Switz City Gym - White River Valley Wolverines
Photos by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86
Switz City Gym 5644 Indiana 54 Switz City, IN 47465
White River Valley Wolverines website
Year Opened: 1956
Switz City: Small Town, Big Gym
On December 10, 1955, the Switz City Gym was dedicated to the hometown Tigers defeating the Linton Miners 54-43. The $185 million basketball venue was spacious and swanky by the local media and its capacity received the most acclaim. At the time, the population of the town was 328, but its gym had a seating capacity of 3,500.
The “sunken gym” design was constructed with the plans conceived by Evansville architect Ralph Legeman. The concept of a new gym had begun two years earlier with a much larger 5,335 capacity. The project was financed by the sale of long-term bonds by a holding company formed in the community.
The venue was constructed in a large excavation with the basketball court situated 15 feet below the ground level. This provided for a 16-foot running track to serve as the main concourse for home dates that also could house additional bleachers that would boost its capacity to 5,200. The gym’s size would be ideal for the Green County sectionals and the Green County Invitational tournament that are housed annually in the building.
Switz City would become Central High School in 1958 after it consolidated with Newberry High School and would become the smallest school in the state to win a sectional championship in 1973 with an enrollment of 150 students, where most in the tournament averaged between 500 to 1,000. The school’s enrollment would be 90 by the time it consolidated once again with nearby Worthington and Lyons & Marco for the 1990-91 season to form White River Valley High School.
That same season the gym received a fresh new coat of interior paint of navy blue, silver, and white to match the new colors and a new nickname of Wolverines, which was unique to any school in the state at the time. The new school would find instant success capturing sectional titles in its first three seasons and regional championships in 1992 and 1993.
Food & Beverage 5
A large concession stand is located in the main lobby of the building which houses an array of items that should fill most people up during the game. Despite the pandemic, when most gyms in the state are offering pre-packaged snacks and bottled soda, there is a full menu option at the Switz City Gym. There are also two smaller concession stands inside the seating bowl, but were closed during our visit.
The main concession stands sell hot dogs, cheese dogs, chili dogs, and chili cheese dogs between the prices of $2 to $3.50. There are also hamburgers, cheeseburgers, barbecue pork sandwiches, and sloppy joes. Fans can also enjoy nachos, chili cheese nachos, and tacos in a bag or served traditionally on a plate--complete with jalapeños.
For a sweet treat, there are more than enough candy bars to choose from along with pretzels dipped in cinnamon and sugar. You can wash it all down with bottled Coca-Cola products, and that would go well with freshly popped popcorn that hits the senses the minute you walk through the front door.
The gym’s interior design is somewhat vapid, but what makes it appealing is the sunken gym design that allows excellent views from all vantage points in the building. Fans can enjoy unobstructed views from their seats along with standing on the main concourse. However, our visit was during the COVID-19 pandemic, and attendance was capped, providing less than the normal crowd in the gym.
The ceiling is somewhat lower to the court than other similarly designed gyms. The interior colors also stand out to the visitor. The colors navy blue and silver are everywhere from the seating bowl, baseline, walls, and ceiling. The court itself also offers a simple design with the school's name in bold print at the center court. The baskets extend from the ceiling; with two scoreboards on opposite ends of each wall.
There are multiple sectional and regional championship banners, photos of other high schools from its conference, and even a mention of the three schools that merged to form WRV in 1990. An interesting little aspect of the gym is the staircase that leads to an open loft that used to serve as a weight room for PE classes but is now designated for storage. I think it could be put to better use as an exhibit of the city’s basketball past.
The lobby offers a large trophy case that includes WRVs past championships trophies, along with every class picture from previous years dating back to 1930. There is also a wall of former school greats on the inside concourse.
Switz City had a population of 293 at the time of the last census and features a limited number of eateries, but Cinco de Mayo Mexican Restaurant is worthy of a visit before or after a basketball game. Nearby Linton is 6 miles from the gym and offers many more eateries that include The Vault Bar & Grill, Joe Etta’s Pizza Villa, Country Harvest Smorgasbord, The Sportsman Pub, and Grill Inc.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the attendance figures are nowhere near where they would be in any other season. There were a handful of fans cheering for both the home and away teams, and they did their best to make sure their voices were heard throughout the game. This is similar to every other high school basketball game that's taken place during the pandemic years. The gym normally attracts fans from towns with no connection to the school, but who enjoy a good basketball game.
The sunken gym looks like many others in the state, and visitors are greeted by a large open concourse on the upper portion of the building. The stands are 10 rows deep, and there are no obstructed views. During the time of our visit, the effects of the pandemic were still evident as capacity was capped. This made for easy movement on the concourse, concession area, and seating bowl.
Return on Investment 3
The cost of a ticket is $5 for a regular game during the season and $8 for a ticket to either a sectional or invitational game. Concession items varied and ranged in between the prices of $2 to $4, for a cheap night out for sports and food, you can't go wrong at a WRV game.
The gym earns a point for its Green County Invitational which is held every January in the building, along with another point for its school logo and wordmark on its exterior. There is an array of classic basketball photos from the former county schools that have all merged into White River Valley which garners the third point in our review. Finally, the concession stand is among the best in the state of Indiana. If you're looking to have some food before the game, do yourself a favor and wait till you see their options.
Swiss City Gym is a classic rock Legamin design facility that was built to last. Fans have many memories here from their days of the 1950s to the formation of WRV. The local fans love this gym and continue to support the basketball that is played here doing both wars and pandemics. However, it is the concession stand that is the best that I have seen in the state so far during my travels.
Follow all of Marc’s stadium journeys on Twitter @ballparkhunter and his YouTube channel. Email at Marc.Viquez@stadiumjourney.com