This article originally posted on www.stadiumjourney.com
When Hinkle Fieldhouse (then known as Butler Fieldhouse) opened in 1928, it was the largest basketball arena ever built. With a capacity of just over 11,000, it seems cozy by today’s standards.
It doesn’t get much better than basketball in the state of Indiana, and a trip to Hinkle may be the best way to experience that tradition.
FANFARE Score: 32
F ood & Beverage: 3
There’s nothing special inside to help sustain you. If you need a snack, there are hot dogs, pretzels, popcorn, and candy available. Pepsi products are available, although I wish they were served in souvenir cups.
Lines are long, and refreshments can only be found on the ground floor, so if you need a snack make sure you get there early or sneak away from your seat in the timeout preceding halftime.
A tmosphere: 5
I felt a little bit like Jimmy Chipwood when I first entered, although it felt smaller than what was portrayed by the movie Hoosiers . Yes, perhaps the best sports film ever made, Hoosiers , filmed its final championship scenes in Hinkle. Watching that re-telling of the 1954 Milan “miracle” team is great preparation for your trip to a Butler home game.
Movie magic aside, this venue provides historical significance, and modern day excitement. It is without question an absolutely great place to see a game. The student section is small, sandwiching the court on both baselines, but the energy is pervasive. This, aided by a solid pep band and a ridiculously large cheerleading and dance squad.
N eighborhood: 4
It may be a little bit of a stretch to consider the area of College Avenue between 51st and 54th Streets part of the immediate Hinkle neighborhood. The walk is about a mile and a quarter, but there is a perfect mix of bars and restaurants to appeal to whatever it is you may be looking for.
Taste Café is a great place to stop in prior to an early weekend game if you want some breakfast. It’s a slightly trendy menu, but delivers delicious options. Just go to the counter to order, get your number, and find a seat. I tried the breakfast burrito, loaded with eggs, potatoes, chorizo, guacamole, and black beans served with a spicy homemade salsa. The service is extremely friendly and the coffee is hot and tasty.
The classic Butler hangout is Moe & Johnny’s at the corner of College and 54th. If you’re looking for a younger crowd and plenty of sports viewing, then this would be the place for a pregame or postgame drink. There are at least 20 HD screens in the bar, and the menu features all the bar fare you would expect. My only wish is that they offered some local beers, as Indiana produces a lot of quality brews.
If an English pub experience is more your speed, then The Aristocrat Pub is the place for you. They’ve got a great beer list, including some local options, and pub classics. I had the Fish & Chips and thought the fish portions were generous, and the fries were sub-par.
Finally, for anyone who wants a dive bar where they can belly up and have some cheap bottles, then The Red Key Tavern is the right choice for you. To be fair, they actually have a decent beer selection, and I found the service to be friendly.
Regardless of where you end up, leave yourself at least 30 minutes if you’re on foot, to get back in time for tip-off.
F ans: 5
I loved the energy, awareness, and knowledge of the Butler fans. First of all, they come in all ages. From the two-year-old girl dressed in her cheerleader outfit to the 80-year-old man complaining about an opponent’s illegal screen, everyone was focused on the basketball.
No cues are needed from the PA announcer or scoreboard. These fans know when to give their team a boost, in good times and in low times. I was incredibly impressed with these fans. The only surprise is that I was able to find a ticket less than a week before a game so easily, without going through a secondhand ticket broker.
A ccess: 5
Parking is free, whether you park in the main lot or one of the residential streets surrounding the Fieldhouse. Despite its age and narrow concourses, you can leave or enter efficiently, as they have several entrances and even more exits when the game ends. I was able to go from seat to being on the road in 10 minutes, and that included a quick trip to the bathroom.
R eturn on Investment: 5
I sat center court, about 20 rows up, for $30. I would have paid more for that experience. It’s important to note that the lower sections have actual seats, and any section numbered 20 or higher are bleachers. It can get a little uncomfortable sitting in a seat with no back, however, the first five rows of the 20’s sections have padded bleachers, making the experience more tolerable.
The gift shop is found in the concourse, and prices are reasonable if you want to take a souvenir from your experience. Lines are long and it gets a bit congested, but a “Spirit Shop” is under construction to move the gift shop out of the concourse.
E tc.: 5
During player introductions, the Butler starters run through a tunnel of high fives from teammates to finding a barking bulldog at the end. Each starter rubbed the dogs head, and when the team huddled up, the dog ran around the team continuing to bark in a playful manner. From there, the bulldog ran into the student section to grab a bone that looked to be about 2 feet long. It was a cool touch.
Other bonus points for being a historic landmark, being the backdrop for the Hoosiers finale, the incomparable fans, and for the goose bumps elicited.
Hinkle Fieldhouse is one of those magical sports venues that every sports fan should experience, especially college basketball fans. If I lived in Indianapolis, I would be a season ticket holder. That’s about as much praise as I can offer any stadium.
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