Spartan Bowl - Connersville High School Spartans
Photos by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86
Spartan Bowl 1900 N Grand Ave. Connersville, IN 47331
Year Opened: 1958
Spartan Bowl is Still a Palace for Basketball
Connersville, Indiana, loves its basketball and when its Spartans are playing on top of their game the crowds swell at its home building the Spartan Bowl, one of the state’s most iconic venues that holds 5,134 people and what locals have dubbed “The Grand Palace on Grand Avenue.”
The facility opened on November 25, 1958, and was designed by Ralph Legman who also constructed the New Castle Fieldhouse a few miles northwest of town which opened the following season. A recent $300,000 renovation replaced the original gym floor and added sound barriers to its ceiling that give the buildings a unique look.
The facility is home to the school’s two state championship teams of 1972 and 1983 and two large team photographs are located on its concourse along with two massive banners hanging from its rafters. The center court logo also acknowledges the school’s accomplishments.
The boys’ basketball program has captured 10 Conference Championships, 59 Sectional Championships, and 19 Regional Championships since 1922. The school had an impressive streak from 1922-1997 when it captured 57 sectional tournament championships and only two have come in the current century.
The “Grand Palace” begins its 7th decade of use and is still in excellent shape, offering basketball memories to a generation of fans of Connersville High School. The noise barriers that hang from the ceiling, the red coloring on its walls, and its residential location provide an atmosphere that reminds us that Hoosier Hysteria is alive and well.
Food & Beverage 3
There are three concession areas located in the gym that offer the standard options at many high school venues across the state. Fans can enjoy hot dogs and chili dogs, nachos with chili, pizza slices, pretzels with cheese, popcorn, and assorted candies.
There are additional treats of donut holes from regional chain Jack’s Donuts and walking tacos. Coca-Cola products are available in 20-ounce plastic bottles for $2.The prices range from as low as $1 for a bag of popcorn to $3 for a slice of pizza.
Like with many other high school venues the products here are for snacking pleasure and if you are really hungry, it is advised to grab something before arriving at the basketball game.
Unlike other gyms that are a connection to the school and are surrounded by a massive parking lot, the Spartan Bowl is tucked in between the residential streets of the town. Fans park their car in a few vacant lots but many parks in front of homes and make their way to the game with fellow supporters on the city’s sidewalks.
Like with many of the Legeman-designed gyms, the Spartan Bowl does not stand out since its seating is designed below ground level but the outside support trestles are visible on its exterior. Once inside the building is where one can fully appreciate its design and aesthetics.
The gym features an old-fashioned electronic scoreboard that hovers above the center court. The arena floor is built 18-rows deep under the ground incorporating a running track that serves as a concourse on the top. The walls are decorated with championship team photos, small banners, and trophies from the school’s history.
The main concourse is a community event where fans mingle, purchase concessions, and frequent various tables selling team merchandise, raffle tickets, and sentiments from glory years past. Basketball is also heavily discussed by long-time fans and season-ticket holders.
Up above and hanging from the roof are sound barriers that create a fascinating ambiance and add a nice touch to the facility’s decor. The school’s most cherished accomplishments--the 1972 and 1983 State Championship banners--hang proudly on one side of the venue. There are plenty of more accolades, team photographs, and other memorabilia housed along the vast main concourse to browse before or during breaks of the game.
Introductions are led by the cheerleaders and official team mascot. The team band and student section also bring a lot of enthusiasm to the pre-game ceremonies and throughout the contest. Through an impressive light show, the town’s starting five make their way courtside to an applauding crowd that has it pretty good when it comes to high school basketball in Indiana.
Connersville is a small town of 13,500 people in Fayette County. There are some great local establishments to try when in town and many are perfect if you are with the family.
Kunkel’s Drive-In has been a city favorite since 1954 and has not changed that much in appearance either. Enjoy burgers, tenderloins, chicken sandwiches, and soups. Other items include popcorn shrimp, coney dogs, coney and barbecue fries, and fried pickles. For dessert, the drive-in has homemade pies.
A newer establishment, Rip’s Family BBQ might be a hidden gem in the area. They offer 5 different regional sauces including white Alabama sauce, along with a few interesting creations: pulled pork nachos and egg rolls, burritos, giant sandwiches, and rib and brisket dinner plates with sides.
Southern Family Dining is another area favorite specializing in southern fare including po’boy sandwiches, roast pork Manhattan’s, walleye, and catfish dinners. They also serve breakfast. Daniel's Girls Farmhouse Restaurant is home to the glazed donut burger.
The populace in Connersville is among the most passionate in the state. When the Spartans are on the road in sectionals or regionals, it’s not uncommon for 2,000 fans to travel with the team to see them play. That kind of support can make a difference on the road, imagine when that is at or near capacity at the Spartan Bowl.
Connersville is located about 12 miles south of I-70 (a little over an hour between Indianapolis and Dayton, Ohio) on State Road 1. There is parking on the residential streets free of charge, but crowds for an opening day can reach capacity inside the gym. For most games, parking is ample but does require searching. Once inside, the main concourse offers bathrooms, concession stands, and easy access to seats.
Return on Investment 4
Tickets cost $5 per person and are in line with other high school basketball gymnasiums in Indiana. This is a great value for a simple night of basketball in an iconic facility that still looks sharp. Another interesting keepsake is the 1972 championship magazine sold for also $5. This is a very affordable way to spend a day or night watching basketball with friends or family.
The center court features a beautiful logo that lists the school’s two state championships before class play. The dangling sound barriers look as if they have been on the ceiling since the bowl opened in 1958; however, they were installed sometime around 2002.
There is a sort of satisfaction in listening to the post-game or highlights of the Spartans game on local radio 106.9 FM/1580 AM WLPK. All home games and worth a listen as you drive through the small towns on S.R. 1 back to the interstate.
The building’s location adds to its charm that is tucked away among the residential homes and streets of Connersville. Parking your car along the sidewalk and making your way to the bowl adds a nice touch to the proceedings.
A final star is given to the girls’ basketball program which some consider the best in the state for game day atmosphere. Whether it’s the boys or the girls playing basketball, the sport-minded traveler should be in for a treat in Connersville.
Indiana is full of great old-fashioned and important gymnasiums that house high school basketball. Every small town seems to have one that is worth a visit from time to time. In the small town of Connersville, Spartan Bowl is worthy of a day trip to enjoy a day or night of basketball sometime during the season.