Photos by Marc Viquez Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.29
Vandivier Gymnasium 625 Grizzly Cub Dr. Franklin, IN 46131
Year Opened: 1961 Capacity: 4,112
The Vandy is Still Dandy in Franklin
The Vandivier Gym opened with Franklin Community High School for the 1961-1962 academic year. The gym would host its first game on November 14 in front of a near-capacity crowd at the 4,112 building. The gym would be home to Franklin Grizzly Cubs basketball until the 2005-2006 school year when modern facilities were constructed less than 2.5 miles away.
The Vandy Gym and campus is now the middle school, but at least one high school home game a season sometime in late January. The idea stems from the school’s AD, who was a 1990 graduate and wants the old gym to provide a few more memories to the town of Franklin. The night of our visit was to honor the 50th-anniversary state championship finalists of 1973-1974.
The venue gets its name from Robert Polk “Fuzzy” Vandivier, a legendary player on the Franklin Wonder Five. They captured three state high school championships from 1920-1922 with a combined record of 89-9, and then all five men moved a few blocks away to Franklin College and won two more state college championships in 1923 and 1924. After college, Vandivier was the head coach of the Cubs and later the athletic director from 1923-1964.
Food & Beverage 3
A small concession stand offers hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, candy, and soda. There is a limited menu selection due to it handling a middle school crowd regularly. There is also an upstairs concession window that might be used for the larger high school crowds.
The school offers Pepsi products, good-sized hot dogs with a proper meat-to-bun ratio, and additional toppings of chili and cheese. The stand does not take credit cards but does accept Venmo through an app on the phone. The first of its kind was witnessed at an Indiana high school gym.
The Vandy Gym appears frozen in time since the Grizzly Cubs last played inside its walls. The old court still has the hand-painted school logo, the words Grizzly Cubs are arched over the 3-point line, and the school colors of light blue and white adorn the walls. However, the main focal points are its walls and lighting.
The walls hang low with a set of lights that reflect off the basketball court below. It is similar in design to the Glen Ray Gym just up the road at Whiteland High School. The Vandy Gym also features an upper concourse that wraps around the seating bowl for easy access and a play area for younger students.
There are two sets of stands, the upper permanent bleachers and the lower pull-out bleachers that are adorned in plastic. Fans are close to the action all around the lower seating, and metal fencing separates the upper rows of seats for safety and access.
Downtown Franklin is known for its quaint restaurants and locally-owned shops since featured in the December 2, 1940 edition of Life magazine. That spirit remains intact 80-plus years later, where visitors can find everything from bars, casual and chef-driven restaurants, shops, bakeries, cafes, and breweries. Downtown is less than 2 miles from the Vandy Gym.
Many buildings were constructed in the 1800s and now feature local places for food and drink. Blue Cactus Tacos & Tequila Bar and Shale Creek Brewery are two such establishments that are ideal spots before or after the game. The Artcraft Theater was built in 1922 and has been restored to its original look, offering second-run movies. Next door is The Willard, built in 1860. Today, it is a bar and restaurant. There are more places to choose from from its official website.
North of the gym on US-31 is an array of fast-food restaurants and regional chain eateries. There are also retail, supermarkets, and several other places of interest. It is ideal for a quick bite on the run or with the family.
Franklin fans are a vocal bunch who make it well-known what they think of a call or play on the court. Many have been coming to games for decades and enjoy watching high school hoops in the old building. The student cheer block was present, and the small group did their best to help out their classmates on the floor.
The Vandivier Gym is located at the middle school and easily accessible off of US-31 on the northbound side of the highway. A large parking lot on the south side provides plenty of parking before the game. Once inside, a wraparound concourse above the upper seating bowl allows fans to enjoy the game from a different perspective, and external staircases provide easy exits after the game.
Return on Investment 3
The cost of a ticket to a game is $7, concession prices are $3 for a hot dog and nachos, and a table sells used basketball gear and older t-shirts for $1 or $3. Venmo is an acceptable form of payment without cash.
The Vandy Gym earns a point for its wrap-around concourse, low ceiling and lighting, and its name for one of the best players who ever laced his sneakers up, Robert “Fuzzy” Vandivier.
A visit to the Vandivier Gym is a rare opportunity for fans of high school basketball. The gym only hosts one game a year in January, and plans are to make it more of an event to create a unique tradition in the state. The stands are filled with former players, alumni, and other fans who make a Grizzly Cub game at the venerable gym a rare treat.