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Telling the SAT Story: Butler University’s Hinkle Fieldhouse



Butler University’s Hinkle Fieldhouse
Indianapolis, IN
Year of Award: 2010
National Park Service SAT Grant: $700,000
Matching Share Leveraged: $954,025

For over eight decades, Butler University’s Hinkle Fieldhouse has served an important role for the Midwest as one of the region’s oldest sports arenas.  Hinkle, formerly known as Butler Fieldhouse, was well-known in the community for most of the 20th century for several reasons. The innovation demonstrated by the architects and construction workers made it possible for up to 15,000 attendees to enjoy events at the stadium without view obstructions from posts and pillars.

From Hinkle’s construction in 1928 until the mid-1960s, it served as the largest sports facility in the state of Indiana. It was the earliest of the major college fieldhouses, and that, along with NCAA rule changes that changed the pace of the game, transformed college basketball in the 1920s and 1930s. As basketball’s popularity continued to increase, particularly in Indiana, Hinkle enjoyed a more prominent role for Hoosiers throughout the state.

Dubbed “Indiana’s Basketball Cathedral,” it continues to house the Indiana High School Athletic Association’s state tournaments, and was the venue for the 1954 “Milan Miracle,” one of the most famous sports stories in Indiana’s history, and inspiration for the film Hoosiers, which features Hinkle’s storied interior prominently. In 1966, Butler Fieldhouse became Hinkle Fieldhouse to honor Butler’s legendary coach and athletic director, Paul D. “Tony” Hinkle, Butler basketball coach from 1926 – 1970. To acknowledge and honor Hinkle’s place in Indiana culture and history, it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987.

Over the years, however, time took its toll on the building, and its structural integrity had become compromised. The steel component of its hybridized steel and masonry construction (steel-framed structures framed in masonry veneer) had minimal protection from the weather, and became extremely corroded. Though repairs to the steel restored the safety and stability of the structure, the masonry exterior still looked ragged.

Hinkle bricks before restoration

Hinkle’s brick exterior prior to the restoration.

To address these issues, in 2011, Butler administrators applied for and received a $700,000 grant from the National Park Services’ Save America’s Treasures (SAT) grant program to restore the exterior of the facility. With the funds received from the grant, Butler was able to restore Hinkle’s masonry and window systems. At the end of the restoration, 282,000 bricks had been tuck-pointed and 9,734 windowpanes had been rehabilitated.

Decisions about the interior’s restoration were equally critical, and the renovation of the exterior sparked interest from the community to tackle the interior restoration. Dana Ohren, grants manager for Butler University, said, “The SAT grant allowed Butler to demonstrate the building’s importance, as well as that it was in need of repair. The exterior renovation to Hinkle early in the project jump-started our fundraising campaign and allowed us to show donors and prospective donors progress being made to preserve Hinkle.” The exterior renovation restored Hinkle to its former glory, and ensured that its historic legacy can continue for Hoosiers for years to come.

Hinkle's interior concourse windows after the SAT renovation.

Hinkle’s interior concourse windows after the SAT renovation.

To date, Butler has raised $17.1 million to restore Hinkle’s interior and improve its ADA accessibility, well exceeding its $16 million goal. Improvements to the interior include new training and sports facilities, locker rooms, and an academic center for student athletes. In 2015, new seating and a new scoreboard will be installed. Of the renovation, Ohren said, “One of the most significant challenges was making sure that all renovation work followed historic preservation guidelines. Our Butler team worked closely with historic preservationists, architects, engineers, and others to ensure that the renovations were appropriate.”

Hinkle NPS image

Hinkle’s interior post-renovation.

In November 2014, Hinkle officially reopened to the public, once again enabling it to be utilized as a popular multi-use facility for residents of Indianapolis and its surrounding areas.When asked about the significance of Hinkle Fieldhouse, several community members spoke particularly of the building’s architectural design in tandem with its sports history. Ohren said, “From the beginning, team members were guided by the question, ‘What makes Hinkle Hinkle?’ The answers were many and spoke to the soul of the building. Hinkle is its grand, gabled exterior of brick and glass. It is the exposed steel beams over the basketball court. It is being able to view the same game with thousands of others without a bad seat in the house. And Hinkle is feeling the light pour in from the windows that adorn the east and west sides. It is commanding, yet intimate; modern, but historic; world class and still hometown.”

Nick Kile, Butler alumnus ’87, added, “When you walk in this building . . . the history speaks to you. To have this treasure sitting right here in Central Indiana, preserving that is so important.” Thanks to Save America’s Treasures, Butler has done just that, and has allowed Hinkle to remain a historic athletic landmark for generations to come.

Visit Hinkle’s website for more information.

Established in 1999, the Save America’s Treasures program is managed by the National Park Service, with the National Endowment Agencies, to preserve and protect nationally significant properties and collections for future generations of Americans. Stories of saving those treasures will be shared through partnership with the American Architectural Foundation.

Photos courtesy of Wikipedia user Peetlesnumber1, Butler University, and the National Park Service.

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Posted in: Center for Design & Cultural Heritage, Preservation, Print, Save America's Treasures
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