Hinkle Fieldhouse is a basketball arena located on the campus of Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana, United States. When it was built in 1928, it was the largest basketball arena in the United States, and it retained that distinction until 1950. It is the sixth-oldest college basketball arena still in use, and it is a U.S. National Historic Landmark. It is among the earliest of the major college fieldhouses, which, along with rules changes that made for a faster game, transformed college basketball in the late 1920s and 1930s.
Hinkle Fieldhouse is nicknamed "Indiana's Basketball Cathedral" due to the rich history it has played in the development of basketball in Indiana, and also to distinguish it from The Palestra, which is known as "The Cathedral of College Basketball."
Hinkle Fieldhouse and the 36,000-seat Butler Bowl football stadium were two of the first buildings erected when the university moved to the Fairview campus. The facilities were promoted by a corporation of 41 Indianapolis businessmen who viewed it as a prize for the Circle City as well as for Butler. When Butler signed a lease with the Indiana High School Athletic Association allowing the high school state tournament to be played there, the corporation agreed to finance the building at a cost of $1,000,000.
The court was reconfigured in 1933 from running east to west to run from north to south, as over half of the seats were at the ends of the court, when event viewing is typically better from the sides. Butler hosted the tourney from 1928 to 1971, except for 1943–1945, when the building housed the US Army Air Forces and US Navy as a barracks during World War II.
Hinkle Fieldhouse hosted the annual state high school basketball championship games, including the Milan Miracle, the memorable 1954 victory of tiny Milan High School over the much larger Muncie Central. The film Hoosiers was loosely based on that event and used Hinkle Fieldhouse and the memorable voices of original announcers Hilliard Gates and Tom Carnegie in filming the climactic game of the popular movie. Ralph Underwood was the radio announcer. With the exception of an occasional high school showcase, high school basketball games are rarely contested at Hinkle Fieldhouse any more, and Indiana High School Athletic Association state basketball tournament games are played elsewhere.
A major $1.5 million facelift in 1989 reduced the seating capacity from 15,000 to 11,043, as well as renovating the main reception area, basketball offices, film rooms and team locker rooms. The Fieldhouse also had its other athletic and physical education offices, sports locker rooms, and fitness facilities renovated as well in 1992. Hinkle Fieldhouse hosted the entire 1994 Horizon League men's basketball conference tournament as well as parts of the 2004, 2008, 2009, and 2010 Horizon League tournaments.
The fieldhouse was originally called Butler Fieldhouse, and was renamed in 1966 to honor Paul D. "Tony" Hinkle (1899–1992), who was basketball coach at Butler for 41 seasons ending in 1970. In 1983, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. On February 27, 1987, it was designated as a National Historic Landmark in recognition of its role in transforming college basketball.
In 2006, to celebrate Butler University's 150th anniversary, a documentary about Hinkle Fieldhouse was aired on ESPN entitled Indiana's Basketball Cathedral.
It was an inspiration for the design of Bankers Life Fieldhouse (originally Conseco Fieldhouse).
In 2011, Butler University began the first phase of a renovation and restoration project. Capacity has been cut from 10,000 to 9,100. The gym that once was filled with bleachers now has about 4,500 chair back seats. That includes nearly all of the bottom two levels except for some bleachers reserved for student seating. There are handrails in the aisles. There are smaller scoreboards in each of the four corners in addition to the main video board above midcourt.
A pool once was attached to the west end of Hinkle, but it was abandoned about 15 years ago because the cost to maintain it was prohibitive. The athletic department has since used it primarily as a storage area.
But during the renovation, it was converted into a three-floor area that includes a new workout room on the bottom level; an academic center and a training facility – which LaRose said was six times larger than Butler's previous training facility – on the second floor; and Butler's athletic administrative offices and a few coaches' offices on the top level.
The men's and women's basketball offices are adjacent to their respective locker rooms just off the Hinkle floor, but they have been upgraded. The men's basketball locker room has been expanded and Butler has a separate video room for the first time. It was funded by a donation from former Butler standout and current Utah Jazz player Gordon Hayward.
"The scoreboards on the side are new, but it still has a historic feel," Butler senior guard Alex Barlow said. "It still has a lot of modern upgrades that fans like to see. If you see the locker room and the weight room and the training room, it's come a long way since I've gotten here."
The Bulldogs still play on the fieldhouse's original floor, which has been used longer than any playing surface in Division I.
The Fieldhouse has served as host to U.S. presidents (Herbert Hoover, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton), Evangelist Billy Graham, Ice Shows, professional basketball teams, Olympic basketball trials, the first USSR-USA basketball game, all-star basketball games for the NBA, ABA and the East-West College All-Stars, national indoor track events, tennis matches of both Bill Tilden and Jack Kramer, national equestrian events, the Roller Derby, a six-day bicycle race, a three ring circus, as well as the volleyball matches during the 1987 Pan American Games. With 15,000 spectators, the volleyball match was the highest-attended volleyball match ever held in the United States.