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  • Marc Viquez

New Castle Fieldhouse – New Castle High School Trojans



Photos by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14

New Castle Fieldhouse 801 Parkview Dr. New Castle, IN 47362


New Castle Trojans website

New Castle Fieldhouse website


Year Opened: 1959

Capacity: 9,325

 

New Castle Fieldhouse is Number One Again

A large sign is proudly on display in the south end that the New Castle Fieldhouse is the largest and finest high school gymnasium in the world. The official count was 9,325 and for the next 60 years that was the case, but something happened during the anniversary year that knocked the capacity down a couple of notches to number three on the list.


A committee traveled to the biggest gyms in the state and counted each section one by one and found out that the Lloyd E. Scott Gym in Seymour was bigger than the New Castle Fieldhouse and for the next two years, the gym was ranked number 3 with a capacity of 7,829. This was due to the removable bleachers on the upper concourse being sold some time ago due to fire safety issues.


In January 2021, New Castle installed 260 telescoping seats on the west concourse and installed 335 additional seats in portable bleachers, increasing its capacity to 8,424. That number surpasses Seymour’s capacity of 8,228 and once again places the New Castle Fieldhouse as the biggest high school gym in the world.


The Fieldhouse is home to the New Castle High School Trojans who began playing basketball in 1917 and by 1924 moved into the 1,800-seat capacity Church Street Gym. The Trojans captured the 1932 State Title and games would routinely sell out at the “Cracker Box.” Season tickets were sold for every other game and 100 places in the standing-room-only section were separated with only a rope from the players on the court. By the late 1950s, the old gym was becoming too small and a wave of larger gymnasiums was being constructed throughout the state.


The Fieldhouse was constructed through a community-formed nonprofit holding company “Gym Now” which raised funds for its completion in 1958. By the early 1950’s many in town felt that New Castle needed a new basketball gymnasium, but after the school board did not include plans for a new gym, the populace took matters into their own hands by helping fund $875,000 through car washes, donations, jobs, and the sale of bonds.


The administration even allowed students to leave school during the day to work jobs towards the building of the arena. Finally, on November 21, 1959, the New Castle Fieldhouse debuted as the largest high school arena in the world.


The history of the boy’s basketball program consists of 60 sectional, 19 regional, 4 semi-state, and 2 state championships in the team’s century of high school hoops. The Fieldhouse gets large crowds from time to time, most notably during sectional contests that as recently as March 2019, saw close to 10,000 people witness semi-final games.





Food & Beverage 3

Four concession stands at each corner of the main concourse offer the same menu items. The selections are common at many other high school gyms scattered across the state and the prices are affordable. Hot dogs and nachos are $3. Walking tacos, coneys, and beef nachos are $3.50. Some breadsticks sell for $4, and pizza from local proprietor Mancino’s for $2.50 a slice. The always-popular popcorn and candy cost just $1, and Pepsi products are available for $2. Having four stands open is a great way to reduce lines and expedite orders.


Atmosphere 5

Unlike other high school gyms in the state, fans enter at the top of the arena on the main concourse that also serves as an indoor track for physical education classes. The parquet wooden floor is sunken 25 feet below the ground and is surrounded by 24 rows of dense weathered wooden seats, forming an octagonal shape around the basketball court.


This allows a chance to breathe in the amount of basketball nostalgia perforating throughout the building or take a moment to contemplate that you are in such a vast arena. The facility feels more like a monument than a basketball arena. It’s a tourist attraction in the same vein as Yankee Stadium, Michigan Stadium, or the Sydney Cricket Ground.


A basketball game here is a community event, a gathering of friends, and a chance to mingle with neighbors throughout the night. The festivities start with the pep band, dressed in tie-dye shirts playing a collection of popular songs. The student section is adjacent to the band. They stand up before and during the game. The school’s mascot rushes onto the court with the players and cheerleaders in a warm-up that rivals any level of college hoops.


The cheer squad laps around the court waving banners and performing cheers finishing with leading the audience in the pledge of allegiance before the national anthem performed by the pep band. Another tradition, if the visiting school brings along its mascot, is to have them stand back to back during warm-ups. The student section turns its back when the visiting five are announced.


