November 09, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- One of America's classic college basketball arenas could soon be getting a new look.

Butler officials announced Friday that it was beginning the public fundraising phase to renovate historic Hinkle Fieldhouse.

The $27 million plan calls for adding a student-academic center, more chair-backed seating for fans, additional restrooms, a new scoreboard with video, building new coaches' offices structure and replacing the windows above the court with more energy-efficient window panes.

Officials insist there's one thing that won't change - the charm that has made Hinkle Fieldhouse a basketball gem.

"When we visited the Coliseum with our team in Italy in 2010, we had a very prideful tour guide and he said when we built this, we wanted it to last forever, we wanted it to last for eternity," men's basketball coach Brad Stevens said. "So we used that as our motto that year and put it on the back of our shirts - we need to be a program that will be built for eternity because we play in a place that is built for eternity."

Even if that place needs a little updating.

The plan is not new. Butler announced last year that it had raised $9 million in the first fundraising phase and would begin the public effort after it reached about 60 percent of the total goal. President James Danko said that the school had actually raised $11 million, about half of the original projected $25 million cost.

Danko said the building needs to be repaired because of weather damage and other sorts of abuse.

One significant change would be the academic center, something Butler does not currently have and could eliminate the time student-athletes waste walking across campus to attend study tables.

Upgrades also will be made to the locker rooms, weight room and training area, pieces that could help Stevens recruit better against the schools in Butler's new conference, the Atlantic 10. The Bulldogs announced they were leaving their longtime home, the Horizon League, in the spring.

"You all know one of our guards is Rotnei Clark and he transferred here from a BCS school," Stevens told the crowd gathered inside the cavernous building. "One of the things that he really hesitated about with Butler was that we only had one cold tub. Think about that, we almost lost a big recruit because we had only one cold tub."

The arena, originally named Butler Fieldhouse, was one of America's largest facilities when it was built in 1928 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

It is one of Indiana's 37 National Historic landmarks, too.

The venue was renamed for the school's most famous coach, Tony Hinkle, and hosted the Indiana state basketball championships from 1928 through 1971 - a span that included the Milan Miracle, made famous in the movie "Hoosiers," and Oscar Robertson leading Indianapolis Crispus Attucks to two state championships. It also has hosted presidential speeches, served as housing for military barracks during World War II and was a movie set during the filming of "Hoosiers."

School officials don't want any changes to the facility to taint those legacies, and are doing what they can to make sure they don't.

"They'll see the same building and the same heart will still be at Hinkle," athletic director and former basketball coach Barry Collier said during a video presentation. "The restrooms will be modernized, those things that make the fan experience better. We'll have an academic center, which we don't have now. The spirit of all those people and all those activities inside Hinkle will still be there, and we ought to preserve it."

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