Hinkle Field House

Nicknamed “Indiana’s Basketball Cathedral” by ESPN, the Hinkle Fieldhouse, formerly known as the Butler Fieldhouse, is one of the best known and oldest continually used college basketball arenas in the world. Listed as a National Historic Landmark in 1987 for its role in college and high school basketball, few places represent the Hoosier obsession with the sport of basketball quite like Hinkle Fieldhouse. In addition to serving as the home arena of the Butler Bulldogs, the Fieldhouse hosted the Indiana High School Basketball State Championship Games 41 times between 1911 and 1994, more than twice that of any other venue. The fieldhouse also functioned as the home court for the Indianapolis professional basketball teams the Jets and their replacement team the Olympians.

Designed by Indianapolis architect Fermor Spencer Cannon, the fieldhouse was constructed to allow for unobstructed spectator views. Rather than using the more traditional posts or pillars, Cannon used a novel approach of arched steel trusses to support the roof. Originally, the court ran east and west; this was changed in 1933 to allow more seating and to assuage the athletes who found the basket on the western end difficult to see in the afternoon sun. The fieldhouse remained largely unchanged after the 1933 remodel until its renovation in 1989.

The Butler Fieldhouse was renamed in 1965 in honor of Paul Daniel “Tony” Hinkle. Hinkle served Butler from 1929 through 1970, coaching football, baseball, and basketball. He retired with 1,060 wins across all three sports. An influential figure in collegiate basketball, Hinkle served on the NCAA Basketball Rules Committee including a term as chairman, served as president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, and was the 1965 inductee of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Hinkle is also remembered for his “Hinkle System,” a basketball strategy utilizing motion, passing, picks, and screens.

In addition to its use as a basketball arena, the fieldhouse has acted as host to various other sporting, religious, and political events. The fieldhouse was the site of the 1937 six-day bicycle race run for 11 hours and 45 minutes each day; the banked wooden track constructed for the event was described as “the fastest in the country.” As a convention center the fieldhouse hosted presidential hopefuls on campaign such as Herbert Hoover, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Gerald Ford. During World War II the fieldhouse served as barracks for both the U.S. Army Air Corps and the Navy Signal School. The final scene of the 1986 film Hoosiers was filmed at Hinkle Fieldhouse.

Images

Hinkle Fieldhouse, 1990

Hinkle Fieldhouse, 1990

Photo courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society. View File Details Page

Coach Paul "Tony" Hinkle, 1990

Coach Paul "Tony" Hinkle, 1990

Photo Courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society. View File Details Page

Butler Fieldhouse, 1926

Butler Fieldhouse, 1926

Here Fermer Spencer Cannon's use of steel arches to create unobstructed views can be clearly seen. Photo courtesy of Indiana Historical Society. | Source: Indiana Historical Society View File Details Page

Butler Fieldhouse, 1926.

Butler Fieldhouse, 1926.

The building is six stories high and covers over three acres. Photo courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society. | Source: Indiana Historical Society View File Details Page

State Basketball Championship, Butler Fieldhouse, 1930

State Basketball Championship, Butler Fieldhouse, 1930

The rise of the automobile enabled people more easily to come from all over the state of Indiana to experience the thrill of the state basketball tournament. Photo courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society. View File Details Page

Butler Fieldhouse Interior, 1930

Butler Fieldhouse Interior, 1930

With the court originally oriented east-west, many players complained about the glare of the afternoon sun in their eyes. Photo courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society. | Source: Indiana Historical Society View File Details Page

Hoosier Hysteria, 1956

Hoosier Hysteria, 1956

The 1956 state championship game between the Jefferson High School Broncos of Lafayette and the Crispus Attucks Tigers of Indianapolis. The Tigers ended the 1956 season with a victory in this game and 45 consecutive wins. Photo courtesy of Indiana Historical Society. | Source: William Palmer Collection, Indiana Historical Society | Creator: William Palmer View File Details Page

Oscar Robertson, 1956

Oscar Robertson, 1956

Future NBA legend Oscar Robertson cuts the net after the Crispus Attucks Tigers' victory in the 1956 state championship game. Photo courtesy of Indiana Historical Society. | Source: William Palmer Collection, Indiana Historical Society | Creator: William Palmer View File Details Page

Six-day Bicycle Race, 1937

Six-day Bicycle Race, 1937

Photo Courtesy of Indiana Historical Society. | Source: Indiana Historical Society View File Details Page

Sailors at Butler, 1942

Sailors at Butler, 1942

During World War II, the Butler Fieldhouse housed both the Navy Signal School and the Army Air Corps. It was the first time the Army and Navy shared quarters. Photo Courtesy of Indiana Historical Society. | Source: Indiana Historical Society View File Details Page

Eisenhower Rally, 1952

Eisenhower Rally, 1952

The Fieldhouse was an ideal location for large events, including political ones. Photo Couresy of the Indiana Historical Society. | Source: Indiana Historical Society View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

John Sureck, “Hinkle Field House,” Discover Indiana, accessed May 28, 2017, http://indyhist.iupui.edu/items/show/30.
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