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  • Writer's pictureMarc Viquez

Hulman Center – Indiana State Sycamores



Photos by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.00

Hulman Center 200 N 8th St. Terre Haute, IN 47809


Year Opened: 1973

Capacity: 9,000

 

Hulman Center is the Place to Be in Terre Haute

When you think of Indiana State University, you think of Larry Bird, and rightfully so. He put Terre Haute, Indiana, on the map in 1979 when he led the Sycamores to a 33-1 record and the NCAA Final Four, culminating in the iconic championship game against Michigan State and Magic Johnson. The canvas on which Bird and his teammates performed their magic was the Hulman Center.


The multi-purpose venue opened in 1973 and had a capacity of 10,200 spectators. It is named after Indiana Motor Speedway owner and Terre Haute native Tony Hulman, who donated $2.5 million towards its construction. The State Budget Agency gathered $6 million, and the remaining $1.5 million was collected in a campaign sponsored by the ISU Foundation. The building was more than double the size of the Sycamores ISU Arena that had opened in 1961.


The arena is centrally located between downtown and campus, designed to attract touring musical acts, house commencement ceremonies, and stage other events. The building remained virtually unchanged in aesthetics until recent renovations vastly improved its exterior and interior appearance. It has been a welcoming change from fans and alumni.


The $50 million renovations added a new exterior façade, a glass entrance from the south end, an event/meeting space, a multi-purpose suite, and open views of the seating bowl from the concourse level. The most impressive improvement might be the glass windows, providing natural lighting to the building that changes the experience for fans.


Other improvements include two hanging video boards measuring more than 14 by 24 feet and two hanging boards measuring more than 9 by 16 feet. The $2 million scoreboard was donated by the Hulman-George family. There is also new seating, new banners against the upper walls, and reduced seating capacity,

down from 10,200 to 9,000.


Also new this year is a Sycamore team that was nationally ranked for the first time since that 1979 team. It has created a renewed interest in the program, resulting in four sold-out crowds and increased attendance figures at most games. How has the change been since our last visit to town one year ago?


Food & Beverage 3

The building has four concession points in the corners, offering basic stadium fare at reasonable prices, plus the school's Crossroads Cream Ale. The food choices include hot dogs, brats, pretzels, nachos, popcorn, ice cream, and Chick-fil-A sandwiches. Pepsi products are the drink of choice at the arena.


The ISU Athletics Department has partnered with the Terre Haute Brewing Company for the Crossroads Cream Ale, which "pays homage to a celebration of Sycamore pride. The beer is directed to fans and alumni and is an easy-drinking ale served by the can but poured in plastic cups.


Atmosphere 4


The Hulman Center looks almost brand new, including an artistic design to the outside of the building along with a new glass entrance on the south side. The arena has a much warmer and more welcoming feel than the giant white warehouse-looking structure it once exhibited. However, one must pay homage to the 17-foot statue of Larry Bird outside its entrance.


The North Entrance welcomes fans into the building and the first view of the seating bowl and video board. The team merchandise area is located adjacent to the doors. The number of options has more than quadrupled in size. The stands offer selections in old-school sky blue and current royal blue in caps, t-shirts, jerseys, hoodies, and half-zip shirts.


The Sycamores lead their conference and are playing their best basketball since 1979. It has led to increased attendance and an improved atmosphere at the home and center. Instead of a half-empty, vapid building, the place is alive with a frenzy of fans and students. The noise level booms during big plays and team introductions.


The student section is at the south end of the court. It has been nicknamed The Forest, and they are always on their feet at the start of each contest. The dance team is situated on the end lines and performs during time-outs. Sycamore Sam is the official mascot and entertains fans on the court.


Neighborhood 4

The arena is within walking distance of many bars and restaurants downtown and on the edge of campus. Downtown has changed a bit, and there are quite a few establishments to visit before or after the game for a bite to eat or drink or two.


