Photos by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.29
Gainbridge Fieldhouse 125 S Pennsylvania St. Indianapolis, IN 46204
Year Opened: 1999 Capacity: 18,165
Indiana Boys Basketball State Championship
The IHSAA Boys Basketball State Championship Tournament is one the nation’s most prestigious and highly attended high school tournaments that creates the fame Hoosier Hysteria annually. The first tournament was held in 1911 in Bloomington but has been a mainstay in Indianapolis for most of its history, and Gainbridge Fieldhouse since the dawn of the century in 2000.
Since 1997, the tournament has been broken into four seeds (A, 2A, 3A, and 4A based on school size) which have created a heated debate on whether or not the state should return to one seed. There are pros and cons for both sides, but every March four high school in the state are crowned champions with the same pomp and circumstance that other state champions preceded.
The tournament is still one of the most highly anticipated interscholastic boys' basketball tournaments in the United States and perhaps the planet and records\ attendance figures continue to pack the BLF to cheer on their hometown team to victory. It is an experience that is headed and above other state basketball tournaments in the other 49.
Food & Beverage 4
The food and beverage options have been updated at the fieldhouse and include new and familiar options. The Warehouse District BBQ and Three Point Taqueria are two options that offer fans something different at the game. The Indiana Kitchen offers lemon pepper and honey glazed chicken wings, short rib poutine, and maple bourbon sticks.
If you are looking for familiar options then Fieldhouse Favorites has you covered. Hot dogs, nachos, chicken tenders, pizza, burgers, pretzels, and Pepsi products are all available. There is a value menu that features $4 hot dogs, $3 popcorn, and $8 PBR and Coors Banquet cans.
A unique sweet treat is served at the Steak 'n Shake Milkshake Bar which offers cotton candy, mega M&M, and crazy chocolate brownie flavors.
The Fast Break Market sells grab 'n-go beverages and snacks. A nacho cart offers an array of toppings and Ben's Pretzels has long lines for freshly, made baked pretzels. The Crossroads Eats sells gourmet hot dogs. The Yuengling Flight Deck and the Jim Beam Bar offer beers, wine, and cocktails. It also has various TV screens and views of the playing court.
A state tournament game in Indiana is quite unlike any other experience you'll find in the 49 other states. With that being said, it can be a little bit daunting in an NBA-size arena to host a state championship, but surprisingly it works well, attendance figures are usually around 15,000 fans per game and most of the lower bowl seating area is full, especially for the last game of the night which pits the two largest schools in the state in terms of size and enrollment.
There is a lot of unity at both ends of the seating Bowl with team colors being the norm for both participants. If it's a back-and-forth game you are bound to hear quite a bit of cheering, but if one team is searching for a late-game comeback that noise can be somewhat deafening from its fans. There is usually a student section that provides its brand of cheering throughout the contest.
Bankers Life Fieldhouse itself is an exceptional place to watch a professional game as much as it is to watch a Collegiate and interscholastic game as well. The IHSAA logo is proudly displayed at Center Court and after each victory, a Podium is quickly set up we're both second place, and first-place medals are presented to each member of the team. This all cultivates with the presentation of the championship trophy to the victors.
The fieldhouse is in the heart of downtown Indianapolis and even closer to retail and restaurants than Lucas Oil Stadium down the street. The only problem is choosing which place to grab a drink or eat before or after the game.
Located near the arena is the local favorite Kilroy’s Bar and Grill offers 40 flat-screen televisions, shuffleboard, video games, and their famous pepperoni stuffed breadsticks. Another fan favorite, Brother’s Bar & Grill, is a short walk and is another popular destination before or after the game. A few more favorite spots after the game that are nearby the fieldhouse are District Tap, Tequila Street Cantina, and Pier 48 Fish House & Oyster Bar.
If you have some time in town I would recommend visiting the neighborhoods of Mass Ave. and Fountain Square where one can enjoy live music, craft beer, fine dining, and a little shopping at local retail shops. Mass Ave. is also home to the Bottlework District which recently opened and houses The Garage where multiple foods and drink vendors offer an array of culinary treasures.
Downtown Indy is also safe, clean, and easy to get around by car, foot, or mass transit. Local museums include The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, the NCAA Hall of Champions, the Indiana State Museum, and the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site. The riverwalk canal is also a nice spot for a stroll on a warm spring day.
Fans far and wide travel to Indianapolis annually to root for their hometown team and it doesn't matter that they have to trek through snowy conditions, such as was the day of this final, or soggy weather. Even the smallest of schools make their presence felt, especially from the southern portion of the state where basketball is still a way of life.
Fans usually congregate on opposite sides of the court and are loyal to school colors sharing every single point, south, or timeout made throughout the game with both cheers and jeers. The student sections themselves widely differ for each game, but still, lend their presence in the building.
The arena is easily accessible from the major interstates of 70, 65, and 465 with parking abundant throughout the downtown vicinity. After the game, leaving these facilities takes a little know-how of the one-way streets of Indianapolis, but signs are posted that direct customers to their desired route back home.
Traffic moves smoothly during this time as well, as there are officers who are stationed to keep cars moving. The same can be said for moving around the building during the game. Bathrooms, entrances, and seating areas are well-marked.
Return on Investment 5
Tickets to the state championship games are only $15 per person. The concession prices are varied and in line with venues of its kind. If your alma mater is playing for the state's grand prize, there is nothing like being there in person to root for these young heroes on the court. Alumni, student cheer blocks, cheerleaders, and mascots all up the ante during the games. You might even see a few major college coaches checking out future Divison I stars.
Parking ranges from $10-$20 the closer you arrive to the fieldhouse. There are multiple parking lots and garages within a few blocks of the building. Meters in the heart of the downtown area operate from 7 am to 9 pm and charge $1.50 per hour. If you are somewhat frugal like me, there is free street parking in the Fountain Square District-a 15-20 minute walk to the arena.
There is nothing quite like watching basketball in a small high school gymnasium, but the game works surprisingly well in the much larger, modern facility that is the Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The building itself provides wonderful aesthetics that begin in the main lobby and continues with vintage advertisements painted on brick walls.
The collection of memorabilia showcases the building as a basketball-first facility. There is an impressive array of items from former professional clubs from the city, local high schools, and the major universities and colleges in the state.
A great location near many bars, restaurants, and a few shops. The area is well-lit, clean, and safe. If you enjoy walking, explore downtown on foot.
Following the high school state tournament in Indiana can be quite the experience beginning with regional play, followed by sectional action, moving on to semi-state games, and then finally the state championships in Indianapolis. It is one of the oldest and still one of the best high school tournaments in the country; it's safe to say that Hoosier Hysteria is alive and well and still going strong.