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  • Marc Viquez

Hulman Center – Indiana State Sycamores

Photos by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.14

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

Indiana State Sycamores website

Hulman Center website

Year Opened: 1973

Capacity: 10,200


A Tree Grows in Terre Haute

When you think of Indiana State University, you think of Larry Bird, and rightfully so. He put the small school in 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 in which Bird and his teammates performed their own magic was the Hulman Center. The 10,200 seat multipurpose arena has been the home to the Indiana State University men’s basketball team since December 1973.

The arena exterior has as much appeal in design as a public library and still looks exactly the same since its completion in the early 1970s. However, the arena became the hottest ticket around during the 1978-79 season. Indiana State may have lost the championship game, but Bird and his impact have stamped its legacy on campus. In 2014, a statue of Bird was constructed outside the main entrance, further cemented his legendary status in not only Terre Haute, but in the Hoosier state.

Food & Beverage 3

The food choices are surprisingly copious inside the arena, ranging from jalapeno poppers to beef kabobs on a stick. The tiki kabobs are locally made and sell for $3, while the meat egg rolls are five for $4. There are the stadium-friendly corn dogs, hot dogs, chili dogs, super nachos, chicken strips, and chili cheese fries. The majority sell for around the $4 price point, while Pepsi products come in 24 and 32-ounce varieties for the same selling mark.

However, with the 20 varieties to choose from in the three main concourses in the arena, there tend to be long and tedious lines. Even when Hulman Center is half filled the lines resemble rush hour on the highway. The concession stands would benefit from possible better training and a few more stand-alone carts throughout the open spots on the main concourse.

Atmosphere 3

This is the house that Larry Bird made famously and you will be reminded by the 17-foot statue outside the arena, along with the numerous displays and accolades inside the Hulman Center. His number 33 hangs proudly on the top wall, his likeness is painted in various cases and paintings, and you will be hard not to find someone who does not remembers the magical year of 1979.

The Hulman Center doesn’t get the attention that other facilities in the state receive, but it still a grand old place to watch a basketball game. Its appearance has been taken care of quite well and the finished product is clean, friendly, and positive. The design of the building harkens back to early 1970’s aesthetics and there is not a marquee entrance to grab patrons’ attention.

The student section is situated at the south end of the court and is usually filled to capacity. It has been nicknamed “The Forest” and the future alumni are always on their feet at the start of each contest. The section is also where the band, cheerleaders, and the dance team Sparkettes cheer on the home team and implore the crowd. Sycamore Sam is the school’s official mascot and there has been speculation on what he is since his inception, but whether he is a blue squirrel, fox, or wolf, he is the master of ceremonies at the game.

Neighborhood 3

The Hulman Center sits right off campus in downtown Terre Haute. There are various restaurants and bars within walking distance of the venue. The Terminal is probably one of the more popular destinations for drinks before or after the game, but if you are looking for a more “fraternal” college crowd, then The Ballyhoo Tavern is definitely your destination after an evening contest.

About a mile away and just across the train tracks is 7th and Elm Bar and Grill, a former frat house that features ten beers on draft and rooftop seating. Tater and Joe’s Cafe is another interesting place to eat a fully loaded potato that is topped with either jerk chicken, Italian beef, or smoked pork. If you have some time, visit the Clabber Girl Museum across from the arena for one of the area’s most famous industries, baking powder.

Fans 3

The fans usually do not sell out the Hulman Center, and when they do it’s against in-state rivals like Indiana University or Purdue. That is not to fault the populace of the Wabash Valley- they love Sycamore basketball. The lower bowl section is the most populated section and when you get a chance to talk with many of the fans, they are both knowledgeable and faithful. The diehards can be heard cheering and supporting a basketball program that has seen its many shares of up and downs since 1979.

Access 4

The arena is located three miles north of I-70 in downtown, but it is rather simple to access the arena. The free street parking fills up quick and small parking lots are available for a small fee. Once inside the arena, access throughout the arena is simple with two main sections of seating for the game. However, Terre Haute is known for train delays; if you happen to get caught in a train stop, welcome to the city.

Return on Investment 4

Ticket prices for Sycamore games range from $11-$51, with a median of $30. The majority of the lower bowl is sold out from season ticket holders, and many of the less expensive tickets are located in the upper bowl. A visitor should expect to find a suitable ticket price and will not be disappointed by the view of the court, concession stand prices, and parking fees.

Extras 4

One star for the 17-foot statue of Larry Bird in front of the arena, another for a clean and friendly venue for basketball, and a final star for the great acoustics from the band during the game.

The floor at the Hulman Center was named the Nellie & John Wooden Court in 2008. Wooden had begun his coaching career at Indiana State in 1946, staying for three years while also coaching the baseball team and serving as the school’s athletic director. Playing with John Wooden’s name below you, and Larry Bird’s name above you must be a great thrill for the Indiana State players and helps add to the aura of history for spectators.

Final Thoughts

I spent a lot of time during at Hulman Center in my years at Indiana State from 1997-2001; it was a time of a revival for the basketball team, posting consecutive winning seasons and appearing in two NCAA tournaments in 2000 and 2001. There were also back to back seasons where Indiana State defeated Indiana University, including the night Michael Messner knocked in back to back three-pointers in the final 7.1 seconds to knock off the Hoosiers in front of standing room only crowd at the Hulman Center in October 2000.

I never understood why the city doesn’t pack the arena a little more often. If it was scaled back to around 8,000-seats, would there be a much better atmosphere? I have many memories invested in this building, and I have faith that the Hulman Center will keep up with the times of the fan experience at the game.

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