The Cougar Den – Bloomington North Cougars
Photos by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.29
The Cougar Den 3901 N Kinser Pike Bloomington, IN 47404
Year Opened: 1972
Bloomington’s Cougar Den
Bloomington High School North has the distinction of being the last IHSAA Boys Basketball State single-class champion. The Cougars defeated Delta High School 75-54 at the RCA Dome on March 22, 1997, in front of a raucous crowd who were watching an end of an era in Indiana history.
The next year the basketball tournament was broken into four classes and the debate on whether Indiana should return to a single-class system has been vehemently debated since that Cougars championship victory over 20 years ago.
Today, the Cougars play in a basketball frenzied town that features rivals Bloomington South and Indiana University. Bloomington North features an enrollment of 1,584 students and is a member of Conference Indiana features city rivals Bloomington South who usually draw large crowds to home games during the season.
The Cougar Den was built in 1972 with the high school and has a capacity of 3,020. A number that would rank among the highest in many other states, but is behind 145 other high school gyms in Indiana in capacity size. The team plays on Tom McKinney Court, named after the man who coached the Cougars for 17 years and led the team to 9 sectionals, 2 regionals, 2 semi-states, and that last single-class state championship in 1997.
Food & Beverage 3
There is one concession stand outside the gymnasium on the main floor offering the usual items found at many other high school gyms. The prices range between $1-$3 and patrons can select from hot dogs, nachos, pretzels, and beef jerky. Pepsi products sell by the bottle for $2 and fans can add cheese or chili to their hot dogs and nacho selections.
The layout of the gymnasium follows many of the designs that were created in the 1970s; much smaller than their counterparts of the previous two decades, but still impressive in size and status.
There are two sections of seating on both ends with balcony seating overlooking both nets. Past titles of all sports programs are displayed on the east end of the gym, while all former Mr. Basketball jerseys are featured on the west end of the facility. Two simple scoreboards also are displayed on the walls. Outside in the main lobby, there are trophy cases that highlight the Cougars 1997 state championship, the last single-class champion in the state.
A parquet floor was installed for the 1997/98 season and new lower-level bleachers and railings were put in a few years ago. The interior of the gym is accented with a nice amount of school colors of gold and burgundy and the upper-level areas offer standing-room-only seats against the railings.
The high school is located three miles from the downtown college vibe of Indiana University, about a 10-minute drive by car. There are a lot of great places to eat and visit during one’s time in Bloomington and it all depends on what you are looking for at the time.
Mother Bear’s has legendary pizza and is a favorite among locals, but parking can be a “bear” outside the establishment. Upland Brewing Company is headquartered in town and serves two of my favorite beers Free Time Lager and Champagne Velvet Pilsner, plus good pub food.
BuffaLouie’s offers some of the area’s best wings that come in 20 different sauces including Lucifer Buffalo, Maple Bacon, Montreal Steak, and Rasta Jerk. Lennie’s and Bloomington Brewing Company is another popular choice of voodoo chili, shrimp and blue crab dip, meatball sandwiches, and pizza. Janko’s Little Zagreb is a steak and seafood restaurant featuring 100 bottles of wine.
The nightlife consists of hobnobbing with the college crowd and if that is your thing, then Nick’s English Hut and Kilroy’s on Kirkwood are your two top choices. They also made Buzzfeed’s Best College Bars in America list.
The gymnasium was sold out for the game against New Albany during our visit, but that is because of a young man named Romeo Langford who typically plays in front of capacity crowds wherever he goes during his senior year. The home crowd was subtle and surprisingly quiet for its size, but they did make sure that they would be heard after every home team score and fast break. A typical crowd for home games ranges anywhere from
500-1500 per game
The high school is located near S.R. 37, which in a few years will be part of the I-69 expansion that will stretch from Evansville to Indianapolis, but you will need a GPS to arrive at the gymnasium due to limited road signs. Once inside, the gym is spacious enough to move around, even in front of capacity-sized crowds.
Return on Investment 4
The price of admission is $5, concession items range between $1-$3, and parking is free. These prices are in line with other high school gyms in the state and after the game, one gets to enjoy the quaint, college town of Bloomington, Indiana.
Bloomington North gets one point for its half-time show that entertains the crowd during a time when other gyms don’t offer such activities.
A nice, serviceable high school gymnasium that when it’s packed is full of basketball hysteria. The local area and prices of admission should be on your radar when visiting Hoosier Temples.