Market Square Arena got an unexpected nod of appreciation during Tuesday’s national broadcast of the NBA Finals on ABC.
During the opening moments of the game featuring the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder, commentator Jeff Van Gundy mentioned how loud it was inside the Thunder’s home arena. He said it’s currently the loudest NBA arena.
“This is the loudest building since the old Chicago Stadium and the old Market Square Arena in Indianapolis,” Van Gundy said. “It’s not even close anymore in the NBA.”
Van Gundy knows a thing or two about MSA, which was razed in 2001 after Bankers Life Fieldhouse opened. Van Gundy coached the New York Knicks from 1995-2002, and faced off against the Indiana Pacers in several epic playoff showdowns.
You could tell from his remarks, Van Gundy has a special affinity for MSA, though the crowd noise likely worked to his detriment during his coaching days. There was a real “they don’t make ‘em like that anymore” tone to Van Gundy’s comment about Chicago Stadium—the long-time home of the NHL’s Blackhawks and NBA’s Bulls—which was closed in 1994, and MSA.
So why was MSA so loud and so much louder than Bankers Life Fieldhouse?
You could debate this all day. And longer. In fact, many Pacers fans have.
There are several obvious reasons why MSA crowd noise was louder than that at the Fieldhouse. There were more hard surfaces that reverberated sound in Market Square Arena than in the Fieldhouse and other modern arenas.
There was no ring of suites in MSA’s mid-section. That has several impacts. The suites mean screaming fans aren’t so tightly bunched together in the mid-section of the Fieldhouse. Pulling people into the suites and out of the arena’s bowl means there are fewer fans that can be heard making noise. It’s difficult to hear people screaming and pounding their feet from inside a luxury suite. In addition, many people sitting in a suite aren’t the most likely candidates to be jumping up and down and screaming.
That brings us to another key factor for why MSA was louder for Pacers games than the Fieldhouse. Quite simply, the demographics changed when the Pacers moved to its more up-scale home. The Fieldhouse’s suites, club seats and other amenities attracted a more reserved, corporate crowd and fewer over-the-top screaming fans.
Since the day it opened as Conseco Fieldhouse in 1999 and even today as Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Pacers’ home venue has been revered as one of the finest basketball arenas not only in the NBA, but in the world. It has superior sight lines, comfortable seats and awesome concourses, concession stands and restroom facilities. Its old-time touches add a charm that few arenas today can match.
But, it is no longer among NBA’s loudest venues. And no matter how much winning the Pacers do, it’s doubtful it will ever be as loud as the echoes—real or imagined—of Market Square.