Glancing around you will see both home and away radio announcers at the scorers’ table, fans decked in school gear, and many tuned in to the action on the parquet court. Banners hang high above the floor and there are various photos, memorabilia, and other banners from the multiple sports teams that have represented the Trojans.


The original center court hangs at the north end of the arena along with a photo of the town’s favorite son, Mr. Basketball Steve Alford. The legendary player played in front of packed houses of close to 10,000 before leading Indiana University to a national championship in 1987. His name is synonymous with the city.


Neighborhood 3

New Castle is a town of 18,000 and the home of the Indiana High School Hall of Fame, which is located a few yards away from the Fieldhouse offering a stunning display of memorabilia and artifacts from the history of basketball in Indiana.


Admission is $6 for an adult and you can glance over old uniforms, scoreboards, and banners, and browse through videos and photographs. If you are a fan of the movie “Hoosiers” the gym where it was filmed is located 16 miles away in Knightstown, Indiana. You might even be lucky enough to take a few shots on the court.


If you are looking for a bite to eat there are various chain restaurants including Applebee’s, Bob Evans, and McDonald’s. Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken is a regional chain selling fried chicken. These places are nearby and located on the main drag in the town of SR 3, but the town offers a few local places that are worth visiting before or after the game.


Weenie World is an eccentric dive offering coney dogs. Mancino’s dishes out pizza and grinders (sub sandwiches). Jack’s Donut Shoppe is an iconic destination that has been serving donuts and coffee since 1961; stop by the original location of a tiger roll, whitetail, or cinnamon tail. The Ice House is recommended for the steak sandwich or pork tenderloin and Montgomery’s Steakhouse is a popular mainstay down the road in Spiceland.


There are a few local lodging options in town to choose from if staying overnight. The New Castle Inn, Steve Alford All-American Inn, Raintree Inn, and Garden Inn are located within minutes of the Fieldhouse. The Steve Alford Inn has a collection of memorabilia from his days playing high school basketball.


Fans 5

A collection of fans can be found throughout the Fieldhouse. There are the old-timers who have probably been to every game since the building’s inception and can share a few good stories if you lend them an ear. The student body either spends their time rooting for the Trojans or walking around the track socializing.


The rest of the fan base cheers with every bucket or rebound made by the home team. There are even a few people taking a couple of laps around the track which equals a quarter of a mile. There is a definite sense of community during the game, and a chance to talk to friends, family members, and neighbors.


Access 4

New Castle Fieldhouse is five miles north of Exit 123 of I-70, but there are no signs for the Fieldhouse. However, look for signs for the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame which is only a few yards away on Trojan Way. Once inside the venue, all of the concessions, bathrooms, and entrances are located on the main concourse which is 25 feet above the playing court.


Return on Investment 5

Tickets for adults are only $6 and there is plenty of parking in the six-acre parking lot. Being able to watch a basketball game in the world’s largest high school gymnasium is definitely worth the price of admission.


Extras 4

One extra point for being recognized as the largest high school basketball gymnasium in the world. That is something that the community should be proud of in New Castle.


Another extra point for the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame is located next door to the arena. This is not your ordinary sports hall of fame. It is a fascinating facility with equally fascinating memorabilia from some of the sports legends including Larry Bird, Oscar Robertson, John Wooden, and Bobby Knight.


The students put forth a wonderful effort throughout the game. The opening festivities during warm-ups emulate a college game atmosphere with players bursting through paper posters, the band strumming a beat, cheerleaders flipping up and down, and a frenzied student section.


A final extra point for being a place that hosts more than just high school basketball. The Harlem Globetrotters, Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks, Indiana University, US men’s Olympic volleyball team, US Marine Corps Band, and various concerts have been played inside the gymnasium since 1959.


Final Thoughts

The New Castle Fieldhouse is rather rudimentary in design, but momentous in size. It commands your attention the instant you walk through the doors. The thick, dark brown wooden bleacher seats, parquet floor, and wrap-around concourse are further impressive. I cannot imagine that much has changed since the building opened its doors in 1959. It is a sports venue on par with some of the country’s greatest.


_____


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



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