North Side Gymnasium – Elkhart High School
Photos by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43
North Side Gym 300 Lawrence Street Elkhart, IN 46514
Year Opened: 1954
Elkhart’s North Side Gym Still a Stunner
North Side Gymnasium opened in 1954 and is one of the granddaddies of Indiana high school basketball gyms. When it opened, it seated a whopping 8,348 people and was the biggest of its kind in the world; Kokomo Memorial Gymnasium had been built 5 years before.
In the first season of the building, a total of 134,000 people witnessed basketball from the regular season to tournament games, plus an additional 70,000 plus from wrestling matches, the ice follies, conventions, and a Harlem Globetrotters game. The place was hopping with much more than basketball and was a centerpiece for the community.
Today, the gym holds 7,373 people, still good enough for sixth in the world, and still hosts events from basketball games to conventions, and concerts last year sold out every one of those seats for a political rally for President Donald Trump. It has served as a sectional site every year since its first season but has not hosted a regional or semi-state basketball game since 1997.
Elkhart Memorial and Central High School both play their home games at the gym, but that will change in 2020 when the two schools merge to become Elkhart High School. It is also home to the North Side Middle School basketball program, perhaps making it the largest gym of its kind at the middle school level.
The original Elkhart High School racked up 28 sectional and 13 regional championships to go along with 2 finals appearances and 1 state runner-up finish before it was split into Central and Memorial in 1972.
Food & Beverage 3
There are two large concession stands located in the outer concourse of the seating bowl that provide all the typical snacks. Candy popcorn, hot dogs, nachos, walking tacos, and pretzels are all affordable and cash only. If you have a sweet tooth, caramel popcorn and locally-made caramel cinnamon donut holes are popular items. Pepsi products are available throughout the building.
The North Side Gym offers a magnificent façade on both ends of the building that does not look like it has changed too much in the 54 years that it has been opened. The entrances also feature the original ticket booths that are in the entryway to the main lobby.
One item that is new to the gym is the $200,000 privately donated video board that was installed in 2017. The four-sided video board can show live videos, and animated segments, and provide stats from the game. It is the only one of its kind in all of the high school gyms and fieldhouses in the state.
The gym also possesses the biggest banners that I have seen in a gym that honor Elkhart’s High School’s 1954 and 1955 basketball semi-state appearances and the 1971 state final runner-up team. The other large banners honor Memorial and Central championships and tournament appearances. Throughout the game, the banners sway back and forth and blend perfectly in the historic gymnasium.
The outer concourse features two large concession areas that include narrow hallways that display team photos of past basketball championship teams, memorabilia from both high schools’ past, and both female and male student-athletes of the year. However, there could be a lot more memorabilia displayed throughout the gym due to its importance not only for high school basketball but for the Elkhart community.
Two levels in the seating bowl offer a wrap-around upper concourse to make access a little bit better for moving around during heavily attendant events. The upper seating consists of pull-out bleachers and a few permanent stands that are wedged into the corner of the building and they look quite durable.
The gym is about a mile away from downtown Elkhart, also known as the Gateway Mile. The area features an array of attractions from restaurants to theaters, museums, and a riverwalk during the warmer times of the year. There is quite a bit of activity to do before or after a game and with it being so close, it would be silly not to spend some time during your visit.
The Riverwalk Culture Trail features green space, gardens, and sculptures but might be somewhat cold during the basketball season. The Lerner Theatre offers concerts and performances, and the Midwest Museum of American Art is inside a neo-classical style former bank that showcases both 19th and 20th-century American art. The National New York Central Railroad Museum preserves both national and local railroad heritage, telling the story of how trains shaped this country.
523 Tap & Grill combines bistro fare and an elegant atmosphere, Five Star Dive Bar is a casual spot for lunch and dinner, featuring live music every weekend. Beer lovers will enjoy Iechyd Da Brewing Company which has personal-sized pizza and $4 pints of craft beer on its menu board. There are also a few more breweries in the area including Evil Czech Brewery and Public House and Bare Hands Brewery.
They said they don’t pack them in as they used to but during tournament time a building such as the North Side Gym reminds people that Hoosier Hysteria is indeed alive and well. Four schools brought in a healthy amount of fans and students to provide a soundtrack to the tournament. There are all the fixings of Indiana high school basketball from standing student sections, fans jeering at the referees for a bad call, and the storming of the court after the big win.
NSG is located at North Side Middle School and a few miles north and south of the town's major freeways. I-90 is a toll road and is about 4 miles north of the gym, while SR 20 is 5 miles south of the gym. There are not any signs of the gym, but GPS devices will lead motorists to the spot.
There is plenty of parking and during this game, attendants guided motorists to spots an hour before the first tip-off. It can get somewhat crowded in the lower section seating area; there is more room in this area for people to move around while still having a great view of the court.
Return on Investment 3
The North Side Gym is one of the iconic venues in the state and perhaps slightly unappreciated to many of us who live a couple of hours south of Elkhart. It is a building that feels like it was made for basketball and offers all the amenities one would expect from this type of arena. Tickets are $10 for both semi-state and $6 for regular season games, parking is free, and the most expensive concession item is $4.
The gym receives one point for the four-sided video board that can show live videos, and animated segments, and provide stats from the game. It is the only one of its kind in all of the high school gyms and fieldhouses in the state.
The gym receives a second point for the façade that defines the look and character of the building. The simple, yet elegant, wording of the North Side Gym most likely has not changed in 65 years. The third and final point is for the giant banners that wisp in the air in the backcourt and provide the look needed for a basketball gym in any state or at any level.
The North Side Gym is a true gem of Hoosier Temples and continues to provide the community with much more than a place for basketball. Current renovations that include a new video board and scoreboards will indeed make it the place for possible future regional and semi-state games.
Follow all of Marc’s stadium journeys on Twitter @ballparkhunter and his YouTube channel. Email at Marc.Viquez@stadiumjourney.com