The reports are in: Seymour High School’s Lloyd E. Scott Gymnasium owns the title.
According to research, SHS doesn’t only boast the largest gymnasium in the world — it has been the biggest since 2011.
For years, the LSG, opened in 1970, was listed at 8,110 capacity.
That number was incorrect.
Thanks to the diligent work of the Indiana High School Basketball Historical Society, research has found that the LSG actually has 8,228 seats currently in its gym.
The New Castle Fieldhouse, which was listed at 9,325 seats, actually currently holds 7,829, according to the the society.
IHSBHS board member Doug Bradley said the recent seating listing at New Castle included temporary bleachers that were moved in and out of the gym.
The Indianapolis Star originally reported the changes to the seating capacities and the work by the society March 8.
The IHSBHS was founded in 1994, and according to the organization’s website, it is “organized for operation in the following year for the purpose of providing research and appropriate verification to correct errors and set the historical records straight.”
Bradley, a Columbus native, took a look at New Castle and Seymour in 2017.
He counted the seats and also went into the New Castle transportation and maintenance building of the high school to see the old temporary bleacher section.
The additional seating was taken out years ago and primarily was used during tournament time.
Bradly said he has been unable to confirm when New Castle took the seats out, but Anderson’s Wigwam was actually the largest for a number of years.
“I talked to the guy who was the head of maintenance (at New Castle) and they weren’t sure when the temporary bleachers were taken out,” he said. “I think probably the last time they used the temporary seats, they didn’t use all of them. I think the last time they used the seats in the corners was in that last regional before they went to class basketball. I don’t think they would have had any reason to use those seats after the 1997 regional. We’re really not sure when they sold them.”
Bradley said Anderson’s gym, which opened in 1961, held the title of largest gym for a time until it stopped being used in 2011.
“Anderson never advertised their real number, but it was always higher than what they said,” Bradley said. “At the dedication, in the fall of 1961, the program said 8,189 seats. There are actually 8,240 seats there. I think that 8,189 is what they actually sold in sold-out regular-season games. They put seats on the stage right before the sectional the second year, 1963. That raised their capacity to 9,122. A few of those seats, up on the back row, they probably don’t use because an adult can’t sit straight up because there is a girder at the back of it. That cut out a few of those. The number they advertised was always 8,996, but there were actually 9,122 when they put the seats on the stage.”
The Wigwam closed March 8, 2011, because of a budget crisis. The Anderson school board voted 6-1 to close it to save an estimated $700,000 annually. In August 2014, the school board accepted a plan for redevelopment while maintaining the gymnasium through at least 2030.
“The timeline for the world’s largest gym starts with Martinsville in 1924 and then the Muncie Gym and then Elkhart and then New Castle,” Bradley said. “Between Martinsville and Muncie Central, Bedford, Vincennes and Marion were all biggest at one point. There was no doubt that Muncie was biggest, then Elkhart and then New Castle.”
When Anderson closed its doors, Seymour became the biggest.
“This is nothing new,” Bradley said. “Seymour became the world’s largest high school gym Nov. 26, 2011 — Seymour’s first game after Anderson’s Wigwam was no longer in use.”
New Castle now sits at No. 3 with East Chicago Central’s John A. Barratto Athletic Center at No. 2 with 8,054.
The first contest played in Seymour’s gym, renamed in 1998 to honor former athletic director and basketball coach Lloyd “Barney” Scott, was held in 1970. More than 5,000 fans were estimated to have attended the opener against Mitchell, which also featured multiple speakers from across the state.
When the gym opened, there were multiple reports as to how many seats there were.
An article by The Seymour Tribune printed June 16, 1970, reported there were approximately 8,000 seats. The article, however, added there also were an additional 300 seats that could be placed above the concession stands in each of the four corners, which could provide a seating capacity of 9,200.
In an article by The (Columbus) Republic published Oct. 21, 1970, it was reported there were 8,422 permanent seats of the roll-back variety. It also said the gym could handle a crowd of 9,622 and stay within the state fire marshal’s regulations.
Mickey Beck, who served as Seymour High School athletic director from 1990 to 2003, guessed there were nearly 9,200 seats when including the temporary bleachers in the corners.
Beck said Scott and his son, Gregg, would take the temporary bleachers up piece by piece and construct the seating.
Bradley said his research matches up with Beck’s estimates.
“I think they were a little lower than 9,200,” Bradley said. “We really don’t know what the original numbers were, but I do know that the highest paid attendance doesn’t include all the seats for the teams, the people working, all the seats that are comped.”