The Copper Bar and Terminal Public House are two spots for dinner that offer traditional pub food of appetizers, sandwiches, soups, salads, and pizzas. The Copper Bar has a limited menu compared to The T Terminal, but prices are more than reasonable, and sandwiches are plenty. Both operate in historic buildings that add to the ambiance. They are open well after evening games on the weekends but expect an up to an hour wait before the game on Saturday nights.


The Verve and The Ballyhoo are two college hangouts if you are in the mood. If staying away from the younger college crowd, a few blocks away are M. Moggers, Terre Haute Brewing Company, J. Gumbo’s, and Chava’s Mexican Grill are other options before the game, but grab a drink at the brewery instead of food.


The Candles Holocaust Museum and Education Center is a must-visit. It was founded by Holocaust survivor Eva Mozes Kor, who passed away in 2019. She created a hologram of herself. Visitors can ask questions about her experiences during the war, fleeing Europe, and setting up a life in the United States.


Fans 4

The Indiana State fans have something to cheer about with the Sycamores on the cusp of capturing the regular season MVC title. It has resulted in three sold-out crowds, something that hasn't been seen since 1979. The fan base has also taken their act on the road, chartering busses to away games in Evansville, Valpo, and Drake.


The additional support is evident, with cheers and roars echoing throughout the 50-year-old venue. The student section has seating for 1,200 and has also blossomed with coordinated cheers and thoughts throughout the game.


Access 5

The arena is downtown, three miles north of I-70 and off campus. If you arrive early, there is free parking on the street, but additional lots and a parking garage are available. A free parking lot a block north of the arena on Chestnut Street. Downtown Terre Haute consists of many one-way streets, but police presence moves fans in and out before and after the game.


The building has four entrances and one concourse surrounding the seating bowl. The signage for seating sections is large and easy to follow for the first-time visitor. The concourse offers an open view of the seating bowl from the north entrance.


During half-time, the lines can be long for concessions and bathrooms. Be prepared, or leave a little earlier to avoid congestion.


Return on Investment 4

When your team is winning, it reflects the cost of a ticket. One year ago, the price of a ticket would be as low as $8, but since this is the best run by the Sycamores in 44 years, the price has gone up. Weekend games sell out, but it is possible to find a ticket on the secondary market for $20 for upper deck seats and $50 for the lower deck.

Season ticket holders unable to attend a game are encouraged to give up their seats. It could lead to additional tickets offered the day before a sold-out Saturday game. The prices can be as low as $14 with service fees. It is wise to plan if the Sycamores continue their dominant play beyond this season.


Team merchandise ranges from as low as $20 for a shirt, $25 for a cap or hoodie, to $45 for dry-fit shirts and jerseys. Concession prices are fair: hot dogs are $3.50, nachos are $5.50, large sodas are $4.50, and 20-ounce tall boy beers are $7.50.


Extras 4

The arena earns one point for the 17-foot statue of Larry Bird in front, honoring one of the game's greatest players. He last suited up in 1979, but his legacy is alive at the school. He is indeed Larry Legend.


The second point is for the recent renovations that have changed the appearance of the building from the inside out. A third point is for the newer banners on display, including a retro-looking 1979 Final Four logo, along with the school's only NCAA championship, the 1977 Gymnastic team.


A third point is for after the game when fans line up around the portion of the court and high-five players. Many others pose for pictures or seek an autograph. Young fans eagerly await a chance for a photo or signature from their favorite player.


A final point is for the improved merchandise stand. Pacesetters Sports operates the area and offers various styles and colors to show off your Sycamore pride. There are t-shirts, jerseys, hoodies, polos, half-zips, and caps in royal blue and sky blue. There are many options featuring the old-school ISU logo from the 1970s. It's been a vast improvement since our visit a little over a year ago.


Final Thoughts

It is amazing what winning can do to a basketball program. The Hulman Center has not seen this much excitement since disco was king. The building is full of energy, folks are proud to wear school merchandise, and downtown restaurants are bustling before and after the game. The arena has always been a great place to watch a game, but it is much better when your team is vying for a conference title.


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Follow all of Marc’s stadium journeys on Twitter @ballparkhunter and his YouTube channel. Email at Marc.Viquez@stadiumjourney.com

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