Fieldhouse Facelift

KYLE BEERY | STAFF REPORTER

It’s a national historic landmark. And it just got a major facelift.

Hinkle Fieldhouse, home of the Butler Bulldogs, underwent a $35 million renovation that the public saw for the first time Saturday night when the Butler men’s basketball team faced the University of Chicago.

The fieldhouse’s capacity went from 10,000 to 9,100.

Ken LaRose, Associate Athletic Director of Development, said once the campaign to fund the renovations was conceived about two years ago, their main focus was improving the experience for student-athletes.

“We wanted to improve this place, with court space, we wanted to improve the locker rooms for the student athletes,” LaRose said.

But that’s not the only aspect of the Hinkle renovations.

“We also wanted to improve and enhance the fan experience, which we think we did,” LaRose said.

Renovations began in 2013 when they gave the outside of the building a facelift.

LaRose said they couldn’t do much to the outside of the building, as Hinkle Fieldhouse is a historic landmark. But they tuck-pointed more than 300,000 bricks on the outside.

While they were limited in their changes to the outside of the building, they were free to do whatever they wanted to the inside. While there were drastic changes, the old charm of Hinkle Fieldhouse was preserved, and they managed to keep much of the original pieces of the building.

The new video board is up and ready to go for the start of the season.

The new video board is up and ready to go for the start of the season. Photo by Amy Street

 “You’re going to come in here, and you’re going to have comfortable new seats, you’re going to have a new scoreboard with digital capabilities,” LaRose said, “but you’re still going to have the iconic windows, you’re going to have the roof structure, it’s still going to be Hinkle.”

Every varsity sport received a boost to their locker rooms. The men’s basketball, women’s basketball, volleyball and football locker rooms remain in Hinkle, while all other sports were moved to the Annex, which is a building located behind the Butler Bowl on 52nd St. The annex also received major renovations.

While the basketball and volleyball locker rooms remain in their original locations, the volleyball locker room moved to the basement of Hinkle, located where Gene Hackman’s locker room speech in the movie “Hoosiers” was filmed.

“You can kind of tell what it used to be,” LaRose said,” but it’s more modern.”

The men’s basketball locker room received a big-time improvement as well, now featuring a light-up Bulldog logo in the ceiling, new carpet, new lockers and a scoreboard clock to let the team know how long they’ve got until they need to be on the floor.

The new locker room is one of the players' favorite improvements.

The new locker room is one of the players’ favorite improvements. Photo by Amy Street

Attached to the locker room is a film room boasting a flat-screen TV, chairs with the Butler logo, and of course a big name to go along with it.

Former Butler player Gordon Hayward, who just signed a new maximum salary contract of $63 million with the Utah Jazz, donated $30,000 to the film room.

The old locker room had the film room inside of it. Now, the film room is a separate room.

“They needed it to get bigger and better,” LaRose said. “Now they’ve got a separate locker room and a separate video room.”

Aside from the locker rooms, the behind-the-scenes renovations also include a new weight room double the size of the old one where the bottom of the old swimming pool used to be

Upgraded training facilities, include new training tables, hot tubs, ice baths, and athletic trainers’ offices – the facility is six times the size of the old one

There are new offices for all coaches and administration

A new  student-athlete academic center is a major draw for players.

Freshman men’s basketball player Kelan Martin said he goes to the academic center almost every day and said the renovations are exciting.

“When I came on my visit last year, they told me there were renovations and they showed me the plans.” Martin said. “When I got here I was tired of practicing in the West Gym, and we’ve been practicing in Hinkle for about two weeks now, and I just got the feel for it, and I love it.”

Sophomore Andrew Chrabascz said Hinkle was unbelievable before the renovations, and now it’s even better.

“I committed partly because of how much I loved Hinkle, and now they put a little makeup on it, you could say,” Chrabascz said. “It’s still the best. I can’t complain about anything about this place.”

Chrabascz said he loves the video scoreboard, but his favorite part is the new locker room.

“It’s a place where we can all hang out,” Chrabascz said. “It makes our chemistry that much better when we have that place to be all together for an extended period of time.”

FAN-BASED RENOVATIONS

The most noticeable aspect of the renovations is the video scoreboard hanging in the middle of the fieldhouse. For the first time ever, Butler steps into the digital age with video graphics on the scoreboard and video screens in the corners of the lower level.

The other major upgrade for fans is a set of 4,500 blue chair-back seats, donning cup holders.

Other upgrades that can be seen include:

•Expanded student seating on the floor with a capacity of 314, and an additional 436 student bleacher seats upstairs

•The Wildman Room for hospitality is three times bigger and features seven TVs and a mural of campus landmarks around the walls

•Widened hallways surrounding the gym, also featuring murals of old Butler logos, and a progression of the men’s and women’s basketball teams through history

•New bathrooms, and to the displeasure of many traditionalists, no more troughs in the northwest men’s bathroom

•Upgrades to the spirit shop

•New concession stands, both on the concourse inside the gym, and in the hallway

•New media room for press conferences

Much of the original brick was preserved, which can be seen throughout the fieldhouse.

NEW ERA AT BUTLER

Butler is entering its second season in the Big East conference, and now can compare its arena to other member schools. Many teams in the Big East play in NBA arenas, or arenas that feature state of the art fan features, which is a recruiting tool. Now Butler can use not only an old, charming and historic venue as a selling point for recruits, but they also now have plenty of eye candy.

The team practices in Hinkle.

The team practices in Hinkle. Photo by Amy Street

Senior point guard Alex Barlow said he was drawn to Butler by the history of Butler basketball and Hinkle Fieldhouse, and now he is ready to enjoy it as a senior.

“I got here as a freshman, and it looked a lot different,” Barlow said, “and I think now, it’s as good as it gets.

Barlow said he likes that they kept the old bleachers because it keeps the historic feel, and says he looks forward to playing in front of the big crowds, especially with the renovations to the student section.

“Expanding it means you’ve got to fill it up, so I think if it’s filled, and people come to every game, I think it’s going to be a home court advantage, and it can be a difference maker,” Barlow said. “You can have twice as many students as you did in games past, and being that close to the court, students can make an impact.”

Chrabascz said the student-athletes are fortunate to have the renovations, and it solidifies Butler’s spot in the Big East.

“Just listening to stories from guys like Khyle Marshall and Erik Fromm last year and where they came from, to what we have now, it’s unbelievable how fortunate we are,” Chrabascz said.

Interim head coach Chris Holtmann said he is excited for the players, as well as the fans.

“It looks unbelievable,” Holtmann said. “It sparkles.”

Holtmann said with the renovations, Hinkle kept its charm, and now has a new character to build more history on.

“They did an unbelievable job of keeping that iconic feel,” Holtmann said. “I don’t think we’re ever going to change that at all.

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