Butler University raises $12 million in campaign to refurbish historic Hinkle Fieldhouse

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Butler University officials on Friday said they had raised $12 million toward a $16 million capital campaign to fund major upgrades to historic Hinkle Fieldhouse.

Built in 1928 at a cost of $750,000, the aging sports facility is about to undergo its most extensive renovation since the building began hosting basketball games shortly before the Great Depression.

Friday’s public announcement comes about 2-1/2 years after the university began targeting its traditionally larger donors during the campaign’s “silent phase.”  The original renovation plan called for $25 million in improvements but has been scaled back.

“We’ve made good, steady progress,” said Bill Lynch, Butler’s associate athletic director of development, about the university’s fundraising efforts.

To help complete the campaign, Butler said it will offer several sponsorship options. Donors can put their names on brick pavers for $500, on chair-back seats for $1,000 and on lockers for $5,000.

“We need to be a program built for eternity, because we play in a gym built for eternity,” Butler men’s basketball coach Brad Stevens said Friday morning.

A storm in August 2009 that damaged part of the building’s roof and dislodged bricks on the exterior prompted a study to determine how Hinkle could be modernized without changing its outside appearance.

As a U.S. National Historic Landmark, the building’s original structure must stay intact. University officials, for instance, can’t even upgrade its single-pane windows with double-pane replacements.

Brick tuck-pointing and window replacements already have begun.

The campaign is expected to run about a year, with the renovation lasting a few years, Lynch said.

Improvements will be made to the interior and exterior.

Season ticket holders will benefit from more chair-type seats that will be added, replacing most of the benches in the lower bowl. Chairs were first installed in 1989, which cut seating capacity from 15,000 to 10,000. Capacity will drop further, to about 8,500, after the additional chairs are installed.

A new scoreboard will be added, new restrooms installed and upgrades will be made to the locker rooms, in addition to the strength and conditioning and sports medicine facilities.

Hinkle houses physical education classrooms and offices for 19 sports, significantly more than the four sports it hosted when built, a year after Babe Ruth slugged 60 home runs in 1927.

When it was built, Hinkle was the largest basketball arena in the country, a distinction it held until 1950. The building hosted the Indiana high school basketball championships from 1928 to to 1971 and picked up a shrine-like reputation among basketball fans.

The arena has received significant national attention in recent years thanks to Butler's consecutive trips to the NCAA men's basketball championship game in 2010 and 2011.

“There’s so many great memories here,” Lynch said. “I think in that sense it’s been a fun project to work on, and I think people certainly see the need.”


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