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  • Writer's pictureMarc Viquez

The Orange Pit – Columbus East Olympians

Photos by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.29

The Orange Pit 230 S Marr Rd. Columbus, IN 47201

Year Opened: 1972

Capacity: 3,771


The House of Orange

When you walk inside the basketball home of Columbus East High School an orange hue that envelops the facility. The orange color is dominant from signage, banners, wall paneling, and all the way down to the basketball. You might have to rub your eyes to make sure you’re seeing things clearly.

The origin of the gym’s name stems from a giant banner that once hung across the end of the gym and read: “Home of the East Olympians.” At some point, the banner was stolen and a new permanent sign was erected reading “Welcome to The Orange Pit.”

According to longtime school Athletic Director Glen Brown, the use of the word pit is believed to be based on a college venue that used the same name, but he was unsure of which college venue. The only other college basketball arena that is known as “The Pit” is the home of the New Mexico Lobos.

Eight feet of water covered the gym’s floor after several rivers in town crested due to severe weather in June 2008. After the water had receded, there were 13 large catfish left on the court. The pit sign was not damaged but did need a fresh coat of paint. In 2017, the facility received new bleacher seating and a coat of fresh paint around the hallways. This past year (2018), a new sound system was installed before the start of the season.

Both the gym and high school were built in 1972 in order to meet the population boom of Columbus. The gymnasium holds 3,711 people and looks similar in design to many other gyms built during this time. It features two levels of seating on rollaway wooden bleachers and a main concourse wraps around the upper level.

What differentiates the gym from others of its kind, is the giant orange sign that reads “Welcome to The Orange Pit.” The sign is dominating from all areas of the building and creates much of the hue that envelops the gym during a game. Up above the sign are banners and an area for fans to peak out to enjoy the game from a bird’s eye view.

Food & Beverage 2

A small concession stand is located on the upper level of the gymnasium offering the usual array of items. The selection includes hot dogs, popcorn, nachos, soda, and candy. The prices range from $1 to $3 for each item, a few of the smaller-sized candies are less than a buck.

Atmosphere 3

The atmosphere at ‘The Pit’ is somewhat subdued but offers everything a visitor could expect from a high school hoops gym. There are about 40 state championship and finals banners decked out on both sides, photographs of senior basketball players and cheerleaders on the lower deck, a scorers table with the school’s logo, and plenty of seats.

However, “The Orange Pit” sign is the most dominant feature and might just be one of the most distinguishable features of any Hoosier gym. The colors of orange provide a unique tinge underneath the ceiling lighting that provides an interesting look to the game. The center court also displays the good-looking Olympians-torch logo.

The main lobby appears to have been redone in recent years and houses trophies and championship paraphernalia. The accolades are neatly displayed in an area just outside the upper seating area. The exterior of the building itself also looks a bit more modern than the exterior of the gym.

Neighborhood 4

Columbus is a pretty and interesting little town that has its own little downtown with a few other options within driving distance. The Powerhouse Brewery offers delicious pub food and reasonable prices along with quality craft beer.

450 North Brewing Company serves great beers and brick oven pizza, even by the slice, and Zwanzigz Pizza also features hoagies, calzones, and salads. There are even more great restaurants to choose from that including The Garage Pub and Grill, Skooter’s, and Amazing Joe’s Grill.

If interested in shopping the Edinburgh Outlet Mall is located off of I-65 with further restaurant chain restaurant options. In this area, a few nice choices to stay at overnight include Residence Inn, Comfort Inn and Suites, Courtyard, Holiday Inn, and the nearby Hotel Indigo at the Columbus Architectural Center.

Fans 2

The crowds are somewhat tepid during games and most nights one section of the bleachers is not brought down. The student section and the rest of the fans do their best to spearhead the boys on the court.

Access 4

The high school and gym are located a few miles away from I-65 and it is recommended to use GPS. The gym offers plenty of parking and easy access in and around the gym. There are bathrooms located near the concession stand and the aisles are somewhat wider than at other places.

Return on Investment 4

The ticket prices are $5 for all home games and a great price to enjoy basketball in one of the state's most interesting-looking high school cathedrals. The orange color is bold, the views are great, and East plays a brand of basketball that can be appreciated by many. Also, the local neighborhood has enough to offer to make for an eventful evening.

Extras 4

The gym receives an extra point for the giant sign that welcomes people to “The Orange Pit,” a great name for a high school gym and one that lives up to the colors of the gym. The gym receives another point for the multiple banners that are colored either brown or white at each end of the court.

The gym receives a point for the sharp-looking uniforms worn by the basketball team. They looked as if they came off a major college program. The gym receives a fourth and final point for the nicely decorated lobby and trophy room.

Final Thoughts

The Orange Pit throws its hats into the ring of interesting high school gyms in Indiana. Its name, colors, and signage are appealing to many first time visitors. Its location in Columbus is close to great shopping and dining opportunities that make it an easy choice during the season for high school hoops.

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