provide for an ideal setting for basketball. The crowd can become intense at times, creating an impressive home court advantage.
The glass case at the entrance to the gym displays memorabilia from the erstwhile Rush County schools dating back to the '30s including gym shoes, varsity sweaters, belted shorts, photographs, and the Good Luck Horseshoe that would be awarded to the annual winner of the Rush County Tournament. The original blueprint of the gymnasium is on display above the entry way.
There are a few dining options to choose from in the small town that include both national and regional chain restaurants; there are some nice local spots to enjoy a home cooked meal. The Corner Bar prepares fresh baked biscuits on site and serves breakfast all day, while locals swear by the Mexican cuisine at both El Reparo and Mezcal Bar & Grill. Pizza King is one of my guilty pleasures; their pies are cracker thin and can be served with crumbled sausage or pepperoni.
There are not a lot of lodging options in town. The Comfort Inn is located less than a mile away from the gymnasium on the main street in town. The Covered Bridge Motel is located south of downtown on SR-3.
The fans quickly fill their seats inside the gymnasium and stand and cheer for the team as they march onto the playing court. The game has been embedded into the community for over a century and generations of fans have been attending games in the facility since 1926. There are many stories to pass on to a younger audience and the mix of people inside vary in age.
The town of Rushville is located 40 miles southwest of Indianapolis on SR-52, a very nice drive through a few small towns of the state. The city is also 17 miles from I-74 at the Shelbyville exit. Inside, the arena access is quite efficient and bathrooms and concessions are located in the outside lobby of the gymnasium.
The price of an adult ticket is only $5, along the same lines with many other high school basketball gymnasiums, and well worth the price of admission. The concession prices are inexpensive and whenever you can watch a game in a historic facility, it is always well worth the investment.
The gymnasium is in magnificent condition; the seats are refurbished, the lighting is sharp, the floor well sanded, and sightlines extra close. The exterior is in spotless condition as well after 90 years of high school basketball.
There is a sense of community spirit inside the gym; the bigger gyms in the state are amazing, but there is something a little different here in Rushville.
It is among the oldest gymnasiums still being used for high school basketball in the state of Indiana, perhaps even the country. The intimacy and proximity of the stands to the court provide a time capsule to the old-fashion design of gyms of yesteryear.
Memorial Gymnasium is the third oldest facility still in regular use for high school basketball in the state of Indiana. After 90 years of service, the place is in fantastic condition and a pleasant diversion for a comfortable night of basketball. Many of these facilities are no longer in use and lay vacant only for us to imagine what it must have been like; fortunately, that is not the case here in Rushville.
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