Both Bradley and Beck guessed the temporary seating was taken out in the early 1990s.
Bradley has the numbers on how many tickets were sold at the highest-attended postseason games at SHS before class basketball started in 1997.
“I do know now, with those temporary seats in the corners, the highest paid attendance ever in the Seymour gym was 8,739 in the 1973 regional,” Bradley said. “The first four regionals were all sold out. Three were sold out with season tickets, and 1974 was basically sold out, but they had to sell some tickets at the door to do that. The first four numbers at Seymour from the regional were 8,252, 8,562, 8,732 and 8,673.”
He said it has been sold out four times since then, including three times when Bedford North Lawrence’s Damon Bailey (1987-90) was there.
“I’m not sure why, but in 1996 it was sold out again,” Bradley said. “For the sectional, the only times it was sold out was when Damon Bailey was a sophomore and senior. It has only been sold out 10 times for sectionals and regional before class basketball.”
Bradley said he believes the extra seats were gone when Bailey played for BNL because of the lower reported attendance numbers.
Bradley also believes some alternations have been made to Seymour’s seating over the years.
“They moved the aisle ways,” he said. “You can see where the seats have been renumbered. I think it’s on the short side upstairs. I’m not sure, but downstairs, there are three aisles in a section right now, but I think there were two aisles down the stairs instead of three. That might be why it’s a little lower now than it was originally.”
One of the biggest differences between Seymour’s gyms and the others is the size of the seats.
“The one thing the only two gyms that have over 8,000 seats have in common is the seats are less than 16½ inches long,” Bradley said. “The New Castle gym and a lot of the gyms build in the mid-50s, their seats are 17½ inches wide.”
Bradley said the gyms that have plastic bleachers have 18-inch widths.
While Seymour hasn’t used the additional seating in the top corners in years, it recently boasted one of the largest crowds in decades.
Last year, Seymour had a massive crowd with New Albany and current Indiana University superstar Romeo Langford in town.
Bradley said he doesn’t have the numbers from the games that Langford played in, but he believes he likely helped sell out a few games over his career.
During last year’s Sectional 15 championship between New Albany and Floyd Central, the athletic department sold 7,900 tickets.
While there were 7,900 tickets sold, fans overflowed to the corners of the court and into the platforms in the top corners of the gym where there used to be temporary bleachers.
“In 1996, 7,878 was the paid attendance for the regional,” Bradley said. “So 7,900 is a probably a real number. Only the ADs have the real numbers, and those are sent to the IHSAA.”
Like any game, there were many members in the crowd who also didn’t fully get accounted.
Seymour Athletic Director Kirk Manns said the school always leaves extra room for those working concessions, the scorers table and media.
Jay Hubbard, who is in charge of handling media during the tournament, said there were around 40 media requests for the sectional finals game between New Albany and Floyd Central. Not all of those media members go into the game but should be accounted for in the attendance.
“We always leave the first four rows behind the scorers table open for personnel and representatives form the IHSAA,” Manns said. “It keeps people away from the scorers table. We leave those seats and we sold the 7,900 to help give us a little room. For the sectional final, it appeared we had a complete full house. There were people everywhere. It was a great environment. We certainly needed the extra 118 seats that we’ve added I guess.”
While it’s impossible to know how many people attended the game, it was the biggest crowd the gym had handled in years.
“The upstairs is so massive, the balcony, on the north and south side,” Manns said. “Our custodians say that they’ve heard it’s one of the largest balconies that you will find anywhere. It’s just huge.”
Nine of the top 10 largest gyms are in Indiana, and Seymour’s staff takes pride in its operations.
“I think our community takes a lot of pride in our gym,” Manns said. “The seating capacity and all the history with our tournaments here, there have been some great games and great players that have gone through here.”
The current top-10 largest high school gymnasiums in Indiana
1. Seymour, 8,228
2. East Chicago, 8,054
3. New Castle, 7,829
4. Richmond, 7,786
5. Marion, 7,560
6. Elkhart, 7,373
7. Michigan City, 7,304
8. Gary West Side, 7,217
9. Lafayette Jeff, 7,200
10. Southport, 7,124
The old top-10 largest high school gymnasiums in Indiana list
1. New Castle, 9,325
2. Anderson, 8,996
3. Elkhart, 8,700
4. East Chicago, 8,296
5. Seymour, 8,110
6. Richmond, 8,100
7. Marion, 7,560
8. Michigan City, 7,304
9. Gary West Side, 7,217
10. Lafayette Jeff, 7,200