One of basketball’s greatest gyms is getting a facelift. On Friday, Butler University announced a $16 million fundraising goal, part of a renovation planned for historic Hinkle Fieldhouse that is expected to total around $30 million before it’s all said and done.
There’s always a little thrill of fear that goes through me when one of basketball’s cathedrals gets some work done. But there’s little doubt that an upgrade, done with care, can make a huge difference. As fans, we see the light streaming into Hinkle from those majestic windows, and it’s easy to ignore the dingy carpet on the upper concourse, the uncomfortable seating and the fact that press conferences are held in a phone booth. For the athletes and administrators who work in the building every day, love for the space is probably tempered by a little exasperation from time to time.
It’s heartening to hear that the Butler athletic department is taking things slowly, as reported by the Muncie Star Press.
Butler has already raised nearly $12 million in gifts and pledges, according to President James Danko. The campaign ends Dec. 31, 2013, and there is no timetable for completion of a project that could exceed $30 million.
Butler is taking a “phased approach,” according to athletic director Barry Collier.
The first phase began over the summer with tuck-pointing of 820,000 bricks and replacement of 9,700 window panes with energy-efficient glass. Plans also include more chairback seats in the arena, restrooms, scoreboard with video replay, coaches’ offices, academic center, remodeled locker rooms, and training and weightlifting rooms.
It’s worth noting that Hinkle has undergone several renovations since its inaugural season in 1928. Built for $800,000 and christened Butler Fieldhouse, the building has been remodeled with an eye toward meeting the fire code and allowing greater access for handicapped fans throughout the years. The biggest, easiest change — adding the name of Tony Hinkle to the edifice — didn’t happen until 1966.
Hinkle is on the National Historic Register, so nobody can touch the building’s distinguishing features, even should they somehow wish to. But the renovations planned will make a huge difference to the program that just joined the A-10. According to Brad Stevens, the meager facilities at Hinkle almost cost him the services of Arkansas transfer Rotnei Clarke, who reportedly considered going to a school with more than one ice bath in the training room.
Hinkle’s age wasn’t going to impress anyone in the A-10, anyway. Fordham’s Rose Hill Gym is three years older, after all.
(photo by me, because I am one lucky SOB)