Reuben D. Behlmer Memorial Gymnasium – Arsenal Tech Titans
Photos by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.29
Reuben D. Behlmer Memorial Gymnasium 1500 East Michigan St Indianapolis, IN 46201
Year Opened: 1928
The Granddaddy of Indianapolis High School Gyms
The Reuben D. Behlmer Memorial Gymnasium was built in 1928 and is one of the grand old high school basketball facilities in Indianapolis. The two-tiered arena is home to the Arsenal Tech High School Titans who have a storied tradition including four state finals appearances and two 4A state championships. The 3,000-seat venue is not known for its large crowds during the regular season, but it packs them in during the Indianapolis City Tournament and regional play, annually attracting crowds that surge over the 4,000 mark at times.
Originally called the Boy’s Gym and then the West Gym, the facility underwent major renovations in the mid-1970s and for many years after was able to keep its old-school charm with beautiful hues of forest green, a well-weathered court, and stylishly curved ramps leading to the second tier. It still has a lot of character, but the campus where the building is located has even more history.
Arsenal Tech rests on a 76-acre piece of forestry land east of downtown Indianapolis. It was originally established in 1861 as an actual state arsenal, providing munitions for the Civil War. The first soldiers arrived in 1865, but by the early 1890s, the general movement spread throughout the nation to abandon such facilities. The arsenal would be used to create haversacks and knapsacks during the Spanish-American War, but its days supporting war efforts would cease when the last sunrise gun went off on April 3, 1903.
On September 12, 1912, Arsenal Tech High School opened for the class to help alleviate the overcrowded conditions at the city’s two other high schools. The largest high school campus of its kind in the state has many of its original buildings still intact that include the soldiers’ barracks, entrance guardhouse, officers' residence,
and powder magazine.
Food & Drinks 1
Two small tables are located on each level of the gym that offer candy, nachos, and bottled drinks. Many of the items cost between $1 and $2 and are perfect to snack on during the game. Unfortunately, due to large crowds, there does not seem to be adequate room for a concession booth or stand anywhere in the gymnasium.
The atmosphere quickly smacks you in the face and reminds anyone from out of town that high school basketball still matters here in the state. A sense of excitement envelops the old gymnasium for a sectional play that attracts an overflowing crowd who are there to witness one of the six local Indianapolis teams play over the three-day event: Tech, Cathedral, Lawrence Central, Lawrence North, North Central, and Warren Central.
The building itself has a definite old charm feel to it with cramped tight quarters, rustic railings, and a sense of history. Banners are hanging up celebrating past championships, retired jerseys, and, in the main lobby, trophies on display behind glass cases. There is so much moving around by people that it is hard to take in some of the historic charms that exist in this building.
Arsenal Tech is nestled between an ultra-hip and a dodgy neighborhood east of downtown. The electric Mass Ave is located less than a mile away from campus; a neighborhood that has its unique charm and vibe, much different than downtown Indianapolis.
There is a collection of restaurants, bars, breweries, and boutique shops that make this a great destination before and after a basketball game at Tech. Mimi Blue Meatballs offers flavorful meatballs with delectable side dishes in a quaint, nostalgic setting. Bakersfield is a local favorite that offers nine different tacos, tortas, and tequila. The Eagle is famous for fried chicken, Union 50 has a warm ambiance with live music, and Pizzology makes some of the best pizzas in the city.
The fans generate an amazing zeal for the game. They line up in the cold waiting for tickets even if they are told that they are sold out. Once inside they clamor for a space to sit and watch the game, enjoying every moment. It is hard not to bump shoulders with someone and have a conversation about the game. There is not an empty seat or corner in the arena, something you do not see at many sporting events.
The campus of Arsenal Tech is an old establishment with some buildings dating back to the time of the Civil War. There is parking throughout the school, but spaces quickly fill up hours before the game. There are free shuttle buses providing folks who had to park on neighborhood streets or somewhere else on campus. After waiting in line for your ticket, it is wise to get to an empty seat and remain there for the entire game. It is cumbersome to maneuver through the dense crowd that overtakes the small arena.
Return on Investment 4
Tickets cost $6 for a single game or $10 for two games, making it quite a deal to watch top-level basketball. Many of these men who are playing on this court will eventually start at major colleges and possibly the National Basketball Association within a few years. You’re practically seeing the equivalent of the junior hockey leagues of Canada. The parking is free and with Mass Ave being very close to the facility, it’s one heck of a way to enjoy a Friday night.
The crowd is the star of the night with over 4,000 people in attendance. A very impressive number, since many minor league basketball operations would love these types of crowds at their games.
The shuttle buses make life a lot easier for many fans trekking to the building. Parking spots are at a premium and many have to search throughout campus and the neighboring streets to park their cars. Luckily free shuttle buses bring people to and from the game in warm comfort.
The gym and campus possess a lot of character that is hidden by the mass of people at the game. The facility dates back to 1928 and has a few stories to tell; a return engagement might be recommended during the regular season to fully appreciate the arena.
Attending this particular sectional was truly something that I will remember for the rest of my life. There were all the characteristics of Indiana high school basketball to observe. Fans waiting in line in the cold winter air, sold-out tickets, people nestled up against one another at their seats, and the joy of watching your team win the game and move on in the tournament. I was told by many that these days have dearly dissipated, but that was not the case here at Tech on the night of Sectionals. Perhaps the oversized crowd of fans bolstered the ambiance, but I don’t think I would have had it any other way.