Historic Hoosier gyms are worth seeing


Along with sharing stories through his Backroads Indiana columns, Mike Barrett likes visiting old basketball gymnasiums and finding out a little bit about their history.

Here are a few he found in the area.


ValloniaBuilt in 1950, the Vallonia Gym was only used as a high school gym for 12 years. In 1962, Vallonia consolidated with Brownstown.

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This gym is still in excellent condition and utilized for different community events. It has a great old-time feel to it as well.


AustinTwo unique, old gyms sit right beside each other in Austin.

The gym on the right in the photo was used as a high school gym from 1936 to 1958 by the Austin Eagles. The gym is still used by the school and for certain community events and has two rows of bleachers on one side. Many years ago, there was a balcony for fans to watch games.

The gym on the left was built in 1958 and is still home to the Eagles and is now known as Rigel Gym, named after Austin icon Harold Rigel. Rigel Gym is one of the few standalone gyms being used in Indiana. By that I mean it’s not connected to another building. It’s just a gymnasium.

The other unique thing about Rigel Gym is that it is used only for boys basketball games. Not many high schools in Indiana are still doing that either.

Rigel Gym has had two major renovations since it was built, but it still has a great old-time feel to it.


SpringvilleThe Springville Gym was built in 1936 and was only used as a high school gym for six years. In 1942, the Springville school district was consolidated into Oolitic.

Springville always has been a tiny Lawrence County community, and even in the days when there was a high school there, the high school enrollment was less than 100 students.

The gym was built with stone from Trinity Springs, a small place in Martin County.


VersaillesBuilt in 1950, Tyson Auditorium is still a magnificent sight in Versailles more than 65 years after it was constructed.

The gym has a storied history, and its role in Milan’s 1954 miracle season remains a secret to most.

The small community of Milan was just a few miles away, and the small school’s gym was very small. Because everyone in the area wanted to watch Milan play, a compromise was made, and tiny Milan played all but one of its home games at Versailles’ Tyson Auditorium.

The gym held 2,200 seats and was sold out for all of Milan’s games, and when Milan wasn’t playing there, well … Versailles played there too.

When Ripley County consolidated some of the county schools in 1966, this beautiful facility was home court for South Ripley High School. It was used by South Ripley until 2008 when a new facility was built.


HardinsburgIt may not look like it now, but the old gym in Hardinsburg once was a rocking place and home to the Hardinsburg Wildcats.

Built in the early 1950s and used as high school gym until 1963, it was the place to be on Friday nights in the Washington County town of less than 500 people.

During its last year of existence, the high school had an enrollment of less than 75 students. Located along U.S. 150, the old gym has been used for various business ventures over the years.

Hardinsburg lost its last game ever in 1963 to Salem 80-39.


MartinsvilleThe story of this high school gym in Martinsville is an incredible story and is the perfect example of what basketball meant in the state of Indiana in the early days of Hoosier Hysteria.This stately gym still stands in Martinsville and is as handsome as ever 92 years after it was built in 1924.This is where national basketball icon John Wooden played high school basketball and where he led Martinsville to the 1927 Indiana state championship. Of course, Wooden’s basketball journey didn’t stop there. He became an All-American at Purdue University and led the school to its only national championship in the 1930s.

After Purdue, he became the head basketball coach at UCLA, where he won 10 national championships and is recognized as the greatest coach in the history of college basketball. Yep, he was a Hoosier.

When the Martinsville Gym was built in 1924, the population of the town was 4,800 people. The gym was built to hold 5,200. It was built with 16 locker rooms and at the time was bigger than the arenas Indiana University and Purdue University were playing in.

Martinsville officials invested in the gym in hopes of hosting the state finals — they never did. The gym is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and it will thrill you just to see it. If you are ever in the Martinsville area, please stop by and see this amazing historical palace.

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